Tim Dickinson

  • December 12, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    If the Obama administration decides to move aggressively to scuttle efforts in Colorado and Washington State to take a different – many would say progressive – approach to the war on marijuana it won’t be because the administration had no alternative. Indeed plenty of academics, pundits and federal lawmakers are hoping the administration will support, not hinder, the experimentations in those two progressive Western states and are airing plenty of ways the administration could respond.

    University of Denver law school professor Sam Kamin detailed some of the possibilities the government could take with respect to the marijuana legalization initiatives that passed with strong support in Colorado and Washington. One of the possibilities Kamin highlighted was a bill recently introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) “allowing states to essentially opt of the CSA [Controlled Substances Act outlaws marijuana and is administrated by the Drug Enforcement Agency] enforcement by passing laws that conflict with the federal prohibition ….”

    Rep. DeGette in a press statement announcing the legislation said several of her colleagues were concerned “about the federal government’s ability to override these voter-approved initiatives ….”

    “In Colorado,” DeGette said, “we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

    In a piece for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson writes that while the federal government “cannot force” Colorado and Washington “to impose criminal sanctions on pot possession,” the federal government “has great power” to block the states’ abilities to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. (In an editorial, the magazine’s publisher Jann S. Wenner hopes the president won’t tap that power and urges an end to the war on weed calling it a “sham, a folly, a colossal waste of money and human potential.”)

  • December 13, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In late October, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Republican presidential hopeful, unveiled tax policy that despite the already historically low tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest would advance even more tax benefits for that tiny, but politically powerful, group. As reported by TPM’s Brain Beutler, Newt Gingrich’s tax policy, reviewed by the Tax Policy Center, continues the Republican Party presidential candidates’ formula of advancing tax policy geared to coddling the super wealthy.

    As Beutler writes, “And like all the plans that came before it, Gingrich’s constitutes a massive tax cut for the rich. Indeed, no matter how you stack the numbers, Gingrich wants a tax system that permanently holds tax rates on the highest earners lower than the tax rates on the middle class."

    With study after study showing the decline of the nation’s middle class and sharp increase in poverty, the GOP presidential candidates are either oblivious to the research or are collectively shrugging their shoulders. It was Fox’s Britt Hume who said earlier this year of growing economic inequality, “who cares?”

    The Tax Policy Center, Beutler notes in conclusion, would drastically “reduce federal revenues.” Groups, such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, have advocated this type of policy for years – that is starve the federal government of revenues, so policies intended to help the less fortunate dwindle. The group’s mission, as noted on its website, is directed at shrinking what it sees as an unwieldy federal government. “The government’s power,” the group’s mission statement reads, “to control one’s life derives from its power to tax. We believe that power should be minimized.”    

    The Republican Party, as Tim Dickinson explores in this piece for Rolling Stone, has evolved to become a movement beholden to the nation’s wealthiest.

    Dickinson writes, “Today’s Republican Party may revere Reagan as the patron saint of low taxation. But the party of Reagan – which understood that higher taxes on the rich are sometime required to cure ruinous deficits – is dead and gone. Instead, the modern GOP has undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.”

    Earlier this month in Osawatomie, Kan., President Obama echoed some of the concerns that the Occupy Wall Street protestors have brought, in dramatic fashion, to the fore in recent months, when he decried economic policies that have damaged the middle class while benefiting a tiny few.

    “Look at the statistics,” the president said. “In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.”

    In a Dec. 11 column for the Chicago Tribune, Geoffrey R. Stone, a distinguished law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and an ACS Board member, called Obama’s speech “groundbreaking,” for likely speaking to whom he dubbed “The Concerned Majority.”

  • December 7, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Some national lawmakers, including the president, are ratcheting up their rhetoric challenging economic policies based largely on advancing tax breaks for the wealthiest and deregulation as the only methods to expanding economic opportunities for most Americans.  

    As noted by TPM’s Brian Beutler, Sen. Patty Murray, former co-chair of the so-called Super Committee, in prepared floor remarks, directly takes on the conservative’s mantra that lower taxes for the richest Americans means more jobs for everyone else.

    Murray’s statement, in part, reads:

    Republicans seem to be operating under the backwards economic principle that only tax cuts for the richest Americans and biggest corporations are worth fighting for. In fact, they have a name for this group of people: they call them ‘job creators.’ They believe the only ones who create jobs in America are the rich – and they claim that the tax cuts and loopholes they fight for that benefit the wealthy will somehow trickle down to ordinary families. Mr. President – we know this is wrong. We know this Republican economic policy has failed us. It was this kind of thinking that turned a surplus into a deficit, that brought the economy to its knees, that failed the middle class – and that allowed the wealthiest Americans to amass record fortunes paying the lowest tax rates in decades.

    A growing chorus of economists has recognized that right-wing economic policies have greatly exacerbated a wealth gap, one that has helped, in part, to galvanize Occupy Wall Street protests. Columbia University Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier this year for Vanity Fair, “While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. All the growth in recent decades – and more – has gone to those at the top.” In the same article, Stiglitz said the nation’s top 1 percent exert great influence on the government to keep right-wing economic policies in place. In a recent piece for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson wrote, “Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy in 1997, the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million –while there share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent.”

  • November 15, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Though the First Amendment was given short shrift during the early morning raid of Zuccotti Park, birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, it appears that peaceful assembly and political protest will not be easily squelched.

    Nonetheless, authorities, such as those under the guidance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seem bent on trying.

    As reported by Brain Stelter for The New York Times' Media Decoder blog, “many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing the protesters. Some called it a ‘media blackout’ and said in interviews that they believed the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation."

    For Daily Kos, Barbara Morrill wrote, “When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to stage a middle of the night raid on the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park, there was one thing he didn’t want … media coverage.” Morrill links to coverage by gothamist that says reporters with NPR and The New York Times were arrested trying to cover the clearing of the park.  

    The Times reports that nearly 200 were arrested in the early Tuesday raid. Similar raids, most just as aggressive, if not more so, have unfolded at other OWS encampments nationwide.

    Last month officers in riot gear descended upon OccupyBoston protestors, arresting more than 100, including a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild, and a recent attempt in Oakland to clear protestors turned violent.

    Yesterday, the NLG and the ACLU lodged a lawsuit against the Oakland Policy Department (OPD) to stop the authorities from using violence against protestors.

    A statement posted earlier today at OccupyWallStreet said the effort to raise awareness about greed run amok on Wall Street, and growing economic inequality is not likely to die with the clearing of Zuccotti Park.

    The statement reads:

    Two months ago a few hundred New Yorkers set up an encampment at the doorstop of Wall Street. Since then Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol – with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has significantly altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.

    Americans are talking about the consolidation of wealth and power in our society, and the stranglehold that the top 1% have over our political system. More and more Americans are seeing the crises of our economy and our democracy as systemic problems, that require collective action to remedy. More and more Americans are identifying as part of the 99%, and saying ‘enough!’