Gun safety campaigns merge to form grassroots approach

background checks

A new gun control campaign backed by $50 million from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged on Wednesday to focus its efforts outside Washington, claiming to be the first nationwide movement to rival the National Rifle Association.

Despite initial attention on wealthy backers such as Bloomberg and Warren Buffett, leaders of the group, Everytown For Gun Safety, insisted their strategy differs from previous attempts at reform because they would seek to influence politicians through grassroots campaigning rather than primarily by lobbying Congress…

The two groups merging to form Everytown – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – already have 34,000 smaller donors, insisted Feinblatt, who rejects the top-down characterisation of the group by its opponents.

Everytown aims to grow the groups’ combined membership from 1.5m to 2.5m over the next year, through a range of initiatives from a traditional political action committee through to “stroller jams” and “diaper-dumps” outside city hall offices, said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action…

A year ago on Thursday, attempts to pass limited background checks on gun buyers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to make progress in the US Senate despite a wave of national revulsion following the Newtown shooting.

All but three of the 45 senators who blocked passage of the bill had received campaign contributions from firearms lobbyists, and they raised record sums from their members and gun manufacturers in the months following Newtown.

But senators who voted against last year’s background check bill, particularly four rebel Democrats, fear the negative political consequences of crossing the NRA far more than direct campaign contributions.

Some of this is due to spending on attack ads against reformers running in conservative states, but Everytown concedes much of it is also due to the effective political mobilisation of gun rights campaigners.

The ideologues who think they can maintain their position of prominence and control of political hacks – Congressional and closer to home – are whistling in the dark. If they had brains to match their hubris they might look around their Conservative Fortress and wonder what ever happened to the George Wallace Brigade, the Birchers who pledged a battle to the death against miscegenation, the much larger Legions of Christian Wrath defending biblical definitions of marriage [other than polygamy, ahem]?

Will the conflict between good sense and regulation for safe ownership of firearms on one hand versus nutball fanatics who believe every felon has as much right to a gun as the cops trying to arrest them – last for years? You betcha. In the end, will generations growing up in mainly urban and urbane America find politics which needs a Beretta to have balls, an Uzi to protect a uterus – to be nothing more than demented? You betcha.

That’s the confidence side of my cynicism.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Brian Snyder

The shoes of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor J.P. Norden read “Boston Strong” as he stands at the finish line on the one-year anniversary of the bombings in Boston, Massachusetts.

US elections are rigged — Canada knows how to fix that

When Americans voted for the House of Representatives in 2012, Democratic candidates won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans. Yet after the dust settled, the GOP ended up with a 234-201 majority in the chamber. And several recently-gerrymandered states had particularly odd results — for instance, in Pennsylvania, Republicans won 49 percent of the votes, but 69 percent of the seats.

Gerrymandering isn’t the only reason that election results only occasionally match vote totals…Several analyses find that simple geography matters more — many Democratic voters are packed closer together in urban areas…But gerrymandering infuriates voters because it feels so unfair. Letting partisan politicians — or their appointees — draw congressional districts reverses the normal order of politics. Voters are supposed to choose their politicians. Gerrymandering lets politicians choose their voters.

So is it possible to end gerrymandering? Well, the country just north of us managed to pull it off. “Canadian reapportionment was highly partisan from the beginning until the 1960s,” writes Charles Paul Hoffman in the Manitoba Law Journal. This “led to frequent denunciations by the media and opposition parties. Every ten years, editorial writers would condemn the crass gerrymanders that had resulted.” Sound familiar?

Eventually, in 1955, one province — Manitoba — decided to experiment, and handed over the redistricting process to an independent commission. Its members were the province’s chief justice, its chief electoral officer, and the University of Manitoba president. The new policy became popular, and within a decade, it was backed by both major national parties, and signed into law.

Independent commissions now handle the redistricting in every province. “Today, most Canadian ridings [districts] are simple and uncontroversial, chunky and geometric, and usually conform to the vague borders of some existing geographic / civic region knowable to the average citizen who lives there,” writes JJ McCullough. “Of the many matters Canadians have cause to grieve their government for, corrupt redistricting is not one of them.” Hoffman concurs, writing, “The commissions have been largely successful since their implementation.”

Canada changed this 50 years ago. Actually the majority of countries that accept democratic representation as their standard use independent commissions – taking control of districting for elections out of the hands of those running for office.

Might be worthwhile to pass this suggestion along to your Congress-critter. I’ll hold back my cynicism – for a moment.

Wealthiest pay higher taxes — with no substantial impact on economic growth

As the political fight over raising taxes for high-income Americans fades away, so are predictions for negative economic fallout.

The bill for President Barack Obama’s 2013 tax increases comes due April 15, and the first boost in marginal income rates in 20 years is already reducing the U.S. budget deficit without tipping the economy into recession.

“In advance one always hears the squeals of the oxen who would like everyone to think they are about to be gored,” said James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin. “Then it turns out that they are only nicked, and life goes on.”

The U.S. government is projected to collect more than $3 trillion for the first time in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, a 9.2 percent increase over last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. CBO forecasts another 9 percent rise in 2015 and estimates that more than half of the increases in revenue stem from tax law changes.

Because of tax increases, spending cuts and economic growth, the federal budget deficit is projected to be 3 percent of gross domestic product this year. That’s less than half its 2012 level and the smallest budget deficit since 2007…

High-income taxpayers face additional levies, effective in 2013, to help pay for Obama’s health-care plan. That means those at the very top of the U.S. income scale face higher marginal tax rates than at any time since 1986…

The high-income tax increase sapped 0.25 percentage points from GDP in 2013, estimates Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. That slight economic drag, he said, shouldn’t continue.

The question of how much tax-law changes affect the economy also plays out in states, where lawmakers have cut taxes in an effort to provide a jolt to businesses or raised them to bridge budget gaps that persisted after the recession.

California in November 2012 approved a temporary increase in the tax on retail sales and set a nation-high tax bracket of 13.3 percent on incomes of more than $1 million. Opponents warned that it would extract a toll in lost jobs, as businesses cut costs or fled to other states.

The reality in California, now benefiting from a reviving real-estate market, has been different. While job growth slowed in 2013 from a year earlier, employers still expanded payrolls by 2.6 percent, faster than the 1.7 percent pace in the U.S., according to U.S. Labor Department data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There’s just no evidence that the income tax increases have had any substantial impact on California’s economic growth,” said Christopher Thornberg…“It just is not the primary driving force the way some people think it is.”

RTFA. Like most serious Bloomberg articles, this one has lots of red meat and reality. Unlike the ideology-driven crap from Tea Party frumps.