“Every Conceivable Way to Screw the Middle Class”

11 11 2010

is what the deficit commission is considering.

I have to admit that I was wrong: this thing is even worse than I originally thought, and I way understated the problems with it. The co-chairs and staff found every conceivable way to screw the middle class in ways big (very big) and small, but barely nicked the bankers who caused the meltdown of the economy, or the wealthy whose massive tax cuts ended the big budget surpluses as far as the eye could see coming out of the Clinton years.

Look at some of the different ways middle class and poor people will be g[o]uged by this proposal (and I am probably missing some):

And check out Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone real journalism here:
Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners:

Nowhere else on the planet is it such a crime to be down on your luck, even if you were put there by some of the world’s richest banks, which continue to rake in record profits purely because they got a big fat handout from the government . . . most people in this country are so ready to buy that explanation.

Because in America, it’s far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.

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41 responses

11 11 2010
Nance Confer

But don’t we all think that 99% of this crap will be flushed? That this is excellent fodder for this weekend’s talking heads but will never actually happen? I do. It is too extreme for an administration that has prided itself on doing as little as possible and calling it moderation.

And I wonder if Chris knows that if a cursor accidentally hovers over one of his comments and I glance to the side of the screen, it looks likes there is a link to GOD. Then I look again and it’s really COD. And maybe that’s better 🙂

11 11 2010
JJ

What about the second story though, true facts about what’s actually happening already, and on a magnitude of criminality that I still can’t quite believe yet also can’t deny any more. Too bad COD isn’t in a divine position to do something about it! 😉

11 11 2010
JJ

And don’t you think “moderation” for this administration has become letting the GOP run things because they’re armed and dangerous and willing to burn things down and blow things up to get their way, just like all terrorists?

What I just read. Oh, and this:

Glenn Beck’s description of George Soros’ actions during the Holocaust is completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say – inaccurately – that there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that’s horrific.

And they did set up ACORN, take the terrorists’ side and put it out of business so the GOP could march on without them in the way.

11 11 2010
Nance Confer

Then there are the stories of judges throwing bankruptcy cases out in favor of the homeowner because the bank screwed up the paperwork. I admit to being completely confused about what to think about the whole housing market. Which is not to suggest that I think the little guy will win against a big bank.

11 11 2010
Nance Confer

Well, it seems to have devolved into seeing who can move to the right the fastest but I’m not sure it is actual fear of being shot. But maybe you meant that rhetorically — and, in that case, yes, Rs will die for their principles, while the Ds seem content with stumbling around looking for theirs. Not sure that makes the Rs terrorists but it sure makes them a force to reckon with. And the Ds are incapable of reckoning with much.

11 11 2010
JJ

Can I mean it both rhetorically and literally? 😀

11 11 2010
JJ

Terrorists create fear against superior numbers and legitimate claims, to force their own narrow agenda or destroy what they can’t subjugate. Yes?

11 11 2010
JJ

Another FL story, heard this one yet? — reprising Malcolm X and his 1964 election year “ballots or bullets” ultimatum for civil rights.

Citing heavy flak over her if-not-ballots-bullets remark shown on a YouTube video, Joyce Kaufman, the fiery conservative talk-show host picked to be Allen West’s chief of staff, announced Thursday she will not be taking the job with the newly elected congressman.

. . .She made the announcement during her radio program just days, even hours, after reports surfaced about comments she made at an Allen West rally during the campaign.

“I don’t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media, I don’t care if this shows up on YouTube, because I am convinced the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was, they gave me a Second Amendment,” Kaufman said during the rally. “And if ballots don’t work, bullets will.”

MSNBC’s liberal talk-show host Rachel Maddow picked up the clip for her program Tuesday night.

Within minutes of the story being published online at postonpolitics.com Thursday, the YouTube video was “removed by user.” Another clip with Kaufman’s comments from Maddow’s show is still available on YouTube.

The day after it aired on Maddow, local media reported Kaufman had received death threats over her comments.

“They tried to paint me as a crazy person who wanted to storm Washington,” she said. “Give me a break, we did storm Washington and nobody had to be armed.”

Kaufman told reporters she wasn’t suggesting people take up arms if West lost the election, but only if the ability to vote was taken away. She also said she never ‘incited violence.’

“I was in the crosshairs — well, actually, Congressman-elect Allen West was in the crosshairs, and I was in-between. I not only stepped out of the way, but I knocked the rifle out of their hands for a while.”

Kaufman also indicated she came to the decision “as a revelation” Wednesday night, and after talking about the issue with her children.

“They said, ‘Mom, this is probably the best thing that could have happened,'” she said.

Phone calls and an e-mail to West’s office have not been returned. But during the last hour of Kaufman’s program, West called into the show, telling listeners he is committed to Kaufman and to the people of Florida.

“I want people to know,” West said, “especially those on the liberal left, that I am even more committed, even more focused on making sure this … viably despicable machine is brought to its knees.” He did not explain precisely what the “despicable machine” is.

Kaufman also made it clear on her program that “nobody asked [her] to leave.”

“I warned [West] last night,” said Kaufman on her radio program. “I said, ‘you just make sure you find somebody who’s got your back, and preferably someone who doesn’t have a lot of YouTube videos saying outrageous things.'”

11 11 2010
Nance Confer

Although you do have your gun-totin’ nitwits on the right, the ones who spout off about the 2nd Amendment as frequently and often as disjointedly as religious wackos who insist on inserting Jesus into every conversation, they are not the big fear. They are the little fear that is allowed to co-exist with the pushers of the big fear. The big fear is that someone who is black (or whatever the fear of the day is) is going to take your stuff and only these rich old white guys can help you keep it.

The sad part is that anyone believes rich old white guys give a flying fuck about whether we get to keep our homes or any other stuff.

I am approaching the limit on my ability to keep up with the news. How many of us are just so completely overwhelmed with coping that we have no idea how much of this commission’s “work” is necessary, let alone correct? More and more of us, I would think.

But the politicians do want one thing — to get reelected. So they probably won’t put all of us in the poor house. Cold comfort, I know.

11 11 2010
JJ

“Completely overwhelmed with coping” — that’s it, yes. (shirts?) I feel that too, like I can’t keep up and whatever I do see won’t be good.

11 11 2010
COD

I’ve tuned out. If Jon Stewart makes fun if something I might know about it. Otherwise, meh.

12 11 2010
Nance Confer

Which is just tremendously sad. Remember when everything was “but if you do that or don’t do that, the terrorists win?” So if we here are devolving into low information voters, have JJ’s terrorists won?

12 11 2010
Lynn

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that Obama has signalled willingness to keep tax cuts for the rich since Republicans’ only real “priority” (1st or otherwise) is to “make Obama a one-term president” (McConnell) and to make “shutting down the government” “Obama’s fault” (Cantor). Maybe R’s will invent a new “principle” (“temporary vs. permanent” tax cuts for the rich?) to “stand firm” on — and against the “American People,” for whom they constantly claim to speak.

btw, Does the Rolling Stone article link need adjusting or is it just me?

12 11 2010
JJ

Thanks Lynn, just fixed it. (The link, not the tax system!)

12 11 2010
JJ

Nance: So if we here are devolving into low information voters, have JJ’s terrorists won?

It’s occurred to me, or even that we’ll devolve into low-information not-voters. The effect of the kind of horrendous candidates and campaigns we just lived through, has been shown to be voter repression. Which continues to be a good thing for the GOP, as our politics are set up. We shouldn’t be surprised that things are exactly as they are, with the economy, the schools, the wars, the courts, the government, media, etc. It all makes sense if you see where the incentives and disincentives are.

What doesn’t make sense to me, though, is why our supposed smart, can-do crusaders/reformers/transformers don’t, because if they were, they would. So maybe they aren’t.

12 11 2010
Nance Confer

“. . .smart, can-do crusaders/reformers/transformers. . .”

If you are expecting that any of our politicians, D or Obama or otherwise, fit this description, ummm. . . no.

12 11 2010
JJ

How about an honest to FSM socialist? 😉

WASHINGTON — Clearly displeased with the initial deficit-reduction recommendations offered by the fiscal commission chairmen, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Friday that he will craft and introduce his own proposals as an alternative.

The Vermont Independent said that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors’ organizations and others to develop alternative suggestions. And while he didn’t get into the weeds, he did offer a few general areas that he hopes to target, including ending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, chopping off Cold War-era Pentagon programs and eliminating of tax credits for big oil companies.

Of the ideas pushed by the commission co-chairmen — former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff — Sanders offered the following:

“It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations… Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street. Their plan was floated amid reports that the two were struggling to cobble together enough support on their own commission to go forward by a Dec. 1 deadline.”

The likelihood that a progressive alternative for deficit reduction would get a vote in the Senate, let alone a hearing, is slimmer than the chances of Simpson and Bowles’ recommendations making it to the floor unscathed. But Sander’s effort isn’t necessarily about getting a vote. Rather, there is, currently, one blueprint being offered for the task of deficit reduction and it’s largely anathema to the progressive community. Having a second proposal out there serves the purpose of giving the negotiations a bit of bearing.

“We all know that there are a number of fair and progressive ways to address the deficit crisis that would not harm the middle class and those who have already lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college,” Sanders writes, in a letter to those he’s inviting for discussions.

“The time has come to put these proposals into a package so that the progressive view becomes a part of the national discussion.”

13 11 2010
Nance Confer

Got 99 more? 🙂

13 11 2010
JJ

Really, now there’s a new national science goal to follow putting a man on the moon — cloning Bernie Sanders. 😉

13 11 2010
JJ

And 66 more would do it (to have the sixty-seven for two-thirds?)

13 11 2010
JJ

Krugman on the Commission

Frank Rich on the Super-rich. See the link for the accompanying power-of-story editorial cartoon evoking Tiananmen Square.

13 11 2010
JJ

Here’s a merry sunshine who says what I’ve been thinking:

I have come to a different conclusion, one based on a more fundamental, structural problem in American politics.

My answer is this: far from being in an era of brutal partisan warfare, as conventional wisdom holds and as watching the nightly television news might suggest, the United States is now in the grip of a political duopoly . . . agreeing not to fight about anything that seriously endangers the privileges of America’s new financial elites.

Whether this duopoly will endure, and what to do about it, are perhaps the most important questions facing Americans. The current arrangement all but guarantees the continuing decline of the United States as a nation, and of the welfare of the bottom 90% of its citizens.

14 11 2010
JJ

Last night I got around to watching the full Maddow interview with Jon Stewart (my Gator football game having sapped what was left of my ability to believe, hope or care in “competition” as healthy or entertaining, like the song said: “I’ve been up, I’ve been down — I ain’t asking for too much”)

His theme was similar to the above, that their sanity rally was about realizing the real fight for America is not left-right or red-blue, that we ALL make ourselves losers when we fight each other while the superrich take everything from all of us. So better than left-right coverage and commentary would be corrupt versus not-corrupt focus.

In the interest of an alternative but not opposite view, here’s Keith Olbermann on Stewart’s rally (and on what counts most in sports competition.)

Then the Sunday NYT Magazine has academic righty David Frum echoing the point for Tea Partiers and the GOP. He expounds on five critical lessons for conservatives that Stewart wouldn’t find easy to mock and might even endorse, if he did that sort of thing :

1. The danger of closed information systems
2. The whole free-market system must be distinguished from “the markets”
3. The economy is more important than the budget
4. Even from a conservative POV, the welfare state is not all bad
5. Listen to the people — but beware of populism

14 11 2010
JJ

Economist Dean Baker, writing at The New Republic:

Given the state of the economy, the co-chairs’ report reads like a document from Mars. Just to remind those of us who earn their living on planet earth (outside of Wall Street), the country is suffering from 9.6 percent unemployment. More than 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work altogether. Tens of millions of people are underwater in their mortgage and millions face the prospect of losing their home to foreclosure.

We did not get here because of government deficits, contrary to what Mr. Bowles seemed to suggest at the co-chairs’ press conference today. We got here because of the bursting of an $8 trillion housing bubble. This bubble was fueled by the reckless and possibly unlawful practices of the Wall Street banks, like Morgan Stanley, the bank on whose board Mr. Bowles sits.

14 11 2010
JJ

Go see our own online action figure COD, solving the deficit problem better than the Commission!

I Solved the Deficit Problem in 15 Minutes . . .Why is this so hard for Congress?

14 11 2010
JJ

Bethany McLean reads from All the Devils Are Here (she’s on Meet the Press with Alan Greenspan right now)

Bethany McLean [and co-author] go back two decades to expose how the market, the mortgage industry, and the government conspired to change the way Americans bought their homes and invested their nest eggs.

14 11 2010
JJ

Oh, and Newt Gingrich is on with them. He unbelievably just said — on Tim Russert’s old show, without even being challenged! No one said a word back, just let it stand as if it made sense — that the GOP coming to House power would be so wrenching for entrenched government employees and their unions that they would create “serious unrest” meaning riots in the streets a la France and England, in cities like Albany and Seattle where they still had power.

So the superrich are the rightful rulemakers and prosperity saviors, and the populist revolt to fear won’t come from the nice conservative Christian gunowners at all, no, it’s those evil union goons who need to be sanitized out of America along with all the other socialists, Muslims, gays, atheists, pacifists, smart people and Spanish-speaking immigrants.

14 11 2010
20 11 2010
JJ

Federal authorities, capping a three-year investigation, are preparing insider-trading charges that could ensnare consultants, investment bankers, hedge-fund and mutual-fund traders and analysts across the nation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The criminal and civil probes, which authorities say could eclipse the impact on the financial industry of any previous such investigation, are examining whether multiple insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits totaling tens of millions of dollars . . .

4 12 2010
JJ

Rob Shapiro, chair of NDN’s Globalization Initiative and former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, came up with some reform ideas that link education opportunity to tax reform as a way of keeping the American Dream alive:

Since capital is the source of more wealth creation than before, the wealth of those who own most of it has been growing faster. Incomes also are linked closely to the ability to work with all of that capital, increasing the income share of the top 20 percent of Americans with the most advanced skills and education.

. . .For example, a good handful of subsidies for various industries would pay for low-cost access to college and graduate training for any young American with the drive and ability to see it through – as Britain, Germany and other countries, all with much smaller disparities of wealth and incomes, do.

A small tax on financial transactions could float a new program of low-cost loans for homeowners with troubled mortgages, and so help stabilize the housing values that comprise the only asset of most Americans.

Even a modest reform of the “carried interest” tax preference for hedge funds and private equity funds could more than pay for grants to community colleges to provide free computer training for any working person who wants it.

4 12 2010
JJ

Of course this doesn’t jibe with Alan Grayson literally making poster children of FOX pundits with multimillion dollar incomes from scant education and productivity, those who like Limbaugh, Beck and Palin use their lucrative positions to oppose tax reform so they personally can make and keep even more millions apiece from feeding and playing on public dysfunction..

21 01 2011
JJ

From the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Misunderstandings Regarding State Debt, Pensions, and Retiree Health Costs Create Unnecessary Alarm:
Misconceptions Also Divert Attention from Needed Structural Reforms”

A spate of recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.

. . . At the same time that revenues have declined, the need for public services has increased due to the rise in poverty and unemployment. . . While these deficits have caused severe problems and states and localities are struggling to maintain needed services, this is a cyclical problem that ultimately will ease as the economy recovers.

. . . longer-term issues related to bond indebtedness, pension obligations, and retiree health insurance — discussed more fully below — can be addressed over the next several decades. It is not appropriate to add these longer-term costs to projected operating deficits. Nor should the size and implications of these longer-term costs be exaggerated, as some recent discussions have done.

Such mistakes can lead to inappropriate policy prescriptions.

[no kidding]

21 01 2011
JJ

Remember we were discussing the possibility that conservative tacticians actually hoped to incite governmental bankruptcy? Surprise!

Cash-Strapped States Seeking A Way To Declare Bankruptcy
by William Alden First Posted: 01/21/11

States are looking for relief.

As they confront massive debts and diminished revenue, some state officials are trying to determine whether they could take a drastic and illegal step: declaring bankruptcy, the New York Times reports. Such a move, though currently out of the question, might free states from some of their most burdensome debt and allow them to rebuild their crippled finances.

. . . Bankruptcy would, in theory, allow states to rework these obligations, potentially causing pain for retirees and bondholders, and likely spreading uncertainty through financial markets.

Even holders of state bonds — traditionally considered a rock-solid investment — could end up taking a loss, the NYT says.

All talk of state bankruptcy is in hypothetical terms, as there remains little, if any, precedent. The most recent example of a state credit event happened during the Depression . . .

Even municipal bankruptcy, which is allowed under some state constitutions, is rare. The current poster child is Vallejo, Calif., which was driven into bankruptcy nearly three years ago in an attempt to escape mounting labor costs. The biggest example is Orange County, which declared bankruptcy in 1994 after the treasurer gambled on Wall Street with the public money, and lost. He was later sentenced to prison time.

Some American cities have flirted with bankruptcy. Harrisburg, Pa., has gotten legal advice on a potential filing. Hamtramck, Mich., has sought bankruptcy protection and been denied by the state of Michigan.

Perhaps the only precedent one can point to is a crisis simulation at The Economist’s Buttonwood Gathering in New York City, held in October. Performing the roles of Federal government officials were, among others, former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin, former National Economic Council director Laura Tyson and former chief of staff Josh Bolten. Their task was to simulate the Federal government’s response to a state’s request for a bailout.

For the most part, the actors were able to stay in character — until Tyson fumbled, accidentally referring to the fictional state New Jefferson as “California.”

Analyst Christopher Whalen, for his part, says he believes California will default on its debt.

21 01 2011
JJ

Jon Stewart . . .pointed to several states that are going to extreme measures to close their budget gaps. He mentioned the firing of police officers in Camden, New Jersey; Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s pitch to cut healthcare for the poor and a Texas proposal to eliminate the senior year of high school.

. . .”Of course not every state has a great common sense solution,” Stewart said, after discussing New York’s idea to bring Ultimate Fighting back to the state. “Some of the ideas to close the budget deficit are a little out there.”

He then shares the shocking solution that Illinois had for its $15 billion deficit: a tax increase.

“Why should we have to pay for the things we want done for us?!” Stewart asks sardonically.

24 01 2011
JJ

“What the wise person does is save a large amount of money when they are young,” said William Bernstein, author of “The Investor’s Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon and Everything in Between” and other investing books. . .

But that can be hard to accomplish when you have other needs competing for those dollars, whether it’s a down payment for a house, a 529 college savings plan or starting a business. Or perhaps you’re already living on less because you’re unemployed (or underemployed) or because health insurance consumes a significant chunk of your income.

“It’s the cruel irony of retirement planning that those people who most need the markets’ help have the least financial capacity to take the risk,” said Milo Benningfield, a financial planner in San Francisco.

“Meanwhile, the people who can afford the risk are the ones who least need to take it.”

23 05 2011
JJ

Just what the hell are the new rules? What follows is a brief handbook:

“‘I Played By The Rules’ — ‘The Rules Have Changed'”

24 05 2011
JJ

Georgia is a mere 30 miles north of my capital city home here in Florida, and there’s no daylight between the the two states’ current prevailing politics. So although we haven’t heard from CW lately at our blog, the world view she reflects for us, still holds the floor:

We could headline this, “Bootstrap America the Beautiful: Love It or Leave It”

WASHINGTON — Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn’t offer health benefits for retirees.

A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?

“The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees,” the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall told the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?'”

Large portions of the crowd responded enthusiastically to the congressman’s barb, with some giving him a standing ovation, underscoring the fierce divisions within the electorate.

William Robert Woodall III, who goes by “Rob,” doesn’t appear to have been referring literally to himself, but rather speaking figuratively. It’s a good thing, because financial records show the 41-year-old congressman has done very little to take care of himself in his retirement. Woodall’s 2009 financial disclosure forms, filed with the House of Representatives, show that his two largest IRAs have between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of assets, hardly the type of nest egg that would be able to cover the health care costs associated with aging absent government health care.

Woodall was chief of staff to former Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), a job taxpayers shelled out more than $100,000 a year for in 2002, rising to more than $150,000 in 2009, plus gold-plated health and retirement benefits. Woodall, who has taken his former boss’s seat, now makes $174,000 a year with generous benefits.

. . . Across the country, Republicans have faced hostile town hall attendees angered by the House vote to end Medicare for people under 55 and replace it with a voucher system that would not rise with health care costs, leaving it to cover less and less treatment as the years go on.

Woodall suggested that the woman concerned about vouchers might find the type of health care system she and her children approve of in Canada or another industrialized nation.

“If you want a socialized health care program, there are lots of places to find that,” he said. “But, for your children’s sake, I beg you: There aren’t many places to find the freedom to succeed by the sweat of your brow like we have here.”

24 05 2011
JJ

Category 5:
Rick Scott Has a Second Roof for His Mansion in Storage in Case of a Hurricane

By Kyle Munzenrieder, Mon., May 23 2011

​Most Floridians prepare for hurricane season by stocking up on plywood and canned goods. Our millionaire governor, Rick Scott, has prepared by having a second roof for his Naples mansion placed in storage in case the original gets blown away. Out of touch much?

Scott spoke this weekend at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference at the Broward County Convention Center and informed everyone about his second roof.

Apparently the Illinois native wasn’t fully aware of the destructive forces of a hurricane when one hit his home in either 2004 or 2005 (he can’t recall which) and his $9.2 million mansion lost about a third of the roofing tiles.

Informed that whatever fancy tile was used on the original roof was no longer in production, Scott, who is worth upward of $200 million, purchased enough tiles for a second roof and put them in storage.

How much did that cost?
“Expensive,” was all he said.

So just remember: Whenever this guy talks about drug-testing welfare recipients, cutting back unemployment benefits, and trying to slash public unions, it’s coming from a man so rich that he has a second roof stashed in storage.

24 05 2011
JJ

Unity-N-Diversity has her first post in a long time up new, Apocalypse Fatigue:

I have seen too much suffering. . . It is a steady stream of bull shit. . .

We need a bridge community for those of us who have no family to fall back on, no place to go, no money, no career. Our only wealth is in our children. Unfortunately, that is not a currency that the world trades.

All this focus on the apocalypse is disheartening. There is already too much fear mongering, too much escapism. Why can’t we focus on making this life more heaven like?

25 05 2011
JJ

Unbelievably, the Georgia GOP freshman story gets worse. Updating the story:

Moments after preaching extreme self-reliance to one of his constituents, a Georgia Republican told a gathering in his district that he will continue to rely on government-subsidized health care “because it’s free.”

And there’s video! The lady telling him he should be leading by example instead is pretty awesome . . .

25 05 2011
JJ

This should be counted as yet another way America is being fleeced:

Ailes has used Fox News to pioneer a new form of political campaign – one that enables the GOP to bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion. The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.

The result is one of the most powerful political machines in American history.

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