Greg Sargent describes how Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is playing up his support for expanding Social Security benefits on the eve of his re-election battle. What a shame Mr. Sargent writes for an audience that doesn't seem to understand how expanding Social Security could get conservative votes.
Josh Hoxie explains how the Republicans' latest attempt at Estate Tax "reform" actually represents just another income tax cut for the rich. Long story short: the old, well-functioning Estate Tax didn't hit the super-rich that hard on capital gains taxes, but the "Death Tax Repeal Act" would allow them to avoid both the Estate Tax and those capital gains taxes. It's just obscure enough to pass -- unless enough of us speak up about it.
Juan Cole reminds us that our government cut food stamps by $8.7 billion this year, while spending upwards of $18 billion on the undeclared, unconstitutional war on ISIS. While I'm not the biggest fan of comparing one budgetary item to another as if they're the only two items in any budget, I share his outrage that right-wingers pretend food stamps make all governments everywhere broke, while stupid war spending (and stupid intelligence spending, I might add -- we've spent an awful lot of money not to see ISIS coming) never breaks any bank, even as war spending's alleged positive effect on economies isn't very apparent anymore.
Democratic lawmakers demand that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation extend operating hours in rural areas so more voters can get the voter ID they now need to vote. Many rural DOTs are open only two days a week, which was probably fine until Voter ID laws came along. Note Gov. Walker's proclamation that "we've actually seen fewer people seeking free IDs recently than we've seen in the past couple years," and admittedly if you have those DOTs open only two days a week and a judge has only lately upheld Wisconsin's Voter ID law, you might "see" that. The main reason Scott Walker keeps winning, though, is that no journalist challenges him when he says things like this.
ProPublica looks at a federal government website revealing pharmaceutical and medical device corporation payments to doctors -- and finds it "virtually unusable." Key issues: no search box on the front page, utterly confusing links, and too much technical jargon, plus the site occasionally just doesn't work. And the corporation that designed it is the very same corporation that led the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov last year! Honestly, I didn't see that coming. You'd think I'd know better by now.
Finally, a Colorado state Board of Education hack defends efforts to replace critical thinking with unthinking patriotism in the AP History exams by saying the United States "ended slavery" "voluntarily." I guess she wants you to focus on the phrase "voluntarily, at great sacrifice," but the qualifier is nonsense, since about half the country did not "volunteer" to end slavery but literally fought to the death to keep it. And since when is it true that you only love something if you never say anything bad about it? Being unable to take criticism is a bad quality in a friend, and it's a bad quality in a citizen, too.