Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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New Poll: Obama Can Win Reagan Dems With Economic Populism

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 6:34 PM EDT

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A new poll released today at the Democratic National Convention suggests that a strong message of economic populism would help Barack Obama with blue-collar workers. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, was released at a Change to Win press conference in Denver this morning. Change To Win is a coalition of seven largely service-worker-oriented unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO in 2005. The coalition has been especially active in electoral politics since then, and plans to commit tens of millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to electing Barack Obama in November.

The Lake poll focused on the idea of the American Dream, which labor contends has been disappearing in recent years. Most of the "working Americans" surveyed agreed, with 79% saying the American Dream has become harder to achieve in recent years. Economic populism is very popular with the workers surveyed: By overwhelming numbers, American workers support a progressive tax system, guaranteed health care, and fair trade. They also support Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin. There's also bad news for Obama in the survey, and you've heard it before: white workers are split between Obama and McCain. But the results offer hope:

Senator Obama can win white working Americans over. While Senator McCain and Senator Obama remain locked in a tight battle for the votes of white working Americans, a solid majority believe Senator Obama understands their economic struggles (59%) and would be able to improve wages and working conditions if he were President (51%). They have a net positive opinion of Senator Obama (+10, 50 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable) and they tend to think Senator McCain is the one who is more influenced by big corporations and CEOs (42% McCain, 16% Obama). White working Americans also believe it is Senator Obama who has the best vision for restoring the American Dream (39% Obama, 25% McCain), and that Senator Obama best represents the values of the American Dream (41% Obama, 35% McCain).

White workers may be split, but there seems to be a lot of evidence that Obama can win more of them to his side. How successful he is at doing that could determine the outcome of the election. It'll be interesting to watch. You can find the full poll results here.

Photo by flickr user Saad.Akhtar used under a Creative Commons license.

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End of War!

| Thu Aug. 14, 2008 12:01 PM EDT

On this day in 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II. The original New York Times article from that day, available here, contains this interesting tidbit about the events of that day:

The Navy canceled nearly $6,000,000,000 of prime contracts.

That's $6 billion. In 1945 dollars. ($72 billion in today's dollars, according to this site.) Will there ever be an August 14, 1945 for the "War on Terror"?

Richest 1 Percent Get Biggest Share of Income Ever; Inequality At Record High: What Do We Do?

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 3:32 PM EDT

In 2006, the richest one percent of Americans garnered the largest share of the national income since 1929, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. The Journal, which based its conclusions on the most recent available IRS data, also noted that in 2006 the richest one percent's average tax rate fell to its lowest level in 18 years. Who are these richest one percenters we hear so much about? Well, in 2008, the richest one percent of Americans make at least $462,000 a year, and the average income of the group is almost $1.5 million. Bush administration tax policies have been especially kind to this group, which has reaped the bulk of the country's economic gains since 2001. That has led to record income inequality, and, of course, to hearings on Capitol Hill. More on that after the jump.

Judge: Current and Former White House Aides Must Comply With Congressional Subpoenas

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

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U.S. District Judge John Bates issued a ruling today that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten must comply with the subpoenas issued to them by the House Judiciary Committee. The subpoenas were issued as part of Congress's investigation into the allegedly politically-motivated firing of eight US attorneys. The White House had argued that Miers and Bolten were immune from testifying or sending documents to Congress, but Bush-appointed judge John D. Bates was having none of it. Bates, regarded as a pro-administration judge, said in his decision that the White House's claim that its aides were always and in all circumstances immune from subpoenas was "unprecedented" and "without any support in case law." Glenn Greenwald, who goes deeper into the legal implications of this ruling, pointed to a passage from page 78 of the ruling as especially important:

The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors in this or any other context. That simple but critical fact bears repeating: the asserted immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by case law. In fact, there is Supreme Court authority that is all but conclusive on this question and that powerfully suggests that such advisors to not enjoy absolute immunity.

That's a pretty serious smackdown of the administration coming from the same judge who said in 2002 that Dick Cheney could keep his Energy Task Force records secret from the Government Accountability Office. The White House will likely appeal the ruling, but it's unlikely to get a judge more favorably inclined towards the Bush administration than Bates. Still, the appeal will keep Bates' ruling—which would have required Miers to testify and required both Bolten and Miers to hand over documents—from being enforced until there is a final judgment. And as in the White House emails case, the Bush administration may be able to simply run out the clock.

Photo by flickr user dcjohn used under a Creative Commons license.

McCain Camp Tries To Spin Away "Disgrace" Comment

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

On Monday, at a town hall meeting in Denver, John McCain said this:

Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.

In this quote, McCain was essentially saying that the problem with Social Security is that Social Security is Social Security, instead of something else. He is attacking the basic funding mechanism for the 75-year-old program. But now, with the McCain "disgrace" comment being picked up all over the web, the McCain campaign is trying to backtrack. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke with a McCain spokesman, Brian Rogers, who said this:

[T]he disgrace is our failure to fix the long-run imbalance in Social Security—a failure of leadership evidenced by our willingness to kick to problem to the next generation of leaders. He's also describing the looming and increasing demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it.

In essence, Rogers is claiming that McCain's "disgrace" comment was taken out of context—that he was not applying the word "disgrace" to Social Security's funding mechanism, but rather to the "demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it."

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, which is beginning to realize the mistake it made by attacking Social Security, Rogers' argument doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The Denver town hall wasn't the only place McCain attacked Social Security this week. From yesterday's post:

Now, before you think, "Wow, that must be a slip of the tongue, he can't possibly mean that," please note that McCain said essentially the same thing to John Roberts on CNN this morning. From the transcript:
On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money which is their taxes and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retirees or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it. [Emphasis added.]

McCain said the same thing on CNN that he did in the town hall: the problem with Social Security—"why it's broken"—is that young people, "pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees." That's not out of context. It's what he said. McCain's problem with Social Security is with its basic structure.

The DNC held a conference call today about McCain's comment. It seems smart to pick up on this—it's the real thing. With this comment showing his antipathy toward the fundamentals of Social Security, McCain has indeed touched the "third rail" of American politics. On the DNC call, Ed Coyle, the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, referred to McCain's comment as "anti-senior" and said he hopes the press will ask McCain to elaborate on what he could have meant. That's a reasonable request.

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