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Imagine that

Even the IMF knows income inequality is bad for a country’s economic outlook:

As the Occupy Wall Street protests swell in size and people pay closer attention to the gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, one question is why this divide even matters. One way to look at income inequality, after all, is that it’s no big deal. If a country is growing at a healthy clip and everyone is steadily getting richer, then it’s hardly an outrage that a few titans at the very top are doing freakishly well, right?

But a recent study from the International Monetary Fund suggests that this conventional view is misguided. Excessive income inequality, the authors find, can actually inflict a lot of harm on a country’s long-term economic prospects.

In the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine, the authors, Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry, summarize their recent research (see also Josh Harkinson’s piece for Mother Jones). It’s relatively common, the authors note, for countries to experience small growth spurts here and there. But sustained, long-term economic growth, of the sort that the United States and Britain enjoyed after World War II, is rare. Plenty of poorer countries — say, Brazil or Jordan or Cameroon — don’t ever seem to be able to maintain that momentum.
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Obama puts himself between us and the bankers.

Tonight

9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd Jay talks with Matt Stoller about #occupywallst. Read Matt’s post in NakedCapitalism. An American political activist and writer, from 2009-2011, Matt served as Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida’s eighth Congressional district. As Grayson’s financial services legislative aide, he focused on foreclosure fraud, the financial crisis, and the Federal Reserve. Listen live and later on BTR.

10 pm eastern | 7 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking A-Z: This week in liberalism.  | Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd| In the search for meaningful ways to express Movement liberalism as a registered Democrat, Stuart reports back from ‘Downtown (NYC) Independent Democrats.’ Listen live on BTR. Beginning midnight Friday, listen here.

Inside baseball

Jamison Foser:

From the way the media have covered this week’s stimulus package vote, you would think the goal of the legislation was to get Democrats and Republicans to sit together for lunch in the House cafeteria, rather than to turn around an economy in free fall.

After the House passed the stimulus package by a comfortable margin, much of the media reacted not by examining the bill’s contents and the likelihood that it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy, but by focusing on the fact that it passed without a single Republican vote.

Why the GOP’s unanimity in opposing the stimulus package should be surprising is anybody’s guess; the last time we had a newly elected Democratic president, in 1993, congressional Republicans were unanimous in opposing his economic package, too. Then-Rep. John Kasich went so far as to promise that if Bill Clinton’s plan worked, Kasich would switch parties. (It did; he didn’t.) Point being: Congressional Republicans do not have a strong track record of working with Democratic presidents in recent memory. Perhaps because they were too busy trying to subpoena the White House cat.

Nonetheless, the Democrats’ purported failure to get Republican support for the bill was, according to many reporters, the story.

Yesterday’s edition of ABC’s The Note, among the most reliable of indicators of conventional wisdom among Beltway journalists, began:

As President Obama said, there are a lot of numbers in the stimulus bill. But the number that may be remembered most of all from Wednesday’s vote in the House is zero.

That’s a goose egg in the first inning of bipartisanship — at least as recorded on Obama’s scorecard.

Got that? The most important thing is not what the bill will — or won’t — do to fix the economy; it is that Obama failed to win the votes of Republican members of Congress.

No threat, huh?

The Rev. Jim Wallis is now a business, and part of that business is representing the much-beloved Reasonable Middle. That’s why he’s now attacking the writers who have identified the very real threat of the Dominionist religious movements to our democracy.

Today, several writers who report on the Religious Right are issuing an open letter to Jim Wallis, a moderate evangelical leader who runs the group Sojourners. Wallis has criticized the Religious Right in the past, but for some reason suddenly has a problem with those of us who write about the openly theocratic wing of the Religious Right – the Christian Reconstructionists, the Dominionists, those involved in the New Apostolic Reformation.

Wallis and Mark Pinsky, a former religion writer at the Orlando Sentinel, have accused us of fomenting hysteria.

Our open letter sets the record straight. Those of us who write about the Religious Right are not overreacting. Nor do we, as Wallis and Pinsky seem to think, believe that all evangelicals are theocrats. Indeed, we know that the theocratic wing is a minority – but we also know that a minority can have influence far beyond its numbers.

Christian Reconstructionists like the late Rousas John Rushdoony laid the intellectual groundwork for today’s Religious Right. Did everyone who read Rushdoony believe, as he did, that the U.S. government must operate under the Old Testament’s legal code? No. But I’ve attended enough Religious Right meetings and have heard enough demands for “biblical law” in America to know that these people are not fans of our secular government.

A fringe movement did not bring tens of thousands of people to a football stadium for Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally in August. A fringe movement did not remove three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court in 2010 because they voted for marriage equality. A fringe movement did not mobilize and pass anti-gay amendments in more than half of the states. A fringe movement did not mobilize fundamentalist churches and their congregants to push the Republican Party far to the right on social issues. A fringe movement did not pass anti-abortion laws across the nation,  intimidate public school science teachers into watering down the teaching of evolution and derail the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Religious Right did these things. It is a nationwide movement consisting of several large organizations backed by powerful television and radio ministries. It collects more than $1 billion annually in tax-free donations. Not all of its supporters are theocrats who burn to base American law on a narrow understanding of the Bible. But some certainly are.

Hmm

Guess which high-powered “gal pal” of which prominent politician is on the board of the park where Occupy Wall Street is centered? Think there’s any coordination there?

Russell Simmons on #Occupywallstreet

R.I.P.

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, 89, hero of the civil rights movement.

Leadership

So this is the grand compromise Harry Reid came up with to avoid upsetting Chuck Schumer by taking away the tax exemption that makes hedge managers so very rich:

WASHINGTON — In proposing a 5 percent surtax on incomes of more than $1 million a year to pay job-creation measures sought by President Obama, Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday escalated efforts to strike a more populist tone and to draw Republicans into a confrontation over how much affluent Americans should pay to help others cope with a struggling economy.

The White House, after dismissing a similar proposal late last year, left the door open to backing the plan. “We are open to different ways of paying for the very important broadly supported measures in the American Jobs Act that would grow the economy and create jobs,” said the press secretary, Jay Carney.

The new plan, devised by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, has a twofold purpose: to draw a sharp contrast with Congressional Republicans, who have dug in against any increases in tax rates, and to quell a revolt brewing among some Democrats who objected to parts of the White House plan.

Mr. Reid said the surtax would raise $445 billion over 10 years, just about the amount needed to pay for the jobs bill, though it appears unlikely it could make it through Congress.

Jim Crow is back

I’d say Republicans should be ashamed of themselves, but I don’t know that they have that capacity:

Swept up in the craze of preventing widespread voter fraud thatdoesn’t actually exist, Tennessee Republicans passed a voter identification law this year that they claimed would put an end to fraud and ensure fair elections. Like similar laws in other states, Tennessee’s version has come under scrutiny from voting rights advocates, civil rights groups like the NAACP and ACLU, and even Democratic senators, who oppose the laws because they will disenfranchise poor, elderly, and minority voters who are less likely to have photo IDs.

The state now has evidence that that will be the case. Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old Chattanooga resident who says she has voted in every election but one since she became eligible to vote, wanted to ensure she’d have the necessary ID to vote in next year’s elections, when Tennessee’s law goes into effect. But when she went to apply for the ID, she was denied, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports:

That morning, Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.

But I didn’t have my marriage certificate,” Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

“I don’t know what difference it makes,” Cooper said.

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