CityBeat Blogs - Bailout <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is putting forward legislation that would break up the big banks to avoid what has been colloquially dubbed “too big to fail.” The liberal senator is teaming up with Sen. David Vitter, a very conservative Republican from Louisiana, to put together the bill, which Brown says will make the economy safer, secure taxpayer money and help create jobs. In his push, Brown has compared the big banks to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1911 after the oil giant breached antitrust laws.

Indiana Gov. Mike Spence fired back at Ohio Gov. John Kasich for insulting Indiana in recent remarks: “Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a business and get a job. … With the Hoosier state consistently winning the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the game.” In a speech Monday, Kasich said, “This is not Indiana where you go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go? Gary?’ ”

Ohio is a leader in reducing prison re-entry, and that’s translating to millions of dollars for the state’s taxpayers. Ohio’s recidivism rate, which measures how many prison convicts are returning to prison after being released, dropped to 28.7 percent in 2009, from 39.5 percent in 2003. The latest data is from 2009, so it’s before Gov. John Kasich took office and passed measures to further reduce prison recidivism, which provide new ways for criminals to get records expunged, allow released criminals to obtain a certificate of qualification from courts for employment and offer sentence-reduction incentives for prisoners to get job training and education programs while in prison.

The Ohio House approved a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, which state officials claim are havens for gambling and other criminal activity, by limiting their prize payouts to $10. The bill received support from law-enforcement groups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, some charity organizations and the state’s casino operators.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says the city should redirect funding meant for the streetcar to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project, but the funding is set up through federal grants that are highly competitive and allocated specifically to the streetcar project.

Opponents of the city’s parking plan briefly celebrated yesterday when they assumed Graeter’s had joined their efforts, but the ice cream company says it was all a misunderstanding. Graeter’s is allowing opponents to gather petition signatures in front of its stores because the sidewalks are public property, but the company says it didn’t give permission to gather signatures within the stores.

Cincinnati’s Findlay Market earned a glowing review in The Boston Globe, sparking a wave of celebration on social media.

The Smale Riverfront Park is forging ahead largely thanks to the help of private funders, who have made up for an unexpected drop in state and federal funds.

The Ohio Senate paved ahead with legislation that will raise the speed limit on some highways, particularly in rural areas, to 70 miles per hour. The bill contains obvious time benefits for drivers, but environmental groups say higher speed limits mean worse fuel efficiency and insurance groups say it will make roads more dangerous.

A West Chester trucking company is cutting 250 jobs.

Popular Science has nine reasons to avoid sugar to save your life.

<![CDATA[Brown, Mandel Continue ‘Clash of Ideas’]]>

For a full hour Thursday night, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel continued their feisty fight for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. For the most part, the debate centered on the candidates’ records and personal attacks, with policy specifics spewing out in between.

Apparently, the barrage of attacks is not what the candidates had in mind before the debate started. Throughout the debate, both candidates asked for substance, not attacks. At one point, Brown said, “I appreciate this clash of ideas. That’s what this debate should be about.” At another point, Mandel said, “We need less attacking, and we need more policy ideas to put people back to work.”

These comments came well into the debate. By that time, Mandel had criticized Brown for “Washington speak” so many times that an exasperated Brown quipped, “I don’t get this. Every answer is about Washington speak.”

Brown also launched his own attacks, which focused on Mandel’s dishonesty on the campaign trail, which previously earned Mandel a “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, and Mandel, who is also Ohio’s treasurer, missing state treasurer meetings to run for political office.

But Ohioans have seen enough of the attacks in the hundreds of campaign ads that have bombarded the state in the past year. Voters probably want to hear more about how each candidate will affect them, and the candidates gave enough details to get some idea of where each of them will go.

On economic issues, Brown established the key difference between the two candidates’ economic policies: Mandel, like most of his Republican colleagues, believes in the trickle-down theory. The economic theory says when the rich grow, they can create jobs by hiring more employees and expanding businesses. In other words, proponents of the theory believe the success of the rich “trickles down” to the middle class and poor through more job opportunities. Belief in this theory is also why most Republicans call the wealthy “job creators.” Under the trickle-down theory, the wealthy are deregulated and get tax cuts so it’s easier for them to create jobs.

On the other hand, Brown says he supports a middle-out approach, which focuses on policies that target the middle class. That is how sustainable employment and growth are attained, according to Brown. Under the middle-out approach, tax cuts and spending policies target the middle class, and the wealthy own a higher tax burden to support government programs.

Some economists, like left-leaning Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, say the trickle-down theory should have been put to rest with the financial crisis of 2008. After all, deregulation is now credited with being the primary cause of 2008’s economic crisis. In that context, more deregulation seems like a bad idea.

Still, Brown’s contrast to Mandel holds true. Brown has repeatedly called for higher taxes on the rich. In the debate, he touted his support for the auto bailout and once again mocked Mandel’s promise to not raise any taxes. These are policies that do end up benefiting the middle class more than the wealthy. The auto bailout in particular has been credited with saving thousands of middle-class jobs.

On the other side, Mandel told debate watchers to go to his website and then offered some quick talking points: simplify the tax code, end Wall Street bailouts and use Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources “in a responsible way.” How Mandel wants to simplify the tax code is the issue. On his website, Mandel says he supports “a flatter, fairer income tax with only one or two brackets, eliminating almost all of the credits, exemptions and loopholes.” A study by five leading economists suggests a flat tax model would greatly benefit the wealthy and actually hurt the well-being of the middle class and poor. That matches with the trickle-down economic theory. 

Another suggestion on Mandel’s website says, “Help job creators. Reduce capital gains and corporate taxes, and allow for a small business income deduction.” The small business portion would help some in the middle class, but an analysis from The Washington Post found 80 percent of capital gains incomes benefit 5 percent of Americans and half of all capital gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. So a capital gains tax cut would, again, match the trickle-down economic theory.

What all this means is on economic issues the choice of candidates depends mostly on what economic theory a voter believes. Brown believes in focusing economic policies that target the middle class, while Mandel mostly supports policies that generally support what he calls “job creators” — or the wealthy.

On partisanship, both sides once again threw out different ideas. Although he was asked for three ideas, Brown only gave one: fix the filibuster. The filibuster is a U.S. Senate procedure that allows 41 out of 100 senators to indefinitely halt any laws. The only way to break the filibuster is by having a supermajority of 60 senators — a rarity in American politics. Brown said if this rule was removed, a lot more could get done in Congress.

Mandel had different ideas for stopping partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. He touted his support for No Budget, No Pay, which would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to get paid. He also expressed his support for term limits, saying lifelong politicians only add to the partisanship in Congress. Then, in a strange twist, Mandel’s last suggestion was to stop bailouts, which has nothing to do with partisanship or gridlock in Congress.

Then came Obamacare. Brown said he was “proud” of his vote and continued supporting the law, citing the millions of Americans it will insure. Meanwhile, Mandel responded to the Obamacare question by saying, “The federal government takeover of health care is not the answer.”

The fact of the matter is Obamacare is not a “government takeover of health care.” Far from it. The plan doesn’t even have a public option that would allow Americans to buy into a public, nonprofit insurance pool — an idea that actually has majority support in the U.S. Instead, Obamacare is a series of complicated reforms to the health insurance industry. There are way too many reforms to list, but the most basic effect of Obamacare is that more people will be insured. That’s right, in the supposed “government takeover of health care,” insurance companies actually gain more customers. That’s the whole point of the individual mandate and the many subsidies in Obamacare that try to make insurance affordable for all Americans.

Mandel made another misleading claim when he said Obamacare “stole” from Medicare, with the implication that the cuts hurt seniors utilizing the program. It is true Obamacare cuts Medicare spending, but the cuts target waste and payments to hospitals and insurers. It does not directly cut benefits.

The one area with little disagreement also happened to be the one area with the most misleading: China. It’s not a new trend for politicians to attack China. The Asian country has become the scapegoat for all economic problems in the U.S. But in this election cycle, politicians have brandished a new line to attack China: currency manipulation. This, as Ohioans have likely heard dozens of times, is why jobs are leaving Ohio and why the amount of manufacturing jobs has dropped in the U.S. In fact, if politicians are taken at their word, it’s probably the entire reason the U.S. economy is in a bad spot.

In the Brown-Mandel debate, Brown repeatedly pointed to his currency manipulation bill, which he claims would put an end to Chinese currency manipulation. Mandel also made references to getting tough on China’s currency manipulation.

One problem: China is no longer manipulating its currency. There is no doubt China greatly massaged its currency in the past to gain an unfair advantage, but those days are over, says Joseph Gagnon, an economist focused on trade and currency manipulation. Gagnon argues the problem with currency manipulation is no longer a problem with China; it’s a problem with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. wants to crack down on currency manipulation, those countries should be the targets, not China, he argues.

In other words, if currency manipulation is a problem, Mandel was right when he said that countries other than China need to be targeted. To Brown’s credit, his currency manipulation bill targets any country engaging in currency manipulation, not just China. The problem seems to be the misleading campaign rhetoric, not proposed policy.

The debate went on to cover many more issues. Just like the first debate, Brown typically took the liberal position and Mandel typically took the conservative position on social issues like gay rights and abortion. Both touted vague support for small businesses. Each candidate claimed to support military bases in Ohio, although Mandel specified he wants bases in Europe closed down to save money. As far as debates go, the contrast could not be any clearer, and the candidates disagreed on nearly every issue.

The final debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates will take place in Cincinnati on Oct. 25.

<![CDATA[Brown, Mandel Clash in Feisty Debate]]>

In the first of three debates for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel agreed on little and clashed on a lot. Each candidate mostly focused on the opposing candidate's record, but the debate today did move to substantial differences in policy at some points.

The debate started with opening statements from a noticeably feisty Brown, who criticized Mandel for calling his vote for the auto bailout “un-American.” On the other side of the aisle, Mandel began his opening statement with a joke about shaving before he turns 36. The joke was the last time either of the men spoke with a light heart.

The candidates blasted each other mostly for their records. Mandel touted Ohio's and the nation’s higher unemployment rate since Brown took office in 2006, energy prices and the U.S. debt. He also said the Senate had not passed a budget in three years, although Congress has actually passed budget resolutions in that time.

Brown fired back with claims Mandel had filled the state treasurer’s office with cronies. He also criticized Mandel for running for four different political offices in seven years. In his closing statement, Brown said Mandel is “too concerned about running for his next job” to be trusted.

On substance, Brown and Mandel criticized just about everything about each other. Brown claimed Mandel signed away his “right to think” by agreeing to lobbyist Grover Norquist’s pledge to not raise taxes while in office. He said the pledge makes it so if Mandel does take office, he’ll never be able to close tax loopholes for big corporations.

Mandel defended the pledge by saying, “I’m proud to stand for lower taxes in our state and lower taxes in our country.” He added, “I will do everything I can to advocate for lower taxes across the board for the middle class and job creators as well.”

The term “job creators” is typically used in politics to reference wealthy Americans, who Republicans claim create jobs through the theory of trickle-down economics. The economic theory states that wealthy Americans will hire more lower-class Americans if they have more money and freedom, essentially creating a trickle-down effect on wealth from the rich to the poor. Although Republicans still tout the theory, some economists, including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, say the financial crisis of 2008 and the deregulation that led to it prove trickle-down economics do not work.

The candidates also debated their positions on the auto bailout. Mandel said he would not have voted for the auto bailout if he was in the Senate in 2009. In his defense, he cited the experience of Delphi workers, who lost part of their pensions as part of the deal auto companies made with workers after the federal bailout. Mandel then said, “I’m not a bailout senator. He’s the bailout senator.”

Brown responded by saying, “These are real jobs and real people.” He then cited examples of people helped by the growing auto industry. Brown’s arguments are backed by economic data, which has repeatedly credited the growing auto industry for the nation’s growing economy. In the first quarter of 2012, the auto industry was credited for half of the nation’s economic growth.

When he was asked about higher education, Brown established the key difference between the candidates in terms of economic policy. Brown said his policies in favor of government investment in higher education are about supporting the middle class to create growth that starts in the middle and spreads out, while Mandel supports tax cuts that emphasize a trickle-down approach. Mandel did not deny the claims, and instead blamed Brown’s policies for the high unemployment rate and debt issues.

The men continued to show similar contrasts on the budget, taxes and economy throughout the entire debate, but there seemed to be some common ground regarding energy independence. When the topic came to hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — Brown said becoming energy independent would have to involve all possible energy sources. In substance, Mandel agreed, although he also praised fracking regulations recently passed by the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich.

As far as energy issues go, the agreement stopped there. When Brown was asked about President Barack Obama's alleged “war on coal,” Brown said there was no war on coal and claimed there are more coal jobs and coal produced in Ohio than there were five years ago. Mandel disagreed and claimed there is a war on coal. He added if Obama is the general in the war on coal, Brown is Obama's lieutenant.” Brown previously supported federal regulations on mercury that some in the coal industry, including the Ohio Coal Association, claim will force coal-fired power plants to shut down. The regulations go into effect in 2015.

On abortion, Mandel proudly claimed he was pro-life, while Brown said, “Unlike Josh Mandel, I trust Ohio women to make their own health care decisions.” Brown also criticized Mandel for not establishing exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother in his anti-abortion stance.

Many more issues, from term limits to Middle Eastern culture, were covered in the debate. The candidates drew sharp contrasts in all these areas with Brown typically holding the liberal position and Mandel typically holding the conservative position. But despite the feisty language and deep policy contrasts, when the debate ended, the candidates smiled, shook hands and patted each other on the back. They will meet again in Columbus on Thursday and Cincinnati on Oct. 25.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. More than 1.1 million Ohioans have requested absentee ballots.  

Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed an early voting ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling by the appeals court said all Ohioans must be allowed to vote on the three days before Election Day. Previously, only military personnel and their families were allowed. The appeals court ruling also passed the final decision on whether voting should be allowed during those three days to the county boards of elections and Husted.

Husted also sent out a directive Thursday telling board of elections employees that they can only notify absentee voters about mistakes on their ballots through first-class mail. Previously, email and phone notifications were allowed.

Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Cincinnati yesterday in part to criticize Husted and other Republicans. Jackson accused Ohio’s state government of engaging in voter suppression. The reverend’s claims have some merit. In moments of perhaps too much honesty, Republican aides have cited racial politics as a reason for opposing the expansion of in-person early voting. In an email to The Columbus Dispatch published on Aug. 19, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, said, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

In a new video, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, dodged answering a question about whether he would support the auto bailout for five straight minutes.

More preliminary data for Ohio’s schools and school districts will be released next week. The data gives insight into how Ohio’s education system is holding up.

The Ohio Board of Education also promised to pursue the state auditor’s recommendation of making the student information database in-house, which Auditor Dave Yost says could save $430,000 a year.

“We are holding our own feet to the fire,” promised Bob McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble, at P&G’s annual meeting. The Cincinnati-based company had a rocky year, and the harsh questions at the meeting reflected the troubles. McDonald promises he has a plan for growth.

In response to last week’s Taser report, local police departments haven’t done much.

President Barack Obama and opponent Mitt Romney were in Ohio yesterday. Obama drew significant crowds at Ohio State University, while Romney drew a new chant of “four more weeks.” Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, but Obama is currently up by 0.8 points in the state.

A new report from the left-leaning Urban Institute says Obamacare will lower health care costs for small businesses and have minimal impact on large businesses. But another report says Obamacare will raise costs for mid-size businesses.  

A new ad shows that the presidential election has probably jumped the shark:


<![CDATA[Mandel Dodges Auto Bailout Question for Five Minutes]]>

Josh Mandel avoided directly answering a question about the auto bailout for five straight minutes during a recent meeting with the Youngstown Vindicator editorial board.  

In a video released today by Democrats, Mandel, the Republican opponent to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown for Ohio's U.S. senate seat, says he would have “trouble” voting in favor of the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. He cites the case of Delphi workers, who lost part of their pensions as part of the deal auto companies made with workers after the federal bailout.  

But Mandel, who is also Ohio's treasurer, refused to give a straight answer on whether he would vote for or against the bailout. After five minutes of phrasing the question in different ways, the Vindicator editorial board gave up in clear exasperation.  

Mandel had a similar encounter with a WDTN reporter in August. In that encounter, Mandel refused to give a straight answer to the same question. After the reporter pressed the question, Mandel smiled and quipped, Great seeing you.

But the dodgy encounters are not Mandel's only problem with the media. Media outlets, including CityBeat, have also criticized Mandel for his dishonest campaign tactics. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer gave Mandel the Pants on Fire crown for Mandel's consistently poor scoring on PolitiFact Ohio.

Mandel is currently down in aggregate polling by 4.8 points.

The video of Mandel dodging the Vindicator editorial board's questions can be seen here:

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Leaders of the nonprofit Music Hall Revitalization Co. seemed to have compromised last week when the group proposed a 99-year lease of Music Hall as part of a $165 million renovation. But the lease included a clause that would allow the group to acquire the historic building for $1 at the end of the lease or at the end of a second 99-year lease. The permanent sale of the building is what held up the initial plan to turn the renovation over to the nonprofit group, which says its donors will not offer the financial support without the city turning over ownership. Mayor Mark Mallory told The Enquirer that the proposal will not be approved. “I don’t care if it’s 99 years, 198 years, 500 years or 1,000 years, the city should always retain ownership,” Mallory said. “That should never change.”

The George W. Bush Presidential Library denied a request by a Democratic super PAC for documents related to Sen. Rob Portman’s work in the George W. Bush administration. The library says it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that all are welcome to see the documents in 2014. The super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has been researching GOP candidates as Mitt Romney moves closer to choosing a running mate.

“When you look at the roster of V.P. candidates, each of them is significantly flawed,” American Bridge senior adviser Ty Matsdorf said in a statement. “For Portman, it is his calamitous record on fiscal issues while working at the Bush White House. It shouldn’t be a shock that he is going to want to keep that under wraps for as long as possible, but unfortunately it’s pretty hard to hide a record as terrible as that.”

CNN is live blogging from the Supreme Court to see if there are any rulings on the health care law or immigration.

Gay pride celebrations took place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco over the weekend, and Obama organizers were there to recruit volunteers.

Spain formally asked for European aid for its banks.

The sea level is rising faster along the Atlantic Coast than other places in the world.

Facebook has created a new “find friends nearby” function that will allow users to see friends and people they don’t know who are at events or social gatherings. From some Facebook engineer’s comments on the story:

I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).

For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.

HBO’s The Newsroom premiered last night, and this guy at the Toronto Star said it kind of sucked while the New York Times says CNN could learn something from it.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

City Council is considering increasing cab fares prior to the World Choir Games in July as part of an overhaul of the city’s taxi industry. During a Rules and Government Operations Committee meeting Monday, Councilman Wendell Young described the industry as having little regulation and often undesirable experiences, The Enquirer reports. Council last spring removed a city rule that made it illegal to hail a cab. Among the recommendations expected to be made are the standardization of rates, an increase in the number of permanent taxi stands and the visible display of a Customer Bill of Rights.

The two men hired to beat a Columbia Tusculum man over a property dispute admitted in court yesterday to having been paid by Robert Fritzsch to whoop on Tom Nies Jr. The beaters will avoid jail time in exchange for testifying against Fritzsch. The beating was allegedly a retaliation after a court ordered the removal of Fritzsch's addition to his home that blocked the river view of Nies' house. 

Robert Chase is a member of Ohio’s oil and gas commission, in addition to operating a private consulting firm that deals with many of the private companies interested in making mass money off the state’s drilling leases. The Ohio Ethics Commission this week warned Chase that such consulting work could present a conflict of interest, though Chase says he’s not surprised and that he knows what his ethical responsibilities are.

NBC has picked up a sitcom set in Cincinnati starring Anne Heche, who reportedly plays an Indian Hill housewife who believes she can channel God after surviving an accident involving nearly choking on a sandwich (with humorous results?). The show, which will have a 13-episode first season, is titled Save Me.

The Obama administration might be hinting at considering same-sex marriage rights during a second term, but the folks down in North Carolina are having none of it: A state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions is on today’s ballot, despite the existence of a state statute that already outlaws it.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is busting Mitt Romney up for choosing not to address a woman’s suggestion that Obama should be tried for treason.

During an event near Cleveland yesterday, a woman asked Romney if he thinks President Obama is "operating outside the structure of our Constitution," and "should be tried for treason."

Romney did not respond to the treason comment, but instead criticized Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court -- drawing a rebuke from the Obama campaign.

Romney says he doesn’t correct all the questions that are asked of him and that he obviously doesn’t believe Obama should be tried for treason. USA Today pointed out that the incident is similar to one that occurred during the 2008 election, which John McCain handled quite differently:

It was one of the defining moments of the 2008 presidential campaign: A woman at a rally for Republican John McCain, while asking McCain a question, called Democratic contender Barack Obama "an Arab" who couldn't be trusted.

McCain took the microphone and said, "No ma'am. He's a decent family man ... who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." McCain's response symbolized his discomfort with the volatile crowds he was seeing as his campaign faded during the final days of the 2008 race.

A study suggests that fighting obesity will necessitate a broader approach than blaming the individual, likely involving schools, workplaces, health care providers and fast-food restaurants.

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has apologized for pretending to have a degree in computer science. Thompson says he’ll update his resume but has no plans to step down.

The U.S. could make a $1.5 billion profit on its bailout of insurance company American International Group, Inc. At least that’s what the Government Accountability Office says.

Google’s driverless cars have received their permits in Nevada. What's next? Drive down every single street in America and photographing it?

<![CDATA[Groups: Mortgage Change Would Spur Growth]]>

A national coalition of community groups, including two Cincinnati organizations, are urging President Obama to push big Wall Street banks into writing down all “underwater mortgages” to market value. The groups said the action would pump up to $1.6 billion into Ohio's economy and create more than 24,000 jobs statewide.---

The two local groups, Communities United for Action (CUFA) and Working in Neighborhoods (WIN), said such a move could add about $256 million annually to Cincinnati's economy.

In many cities including Cincinnati, about one-third of all mortgages are underwater, meaning homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth, according to a report compiled by the coalition, known as The New Bottom Line. If Obama required the banks to reduce the principal on all underwater mortgages to current market value, he could inject a direct cash stimulus into Ohio’s economy at no cost to taxpayers, the coalition added.

The action would save the average Ohio family about $3,406 annually on mortgage payments, the coalition said.

Also, it wants Obama to conduct a full investigation into the fraudulent activities of the Wall Street banks that caused the foreclosure crisis and economic meltdown; require a minimum of $200 billion from the big banks in principal reduction for underwater homeowners and restitution for foreclosed-on families; and target principal reduction and restitution to the families hardest hit by the banks’ predatory lending, including communities of color and regions of the nation with the highest percentage of foreclosures.

Instead of overpaying more than $280 each month on their mortgages, Cincinnati homeowners could spend that money on groceries, household necessities and other items, the groups said. As consumer demand increases, businesses would begin hiring, creating an estimated 3,783 jobs in the Cincinnati area and over 24,000 jobs in Ohio, they added.

The figures are based on a report compiled by The New Bottom Line, entitled, “Ohio Underwater: How President Obama Can Fix the Housing Crisis and Create Jobs.”

In a Dec. 6 speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Obama said the “breathtaking greed of a few” was responsible for plunging the U.S. economy into crisis, adding now is a “make-or-break moment for the middle class.”

“Will President Obama back up his election year rhetoric with real action?,” asked Marilyn Evans, CUFA's director. “Cincinnati area families from all walks of life think it’s time for this administration to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing the economy, and for overcharging homeowners.”

The New Bottom Line is a national campaign consisting of community groups, church congregations, labor unions, and individuals working to counter the political influence of big Wall Street banks.

<![CDATA[Retiree Group: Focus on True Causes of Deficit]]>

An organization of retired labor union workers is praising the failure of Congress' so-called “super committee” to agree on a deficit reduction deal as a good development for elderly Americans.

The Ohio chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans said many politicians, especially Republicans, are unfairly blaming the deficit on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They are using the budget battle as an excuse to dismantle programs they dislike, the group added.---

“Although these programs were widely scapegoated in federal deficit discussions, (our recent) report points out that they are not the true cause of the deficit,” said David Friesner, president of the Ohio chapter, in a prepared statement. “The report notes the recent run-up in federal deficits resulted largely from 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; unpaid costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; the Great Recession which dramatically reduced tax collections, and the Wall Street bank bailout.”

Friesner added, “This was not the first threat that retirees have faced to their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – and it will not be the last. There may even be votes to cut these programs in December. At a time when so many retirees are struggling to get by, and when today’s workers wonder if they will ever be able to retire, it is unconscionable that Republicans continue to eye cuts to these programs as a way to fund an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

A Nov. 27 New York Times column by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman emphasizes the point.

Krugman writes that restoring pre-1980 higher tax brackets for the wealthiest Americans would reduce the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next decade. By comparison, proposals to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 would cause the deficit ti fall by just $125 billion during the next 10 years.

“The (Congressional) Budget Office estimates that outlays would fall by only $125 billion over the next decade, as the age increase phased in. And even when fully phased in, this partial dismantling of Medicare would reduce the deficit only about a third as much as could be achieved with higher taxes on the very rich,” Krugman wrote. “So raising taxes on the very rich could make a serious contribution to deficit reduction. Don’t believe anyone who claims otherwise.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of retired union members affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Its predecessor organization was the National Council of Senior Citizens, which played a critical role in enacting Medicare into law.

The organization has more than 4 million members, with affiliates in 30 states.

<![CDATA[The Piatts Would Approve]]>

Demonstrators filling downtown's Piatt Park on Garfield Place as part of the anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street protests should take heart: The park's namesakes likely would support your actions.

In an excellent post on The Daily Bellwether blog, writer Bill Sloat looks at the history of the Piatt brothers, Donn and Abram, and the causes they held dear. Abram Piatt was a wealthy farmer and poet who served as a general for the Union Army during the Civil War. Donn Piatt was a staff officer for the Union Army.---

After the war, the brothers published Belford's Magazine, which had a decidedly populist bent. Despite their posh background, the Piatts used their position to rally opposition against corrupt Wall Street executives and politicians including President Ulysses S. Grant.

The land for the park was given to the city in 1817 by Benjamin M. Piatt, a federal judge who was the father of Abram and Donn.

As Sloat writes, “While wealthy and prominent themselves, the Piatts of the 1870s and 1880s raged against Wall Streets's influence over Washington politicians. Two Piatt brothers, Donn and Abram, published and edited Belford's Magazine after the Civil War, which reported that Wall Street was screwing soldiers out of their benefits by manipulating elected officials and the U.S. Treasury. The magazine's owners also denounced President Grant's administration as corrupt and controlled by financiers. It said the Republicans sold out to the big money crowd. Donn Piatt so inflamed the D.C. political establishment that he was indicted for fomenting insurrection in 1877, a charge that was eventually tossed out of court. He complained about the 'kings of Wall Street' with their chests of money in the Gilded Age.”

Somewhere, Abram and Donn are smiling at the demonstrators and wishing them well.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

More than 20 Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night received citations for staying at Piatt Park after its official closing time, a process which included warnings by police and then some peaceful ticketing before police left the occupiers to their business. CityBeat has launched a page dedicated to our ongoing coverage of the protests, including a live feed of #occupycincinnati and #occupycincy hashtags. ---

The New York Times explains how the Occupy Wall Street movement has spurred dialogue over economic inequality despite how many conservatives call its individuals childish things. Here's an interesting report on how the 99 percent movement has intrigued religious scholars, some of whom are comparing the social justice dimensions to those of many religions.

Jump to the bottom of the page for a thoughtful explanation of the movement by former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, standing up to some mope named P.J. O'Rourke on Real Time with Bill Maher.

When County Commissioners find a little extra money, they apparently believe it best to send it on over to the the sheriff's, prosecutor's and public defender's offices rather than Jobs and Family Services so the police can better patrol and prosecute people who don't have jobs or family resources and then do crazy things.

Those proposed public- safety increases come at the expense of Job and Family Services, which is slated to get $843,260 in 2012 — a 26.6 percent decrease. It's the largest percentage cut of any department.

The AP reports that Gov. John Kasich is “literally” barnstorming in support of SB 5 while describing no literal storming of barns, just one of the term's many definitions, this one meaning traveling around the country making political speeches. He's arguing in favor of performance-based pay for teachers, assuming those who navigate the murky methods of teacher evaluation and the questionable legitimacy of standardized texts deserve more money.

Republican presidential candidates are reportedly distancing themselves from a Dallas Baptist pastor's thoughts about Mormonism (considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity). Perry is breaking out the 'ol flip-flop label. 2012 is going to rule.

Two Americans have won the Nobel prize in economics for explaining some of the ways government policy affects the economy. Probably had plenty of data on the subject after 2008.

Are you one of the 1 million people who preordered the iPhone 4S during the first day you could? Y'all impatient.

California has banned indoor tanning for people younger than 18, citing cancer risks (and the state's abundance of sunlight?). The state also bans openly carrying guns. Who does either of those things?

<![CDATA[Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Sawyer Point]]>

The Occupy Wall Street movement plans to occupy Sawyer Point this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., one of several protests planned in other cities since the protest over corporate money in politics began more than three weeks ago in New York. (UPDATE: The protest has been moved to Lytle Park due to an already scheduled event at Sawyer Point.)

The Cincinnati Enquirer did its usual muckraking on the subject, determining that the movement's “goals are vague” and then linking to a story quoting a member of the movement describing its goals quite succinctly:---

"We're here for different reasons,” said Vincent, whose father is also unemployed and recently went through a home foreclosure. "But at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing, and that's accountability. We want accountability for the connection between Wall Street and the politicians."

Michael Moore tells Keith Olbmermann it's because the protesters “oppose the way our economy is structured.” And the movement released an official statement two days ago that an entry-level reporter could have found on the internet. Its list of grievances includes the following:

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

So there you have it, everyone. It's a protest over America's self-destructive attempt at becoming a neo-feudalistic corporate state. For those interested, it takes place Saturday. Bring your sleeping bags, first aid kits and cameras to take photos of rich people laughing at you from the giant buildings.
<![CDATA[Flip-Flop: Paul Woos Bailout Supporters]]>

In a turnabout from a campaign pledge, Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul is getting help raising campaign money by GOP senators who voted for the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

According to an Associated Press report, Paul is holding a fundraiser Thursday night in Washington, D.C. Although Paul earlier had said he wouldn't seek money from any politician who voted for the $700 billion bailout, nine of the 12 senators listed on the event's host committee were bailout supporters.---

The event will be held at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's offices. Tickets cost $1,000 per person, with sponsorships up to $5,000 per group, the AP reports.

Last year, Paul criticized his GOP primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Greyson, for accepting contributions from senators who voted for the bailout.

Paul, who holds Libertarian beliefs, has said he opposes using taxpayer money to assist a private business.

Shortly after his victory in the May 18 Kentucky primary, Paul was widely criticized for remarks he made to the the Louisville Courier-Journal about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 once they became publicized

Paul told the newspaper’s editorial board in April that he disliked portions of the civil rights law because a restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” he said.

Since then, Paul has severely limited his contact with the media.

<![CDATA[GE, Exxon Paid No Taxes in '09]]>

With the federal income tax deadline looming next week, people can expect Tea Partiers and others to moan and shout about giving some of their money for the common good. If those tax protestors really wanted to make an impact, though, they’d focus on making sure large corporations pay their fair share.---

Forbes magazine reported last week that General Electric had $10.3 billion in pre-tax income last year but ended up paying nothing in federal income tax. Instead, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil had a record-breaking $45.2 billion in profits last year, but paid no taxes to the federal government. Of the $15 billion it owed in taxes, all of it was legally channeled to corporate tax shelters in nations overseas.

As expected, corporate shills defend the practice. They allege if companies are forced to pay more, they will either pass the cost along to consumers or eliminate some jobs.

No economic system is perfect but the mere discussion of capitalism’s wretched excesses and possibly changing them makes many Americans squeamish, showing just how indoctrinated we are by Big Business.

As part of its “Day of Dialogue” program, the Interfaith Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) will hold a screening of Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, on May 1, followed by an audience discussion. Also, attendees will be able to enjoy a chili dinner and hear news about the local job market from the AFL-CIO, the AMOS Project and the Interfaith Worker Center.

The event, which is free and open to the public, runs from 6-8:30 p.m. It will be held at the Laborer’s International Union Hall, 3457 Montgomery Road, in Evanston.

With rampant unemployment due to the reckless behavior of Wall Street bankers and their lack of proper oversight, the economy is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

The net result of Ronald Reagan’s unproven theory of “trickle down economics,” combined with George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, has led to disastrous results that threaten to shred society’s social contract.

Statistics show that the top 1 percent of U.S. society has more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined, while the annual incomes of the top 20 percent equal the total of the bottom 80 percent. Any system that promotes such radical and destabilizing inequality needs fixing.

Moore has his weaknesses as a filmmaker – unnecessary bombast and a tendency to inject himself into the subject matter -- but one of his strengths is as a provocateur, someone willing to broach topics that others won’t. His film ends with several interesting quotes interspersed among the closing credits. Here are two that stood out in my mind.

“I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies.” – Thomas Jefferson

“All the property that is necessary to a man, for the conservation of the individual and the propagation of the species, is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of; but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the publick who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the welfare of the publick shall demand such disposition.” – Benjamin Franklin

If the Founding Fathers were willing to question our economic system, why have we become so afraid to do so?

<![CDATA[Stimulating Stimulus Meeting]]>

Hundreds of local people interested in rebuilding the economy instead of complaining about it gathered today for two sessions organized by Gov. Ted Strickland and State Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Avondale) to explain Ohio’s portion of the federal stimulus package. Besides Strickland aides, representatives from the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Benefit Bank were on hand to educate local small businesses and nonprofits about utilizing stimulus dollars.---

A meeting room at TechSolve off of Paddock Road in Roselawn/Bond Hill was packed at 10 a.m. for the first session. After reaching the room's capacity of 350, organizers had to turn away dozens of people, asking them to return for the 12-2 p.m. version of the meeting.

Wade Rakes, Strickland's director of public liaison, laid out the opportunities available for Greater Cincinnati businesses and nonprofits, saying Ohio is expected to receive more than $8 billion from the Obama administration's $787 billion stimulus bill. Only one area of funding has identified specific projects, he said — the Department of Transportation has approved 149 highway or bridge improvement proposals. Even there, he said, no contracts have been let, meaning that lots of avenues remain for local companies to get involved.

One of the stimulus plan's main goals, Wade said, is to create and retain jobs across Ohio. He said that all new jobs would be posted at as a way to connect out-of-work people with job opportunities.

More than 23,500 proposals having been submitted to Strickland’s office through the Ohio Recovery Web site ( Wade encouraged attendees to continue to submit ideas, noting that "real people" in Columbus are sorting through every proposal.

Here's more background in my editorial this week on today's meetings.

<![CDATA[Angry About Something or Another]]>

An estimated 3,000 people attended today’s latest “Tea Party” protest at Fountain Square, this time commemorating Tax Day, and a CityBeat writer and photographer were there to capture the event in all of its sordid glory. [See the photo slideshow here.]---

Cincinnati’s protest and subsequent march to City Hall, one of about 600 tea parties scheduled nationwide, ostensibly were held to protest President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, and urge city officials not to accept any financial aid.

Judging from remarks made by speakers and signs held by protesters, however, everyone had different reasons for attending.

Although organizer Mike Wilson, a computer consultant from Springfield Township, railed against government spending and taxes as expected, speaker Greg Knox, who owns a machinery business in Franklin, wrapped up his remarks by stating the United States must “return to God.”

Meanwhile, dozens of signs warned against the evils of “socialism” and raised the specter of the old Soviet Union. The most elaborate featured the famous blue and red Obama image from last year’s “hope” campaign poster, but included a hammer and sickle symbol and the tag line, “Welcome to the U.S.S.A.”

Some signs fit the “Taxed Enough Already” theme.

One placard read, “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth”; another sign stated, “Normally, I’d be at work now but I figured … why bother?”

Many other signs were all over the board.

A young boy held a sign protesting some safety law prohibiting small motorcycles for children. Another placard read, “Protect our Constitution, borders, language and culture.” Yet another stated, “I’ll keep my money and guns, you keep your change.” For good measure, one man held a sign blaming labor unions for America's ills, while another sign read "Insurrection, anyone?"

Before the speakers began, the crowd listened to patriotic-themed Country music. At one point, anti-tax activist Christopher Finney could be seen walking around and trying to get people to sing along to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A.

Referring to Rick Santelli, the CNBC commentator whose on-air rant against “losers” inspired people to hold tea parties, Wilson said, “He wanted to know why those of us who did the right thing and took care of our mortgages and paid our bills are bailing out the irresponsible ones.”

Possibly responding to criticism about the first rally on March 15, Wilson mentioned the non-partisan nature of the event several times, urged attendees not to get into altercations and didn’t allow Republican politicians to speak this time. Also, he blasted both major parties for having leaders who leave office and then become lobbyists.

“These aren’t Republican values, these aren't Democratic values, these aren’t Green Party values, these aren’t Libertarian values — these are American values,” Wilson said.

“Our movement has to mean something. It has to be here for the long haul,” he added. “Politicians work for us, and we will continue to build our movement until our voices are heard.”

The crowd wasn’t diverse: An informal survey of participants by this reporter and two onlookers spotted just one African-American woman and one Asian-American man in the throngs of people. There were plenty of smokers, though.

Unlike the March 15 rally, it appeared that no confrontations occurred at Fountain Square this time. As protesters marched to City Hall, though, bystanders jeered them.

A group of African-American teen-agers at Seventh and Vine chanted Barack Obama’s name as the group strolled by, prompting a white, red-haired marcher in his 20s and a business suit to reply, “He’s the Anti-Christ.”

A block later, an elderly, grey-haired black woman shouted at the marchers, “You all don’t even live here!”

As another man on Garfield Place watched the crowd walk by, he said, “I didn’t see any of these people when the last president was fucking shit up for eight years.”

One sign carried by a protester echoed the religious theme. It read, “If 10 percent is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Uncle Sam.”

Yes, but Jesus never had to build highways, buy missiles and fight two wars.

<![CDATA[Libertarians Like Protests, Too]]>

With one week left until the next “Tea Party” event, more organizations are jumping on the protest bandwagon.---

The national Libertarian Party is urging its members to join in the rallies planned nationwide on Tax Day, April 15. Locally, a protest rally will be held at Fountain Square beginning at 11:30 a.m., followed by a noon march to Cincinnati City Hall where a petition will be presented to unnamed city officials asking them to reject federal economic stimulus money.

The local event is sponsored by WKRC (550 AM) and radio host Brian Thomas, who’s been hyping the march for weeks.

Cincinnati organizers say about 1,900 people have committed to marching. They describe the event thusly on their Web site: “We are asking everyone to bring signs and people. We expect to have some media coverage when we present the petitions to City Hall so the more signs and people the better. We will be bringing the tea bags that were ‘dumped’ during the March 15th event to also present to City Hall as a symbol of how our government is not responsibly representing the views of the people.”

The Tax Day events also are being publicized by two arch-conservative groups: Newt Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership organization and the American Family Association, a “pro-family advocacy organization” led by the Rev. Donald Wildmon. He’s best-known for organizing boycotts of TV shows he finds offensive.

Libertarians, who believe in limited government, take credit for organizing the modern Tea Parties.

“The ‘tea party’ concept started with the Libertarian Party of Illinois, who began organizing a 2009 Tax Day ‘Boston Tea Party’ in Chicago back in December of 2008 and created a Facebook group for it on Feb. 10, 2009,” a party press release states. “Nine days later, CNBC’s Rick Santelli, broadcasting from the floor of the Chicago stock exchange, popularized the concept.”

“Americans agree with the Libertarian Party that taxes and spending are out of control, and that bailouts and nationalizing industries destroys freedom and prosperity,” said Donny Ferguson, a Libertarian Party spokesman. “The Libertarian Party is the only party supporting shrinking budgets, lowering tax burdens, eliminating deficits and getting government out of the way of recovery.

“With the Republican Party in Washington joining Democrats in proposing their own bloated budget that expands spending and explodes the deficit, and Republicans in other states touting their plans to raise taxes and jack up spending during a recession, Americans must speak out and speak out forcefully.”

At least the Libertarians are being intellectually honest in their protest. This week’s Porkopolis column, in the issues of CityBeat hitting newsstands today, details the contradictions and fallacies employed by local participants.

We’ll see you at Fountain Square next week.

<![CDATA[A Rally's Mean Streak]]> An actual tea party is supposed to be a cordial, civilized affair but as more details emerge about Sunday’s “Cincinnati Tea Party,” it’s clear that some attendees need a lesson in manners.---

Instead of the political protest remaining focused on substantive policy issues, many in the crowd at Fountain Square revealed their true colors through their obnoxious behavior. One such incident involved the racially tinged mistreatment of a black woman who supported President Obama.

Here’s how The Cincinnati Enquirer described the incident in a single, sanitized sentence from a front page article on the event published Monday: “A lone Obama supporter made her way through the edge of the gated area, shouting ‘O-bam-a’ to jeers from the crowd.”

What really happened, however, was much uglier and crystallizes why more and more American voters are turned off by the divisive, “me first” attitude of many conservative Republicans.

Among a predominantly white crowd that carried signs displaying slogans of aggrieved privilege like, “Honk if I’m paying your mortgage,” was a middle-aged African-American woman waving an Obama flag. As expected, many attendees began heckling her but what was surprising was the openly racist nature of their comments, according to several people who witnessed the encounter.

A crowd formed around the woman, yelling in unison the word, “sucks,” each time she chanted Obama’s name. No biggie. But when that didn’t discourage her, a white woman in her 40s began following along behind her shouting “Wel-fare mom! Wel-fare mom!”

The ugliness didn’t end there. A young white man held up a poster depicting the U.S. presidents except Obama, as he gleefully noted to the sole dissenter. He then told her, “Let me borrow your flag for a minute. I want to wipe my ass with it.”

Others in the crowd chanted, “get a job,” as the black woman began to leave.

Cincinnati Police who were on hand to provide security did nothing. Enquirer readers wouldn’t know about any of this because the incident was whitewashed by the city’s newspaper of record.

The shameful behavior was in addition to parts of the crowd who physically threatened TV news crews on hand to cover the event, an incident also not mentioned by The Enquirer. The crews scurried toward police for protection.

Regardless of all the hate, the rally’s very premise was built on lies.

Part of a nationwide effort, the rally was designed to protest the $787 billion economic stimulus plan and Obama’s $75 billion mortgage relief program. Participants were galvanized by news that AIG handed out millions of dollars in employee bonuses after getting a multibillion-dollar bailout from the government.

Congressional Democrats wanted to include limits on executive compensation in the stimulus bill, but Republicans — led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — insisted it be removed.

Also, the economic meltdown largely occurred because of the GOP’s dislike of any regulation on the private sector. As then-presidential candidate John McCain said in a March 2008 speech, ““Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments.”

Yeah, how did that work out for you so far?

McClatchy Newspapers recently reported the National Republican Congressional Committee is sending out video “trackers” to ask provocative questions of Democratic members of Congress, for use in campaign ads. Instead of wasting time and money on “gotcha” campaigning, the party should focus on developing a coherent, positive agenda for the future.

<![CDATA[Driehaus Pissed at Partying Bank Getting Federal Funds]]>

U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, about two months into his new job representing Ohio's 1st District, is one of 18 Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee to send a letter to the CEO of Northern Trust in Chicago warning him to stop spending federal TARP bank bailout money on golf tournaments, parties and posh hotels. Committee Chairman Barney Frank initiated the letter to "insist" that the CEO "immediately return to the federal government the equivalent of what Northern Trust frittered away on these lavish events."---

I'm not sure the letter will recover any TARP funds, but perhaps it shows that Congress is beginning to understand the growing public anger at the lack of oversight and accountability for how bailed-out banks are using taxpayer money.

<![CDATA[‘Truth Squading’ in OH-1]]>

This week’s issue of CityBeat profiles three of the candidates in the hotly contested race for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District seat. Not surprisingly, two of the candidates are claiming that the other misrepresented or distorted his views.

The campaign of Republican incumbent Steve Chabot took umbrage at a paraphrased statement from his Democratic challenger, Steve Driehaus, that pertained to housing issues. It read, “Worse, Chabot hasn’t proposed any legislation that would help the wave of foreclosures and resulting blight that has swept the West Side over the past few years.”

Katie Fox, Chabot’s spokeswoman, noted the congressman addressed the foreclosure and mortgage crisis by passing a bill in December in a compromise with U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that gave bankruptcy judges the discretion to modify the value of a mortgage to the true market price and to adjust the interest rate. It applied only to debtors who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and lack the income to pay their expenses, according to The Hill newspaper.

The Driehaus campaign responded by pointing out the statement referred to Chabot’s entire 14-year period in office, and specifically stated that the mortgage crisis was causing blight on Cincinnati’s West Side for years before Chabot acted.

Meanwhile, Driehaus also is criticizing TV commercials that Chabot and the national Republican Party are airing that allege Driehaus hasn’t taken a stance on the $850 billion Wall Street bailout plan approved recently by Congress. Chabot opposed the plan.

Driehaus says he’s made it clear he would’ve reluctantly voted for the plan had he been in Congress. “We had to do something, but I think it’s ridiculous that pork spending was put into this bill,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for Congress to allow the financial markets to fail.”

Further, Driehaus criticizes local republicans for waging a whisper campaign alleging that he doesn’t support Barack Obama, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. Some West Side residents perceive Obama as too liberal for their tastes. Driehaus has appeared at events with Obama, and his Web site features a photograph of him with the Illinois senator.

Not everyone’s convinced of Driehaus’ sincerity, though. Democrat Eric Wilson, an outspoken Obama supporter who’s running for the seat as an independent write-in candidate, said, “I know the political games. You go to the West Side of town and don’t mention Obama’s name at appearances.”

— Kevin Osborne