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The Download: Class warfare


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As the battle slogs on over the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, a little perspective might be helpful.  Frank Rich obliges with his column in yesterday’s New York Times.

In the debate over whether to extend the tax cuts for high earners, some facts help set the context.  The top 1 percent of all income American earners reaped 23.5 of all US pretax income in 2007, more than 2½ times the 9 percent share they claimed in 1976, writes Rich.  From 2002 to 2007, he says, “that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year,” a period during which “median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.” Rich draws on many of the arguments – and statistics – laid out in a new book by political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics.  (See here for an in-depth 2007 CommonWealth interview with Hacker.)

Almost as troubling as the growing income inequality, says Rich, is the growing reluctance of President Obama to address the issue directly and forcefully.  In a recent television interview, Rich points out, Obama brought only the green eyeshade, not the moral arguments, to the debate, citing the effect extending all the cuts would have on the deficit: “The question is, can we afford to borrow $700 billion?” Obama said.

“That’s a good question, all right, but it’s not the question,” writes Rich. “The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the kind of systemic damage being done to the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class, or even rich.”  Chastened by this month’s mid-term election, those who might have tried to raise these issues are now sitting on their hands.  Defenders of the growing income gulf scold those who raise the issue for promoting class warfare. Thus does the pot call the kettle black.

Business and the economy

Tired and old downtown Brockton could be in for a good scrubbing with a proposed $100 million mixed use redevelopment project that would include razing the old Enterprise building, the Enterprise reports.

The feds giveth: The federal government is sending Lynn $5 million to help lure waterfront investors.

And the feds taketh away:  The Salem News says Obama administration policies are destroying fishing jobs.

Republican lawmakers and conservative-leaning economists are ramping up a campaign to kill the Federal Reserve’s recently-announced $600 billion bond-buying spree.

While everyone’s focused on the billions in stimulus money used to buck up the economy, the Small Business Administration is chugging below the radar screen with the number of SBA loans increasing in Massachusetts by 32 percent over last year.

Transportation

Charlie Chieppo’s op-ed in Saturday’s Globe, laying out what he calls the “folly of an expansion fever” at the MBTA, should be required reading for Patrick administration officials and South Coast leaders championing the campaign for a commuter rail line to New Bedford and Fall River South Coast. The old saw about those who don’t learn from history seems relevant here. CommonWealth’s Gabrielle Gurley reported on federal concerns about expansionist transportation policies this summer.

Politics

The Globe says it’s time for the state that gave rise to the term “gerrymander” to put the practice out to pasture by appointing an independent commission to oversee redistricting next year.

Speaking of out to pasture, Jon Keller has an answer to that most burning post-election question, what happens now to Tim Cahill? OK, maybe more an afterthought than a burning question.

A more pressing question these days is, what will happen to Rep. Thomas Petrolati?  The Ludlow Democrat and a member of the House leadership team is facing new scrutiny over a 1996 sexual harassment complaint as part of an ongoing investigation over his role in patronage at the state Department of Probation, according to the Springfield Republican.

Journalist James Verini argues in yesterday’s Ideas section in the Globe that President Obama’s first two years are evocative of those of Bush, the elder.

Mitt watch: Talking Points Memo looks at Mitt Romney’s lead in key states, according to Public Policy Polling surveys on the 2012 presidential race. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee aren’t far behind.

US Rep. John Tierney says voters understand the recovery will take longer than two years, according to the Salem News

The Eagle-Tribune reports two women have filed wrongful termination and harassment lawsuits against the city of Lawrence and its mayor, William Lantigua, for creating a sexually offensive work environment.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire: Before handing over the keys to the House, the Democratic-controlled lame duck Congress is hoping to pass a $1 trillion spending bill by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports. Good luck with that.

Hubbub

Yesterday’s Boston Herald reports that Mayor Tom Menino says he’s going after “trashy landlords” whose properties resemble town dumps, issuing fines and slapping liens on properties, if necessary, to get owners to pay up.  Go get ‘em, Tommy.  But if we’re entering a new zero tolerance era when it comes to urban dreck, can city dwellers issue fines to the mayor and public works honchos over the trashy state of the streets in some Boston neighborhood business districts?

Menino is also going after criminally convicted city councilors, saying it’s time for Chuck Turner to go.  The Herald’s Joe Fitzgerald agrees – and then some.

Bad marks: Boston schools Superintendent Carol Johnson comes in for some rough coverage in today’s Globe, which chronicles her troubling history of rolling out bold plans only to then and reverse course and abandon them: She was for new school zones before she was against them, etc.

Media matters

Is Boston Globe management sacrificing editorial independence in favor of business considerations?  You’d have to say so after reading Dan Kennedy’s back story on a Dan Wasserman cartoon, primed and printed for the Sunday paper, which was held because its targets were the Museum of Fine Arts and its most generous corporate benefactor, Bank of America. The Globe has expended lots of resources covering the MFA’s new Art of the Americas wing, including a 54-page glossy special section distributed in yesterday’s paper that includes a full-page BoA ad.

Health care

Paul Levy has triggered a pretty good conversation at his Running a Hospital blog over whether Massachusetts has the most expensive health care because we have the best health care. Levy says there’s nothing empirical to support it but his commenters have weighed in with some compelling stats.

The Salem News calls for state lawmakers to give cities and towns the tools needed to cut health care costs.

Energy and environment

Move over Brockton Brightfields. The Berkshire Eagle reports on the largest solar plant project in the state coming to a Pittsfield brownfield site that once housed a transformer manufacturing plant owned by General Electric.

If it’s a cold winter, there could be problems for low-income families with federal fuel assistance cut in half as applications for help are soaring.

Legal lines

Municipal officials are happy about an SJC decision that ends evergreen clauses that would continue after a union contract expired, reports the Eagle-Tribune.

Clive McFarlane, in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, takes issue with a National Women’s Law Center report that singles out Worcester for particularly poor compliance with the federal Title IX regulations requiring gender equity in sports programming. For more on Title IX, check out Jack Sullivan’s piece in the latest issue of CommonWealth and also a panel discussion he participated in on WBUR.

The Telegram & Gazette says bullying has not reached epidemic proportions, as news stories would lead you to believe.

The Fall River Redevelopment Authority has doled out more than four times the cap it set on legal bills to defend itself against a suit regarding the proposed casino in an industrial park, according to the Herald News.

A Salem superior court judge says a chronic exhibitionist should not be kept in custody beyond his sentence, reports the Salem News.

Kulcha

The Christian Science Monitor asks whether the new Art of the Americas  wing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts  is “the last of an art museum building boom that began in the affluent 1990s? Or is it state of the art for a 21st-century facility?” The answer: probably both.

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