Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Thoughts: Is the Buffett Rule good politics?

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd previews President Barack Obama's speech at Florida Atlantic University, in which he will urge Congress to raise taxes on millionaires and push his economic fairness message.

Is the Buffett Rule good politics for Team Obama?... Poll suggests it isn’t a homerun with independents… But it’s clear why the Obama camp is embracing the Buffett Rule: They’re personalizing it against Romney… Romney camp and RNC push back… New WaPo/ABC poll confirms the conventional wisdom about the 2012 race… Santorum returns to the trail… Paul’s new TV ad… And veepstakes watch: Why you might want to strike Susana Martinez off your VP lists. 

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington April 6, 2012.

*** Is the Buffett Rule good politics? Team Obama is stepping on the gas when it comes to the so-called Buffett Rule, the proposal to raise some taxes on the wealthy to ensure that the Warren Buffetts of the world don’t pay a lower effective tax rate (due to investment income) than their secretaries do. Today, in Boca Raton, FL at 2:55 pm ET, President Obama makes his case for the Buffett Rule. Yesterday, his re-election campaign held a conference call on it. And on Thursday in New Hampshire, Vice President Biden will address the topic as a campaign surrogate. But is this good politics? A poll conducted for the centrist Dem group Third Way suggests it’s an open question. For instance, 47% of independents in 12 battleground states -- including 51% identified as “swing independents” who are still up for grabs -- agreed with this statement (that Mitt Romney might say): “We need an economy based on opportunity, where hard work is rewarded, the government lives within its means, and economic growth is our top priority.” That’s compared with 42% of indies and 43% of swing indies who agreed with this statement (that Obama might say): “We need an economy based on fairness, where the rich pay their fair share, corporations play by the rules, and all Americans get a fair shot.”

*** Not a political homerun with indies, per poll: What struck us about this survey is how much time and effort went into testing the “tax fairness” argument. And unless it’s connected to something tangible like deficit reduction, fairness doesn’t seem to pop politically. Bottom line: This isn’t a slam-dunk political issue with ALL swing indies. What Team Obama sees is an opportunity to either connect better with working-class Midwesterners or use the issue to DISCONNECT these folks from Romney, which brings us to…

*** Making it personal: While the Buffett Rule might not be a homerun with independents and swing voters, it’s pretty clear why the Obama campaign is embracing it: You can personalize it against Romney. That’s why the campaign discussed Romney’s “Swiss bank account” and his unwillingness to release any tax returns before 2010 as much as it did the Buffett Rule on yesterday’s conference call. And today, the campaign is releasing a statement saying that Romney should stop playing “hide and go seek” -- similar words to what Romney said about Obama last week -- with his tax returns. From the statement: “Mitt Romney opposes the Buffett Rule - he thinks millionaires and billionaires should keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class families. In fact, Romney himself isn’t paying his fair share – in 2010, Romney paid a tax rate of only 13.9%, well below the rate paid by many middle-class Americans. And with each week, new questions are raised about whether Romney took unusual steps to avoid paying his fair share in taxes. Yet we can’t answer those questions because he simply refuses to release enough of his tax returns to give a clear picture of his finances.”

*** Romney camp pushes back: Yesterday, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom pushed back against the Obama camp’s request that Romney release 23 years of his tax returns (what he provided the McCain campaign during the ’08 veepstakes) when Obama’s own released tax returns only go back to 2000. "Maybe they should adopt as their new slogan: Barack Obama — making the world safe for hypocrisy," Fehrnstrom told BuzzFeed. But did the Romney campaign here just make Obama’s returns the standard? Does this mean Romney will/should release his tax returns going back to 2000? Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is also pushing back against the Buffett Rule, pointing out it would raise only $47 billion. “This is all the president has left to fix the economy – a plan to divide America with a tax that will raise one tenth of a percent of his spending spree."

*** Confirming the conventional wisdom: The latest national Washington Post/ABC poll pretty much confirms the conventional wisdom: Obama leads Romney among registered voters by seven percentage points (51%-44%) in a head-to-head contest; he’s viewed as more likeable and better on women’s issues and handling foreign affairs; and his approval rating stands at 50%. Yet his vulnerability remains -- drum roll, please -- the economy. “[O]n the two most pressing issues of the campaign — the economy and jobs — the contest is considerably more competitive, with about as many trusting Romney on the issues as Obama,” the Washington Post writes. “Despite positive economic indicators, Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the overall direction of the country and largely consider the economy still mired in a recession.” This poll explains why the Obama campaign wants this to be a choice election with Romney and why the Republicans want this to be a referendum on Obama/the economy -- which we saw on FULL DISPLAY last week from both sides.

*** Santorum returns to the trail: Late last night, the Santorum campaign announced that daughter Bella had been released from the hospital, and that Santorum is returning to the campaign trail, although it canceled the day’s first two events to allow the Santorums to settle at home with Bella. "Rick and Karen are happy to announce that their daughter Bella has been discharged from the hospital and returned home earlier Monday evening,” campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “The Santorums are truly overwhelmed by the prayers and support they've received -- and wanted to attach a picture of their daughter Bella so everyone could see their precious gift from God.” Santorum stumps in Gettysburg, PA at 2:00 pm ET and appears in Lancaster, PA with evangelical leader James Dobson at 7:15 pm ET.

*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Elsewhere today, Romney stumps in Delaware and Pennsylvania… Gingrich visits the Tar Heel State, speaking at two events in New Bern… And Gingrich’s wife, Callista,, delivers a speech to the Women's National Republican Club in New York City… And Paul host a town hall event at Texas A&M in College Station, TX.

*** Paul’s new TV ad: Speaking of Paul -- who still hasn’t won a state yet -- his campaign announced it’s airing a cable TV ad in Texas that his Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney. “Let’s get this straight: We’re debating between a big-spending, debt-ceiling-raising fiscal liberal,” the narrator says, referring to Santorum. “A moon colony guy. A moderate from Massachusetts. Or a Texan with a real plan to balance the budget.” By the way, an image of an Etch A Sketch appears in the ad…

*** Veepstakes watch: When New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) now says “no” to the vice-president slot on the GOP ticket, we now believe her. “The rising GOP star told an Albuquerque newspaper recently she couldn't do it if she got asked because of family considerations, particularly her developmentally disabled sister and her father with Alzheimer's,” USA Today says. “Martinez is the legal guardian for her sister, Lettie, who lives in Las Cruces, and she says her father, who is in El Paso, is still able to recognize Lettie. ‘The family has to be a consideration, and for me to take (my sister) to Washington would be to separate her from ... the family that's down there, and that would be devastating,’ Martinez told the Albuquerque Journal. ‘I just couldn't do it.’”… Also, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was on “TODAY” this morning, and he said he hadn’t given the VP slot any thought. That’s code for: “I’ll listen.”

Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 14 days

Countdown to Election Day: 210 days

The 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll in 1:48

Time-Lapse Video:

Yesterday the President and First Lady hosted more than 30,000 people from all 50 states on the South Lawn of the White House for the 134th annual Easter Egg Roll. There was singing, there was dancing, there was reading, there were crafts, there were cooking demonstrations,and there was basketball drills, hula hoops, and, of course, there were Easter eggs. captured it all on camera, and livestreamed the day from several locations around the Lawn for those who couldn't join in person. But it came to our attention that some people found the sheer volume of choices overwhelming, so we packaged it into one 1:48 video. Enjoy!

Top consumer watchdog Cordray outlines ‘fundamental shift’ in mortgage regulation

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CFPB promotes Financial Literacy Month


April is Financial Literacy Month, and we are teaming up with other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to promote financial education.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray and the staff of the CFPB are taking a leading role in spreading the word about the benefits of knowing more about money.
Being informed is your best defense against the tricks and traps found in some financial products. Recently, we launched Ask CFPB, a search tool to help you find plain-language answers to your questions about credit cards, mortgages, credit scores, and more.
You can rate the questions and even suggest your own if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
Sometimes, information isn’t enough. That’s why we continue to take your complaints. You can now file complaints about mortgages, credit cards, deposit accounts, vehicle and other consumer loans, and student loans. When you submit your complaint, you will be given a password and a tracking number to follow its progress. Or, you can Tell Your Story. Share your experiences with personal financial products and services – good or bad – and help inform our ability to protect others.
We’ll also be on the road a lot this month, so mark your calendar for a few noteworthy events:
  • Gail Hillebrand, the CFPB’s associate director of Consumer Education and Engagement, will speak during Financial Literacy Day on the Hill on April 17. She will also participate in the sixth annual Financial Literacy and Education Summit, co-hosted by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and Visa Inc., on April 23.
  • On April 19, Assistant Director Camille Busette, from the CFPB’s Office of Financial Education, will be the luncheon speaker during the Texas Panhandle Community Asset Building Forum, hosted by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and the City of Amarillo.
  • And, on April 21, I will present an overview of how the CFPB is helping consumers during the New York Public Library’s Financial Empowerment Day.
We hope to hear more from you and other consumers at these events or on our website. You can also share your experiences and interact with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be presenting financial facts and tips throughout Financial Literacy Month. They’ll introduce you to financial issues, answer your questions, and guide you to important resources.

CFPB promotes Financial Literacy Month

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we are teaming up with other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to promote financial education.
We recently launched Ask CFPB, a search tool to help you find plain-language answers to your questions about credit cards, mortgages, credit scores, and more.
We’ll also be on the road a lot this month. Check out our blog to learn more.

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012, 11:23am EDT

Richard Cordray
Richard Cordray

Public companies editor/Senior staff writer - Tampa Bay Business Journal

The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau  has created a fundamental shift in the policing of financial markets with regard to mortgage lending, said the new agency’s head, Richard Cordray.
While banks are regulated from a safety and soundness perspective from agencies such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency  , the Federal Reserve  and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., “when we write rules that govern mortgage lenders, they will apply to all institutions regardless of who their credentialed regulator may be,” Cordray said.
The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform act of 2010, also has the authority to regulate companies in the mortgage industry that are not banks, including mortgage servicers who previously had very little accountability, Cordray told journalists attending the conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in Indianapolis. The CFPB can send people on site to inspect operations, enforce the law if it finds violations, and write rules to address problems in the marketplace.
Cordray, formerly the state treasurer and attorney general in Ohio, said the most staggering aspect of the mortgage crisis has been its durability. Initially viewed as a problem of rust belt states in 2004 and 2005, it has since spread nationwide and now is most pervasive in the “sand states,” including Florida, with “no end in sight.”
Cordray also focused on two other issues that the CFPB is addressing — credit cards and student loans. The agency recently proposed a prototype credit card contract that is shorter and clearer than the typical 5,000-word contract, and is working with the Department of Education to develop a draft student aid “shopping sheet,” which would help make student loans easier to understand.
Cordray, appointed by President Obama in January, without Congressional confirmation, said he’s not worried that a political change in control could jeopardize the CFPB.
“We have a job to do. My job is to protect consumers in the financial marketplace,” he said. “As we do our work, I think we will justify our agency.”

CFPB guidelines too subjective, GOP says

March 29, 2012|Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The rules for monitoring the financial products used by consumers are too subjective, Republican U.S. lawmakers said Thursday at a hearing with the recently appointed director of the federal government’s new watchdog.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by a larger financial-overhaul law, is charged with protecting individuals from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices, among other directives. But this standard is too vague, charged Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican of Alabama and chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. For example, he said, consumers have different levels of financial knowledge.
“In some cases, the ability of a consumer to understand” could determine whether a product is below the CFPB’s standard, Bachus told Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s director.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican of Texas, voiced a similar concern about the standard. “Is it clear or is it subjective,” he asked. “Is it clearly subjective?”
Cordray said the CFPB’s guidelines speak about taking unreasonable advantage of consumers. “Good businesses and good banks are mindful of this,” and don’t approach certain customers with certain products. “It’s not one size fits all.”
However, he added that when it comes to gray areas, the CFPB “should tread cautiously.”
In response to questioning from another lawmaker about consumers’ personal responsibility, Cordray said individuals need to be reasonable and accountable, and that the CFPB can try to help them make better-informed decisions. “They’re the ones that have to live with those decisions.”
The CFPB began operating in July, and President Barack Obama appointed Cordray as director in January. His appointment was contentious — Obama appointed him during a recess after opposition from Republicans.
Cordray appeared Thursday before the House committee to detail the bureau’s early progress. During the CFPB’s first six months, it worked on resolving credit-card and mortgage complaints from consumers, starting a financial-institution supervision program, and developing straightforward financial-product disclosures, among other steps.

Fortress Gains in Servicing Market as BofA Retreats:

Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG) took its Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. (NSM) public last week in the second offering of a loan servicer in a month as upstart firms grab market share from banks inundated with troubled borrowers.
Banks are retreating from the approximately $10 trillion mortgage servicing market, once a cash cow that generated monthly revenue of 0.25 percent to 0.4 percent of loan balances. Federal and state probes of foreclosure practices led to new regulations that are driving up costs, and a pending change in bank capital requirements also made the business less desirable.
“Smaller servicers have an opportunity to pick up market share because they aren’t facing the same regulatory issues and the same capital issues as banks,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial Inc. in Chicago. “We’re in big trouble if they don’t -- banks are so completely overwhelmed with defaults and regulatory issues, some of them can’t even handle a refinance request.”
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) last year reduced by about half the value of their mortgage servicing rights, or MSRs, that estimate future cash flows against costs. For Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) in San Francisco, the drop was 13 percent.
Nationstar and Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN), which spun off Home Loan Servicing Solutions Ltd. in a public offering last month, are betting their expertise in handling defaulted or seriously delinquent loans will help them grow. About $1 trillion of mortgage servicing rights currently are for sale by banks, according to Jay Bray, chief executive officer of Lewisville, Texas-based Nationstar, who declined to name the companies because his firm intends to compete for some of the assets.

New Model

In the next three to five years, as much as $4 trillion of servicing assets could be moved off bank books and bought by companies like Nationstar, Bray said.
The company fell 42 cents, or 3 percent, to $13.77 as of 3:44 p.m. in New York. Nationstar priced 16.7 million shares at $14 in the March 7 initial public offering, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That was less than the $17 to $19 estimated by underwriters. Home Loan Servicing (HLSS) has declined 40 cents to $13.60 since its IPO.
“The new model of servicing is going to be flow servicing, where these types of loans will be automatically moved to non- bank companies,” Bray said. “There will be a continued need for the high-touch model like ours that focuses on borrowers who need extra loving care.”

Fannie Mae Buys

Revenue at Nationstar rose 44 percent in 2011 as it bought servicing rights from Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America and sub-contracted with other institutions to handle their most troubled loans. In May, the company will purchase $67 billion of servicing assets from Aurora Bank FSB, a unit of defunct Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Bray said.
Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have sold the servicing rights of more than $160 billion of mortgages since mid-2011. Bank of America sold $73 billion of its portfolio to Fannie Mae in August and $18 billion to Nationstar in December, falling to the No. 2 ranking. Wells Fargo is now the largest servicer.
JPMorgan, based in New York, in November agreed to sell mortgage servicing rights for $15 billion of its portfolio to Ocwen. The West Palm Beach, Florida-based servicer in October bought Morgan Stanley’s Saxon Mortgage Services Inc., with servicing rights on $26.6 billion of mortgages. In June, it purchased Goldman Sachs’s Litton Loan Servicing, with about $41.2 billion of mortgages.

‘Under Stress’

“The big guys are all under stress, trying to handle the volume of loans while they deal with regulatory issues,” said William Fricke, senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “They’re offloading some of their servicing to relieve the pressure.”
Thomas Kelly, a JPMorgan spokesman, Ancel Martinez of Wells Fargo, and Bank of America’s Dan Frahm declined to comment.
Homeward Residential, which until last month was known as American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc., is another small servicer seeking to grow -- both by purchasing mortgage servicing rights and contracting with the industry’s biggest servicers to handle some of their loans, said owner Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who’s chairman of WL Ross & Co. in New York.
“Small servicers will gain share, partly because the big banks are selling MSRs instead of buying them and partly because some of the big banks are servicing such large amounts of problem loans that they’re farming out special servicing to firms like ours that are particularly well set up to perform it,” Ross said

Adding Assets

Ross bought Homeward in 2008 and has since added assets from Citigroup Inc. (C) and Option One Mortgage Corp., a division of H&R Block Inc. (HRB) The company, based in Coppell, Texas, went into correspondent and warehouse lending last year, financing mortgages and keeping the servicing rights when selling them, Ross said. Bank of America announced in October it was exiting the correspondent business.
Administering home loans had little oversight until allegations of fraud in late 2010 sparked federal and state investigations. In April, the Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury and other regulators issued an enforcement action forcing the banks to hire staff, improve foreclosure performance and keep stricter controls on fees they charge borrowers and bond holders.
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup and Ally Financial Inc. agreed in February to a $25 billion settlement with state attorneys general, pledging to compensate borrowers wrongfully evicted from homes and adhere to new standards. The banks service more than half of the market.

Servicer Misconduct

Servicer misconduct included the use of fraudulent affidavits to establish claims and falsifying promissory notes that transfer the ownership of mortgages, according to Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin.
“These problems have hampered the ability of the courts and the markets to work through the foreclosure inventory in an efficient manner,” she said in a January speech in Washington. It’s “one of the factors hindering a rapid recovery in the economy,” she said.
More changes are in store for the industry, said Peter Swire, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law in Columbus.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington has said it plans to reform servicing practices. So far, all they’ve done is draft a new format for monthly mortgage bills, though Richard Cordray, head of the bureau, has said there’s more to come.

Changing Fee Model

In addition, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has proposed changing the current flat-fee compensation model to a system that rewards performance.
While regulatory crackdowns and burgeoning costs are currently driving the fragmentation of the servicing industry, banks also are mindful of the changes in capital rules that in 2014 will begin to be implemented, Swire said.
Mortgage servicing rights that now help banks to meet capital requirements will shrink in value as new standards set by Basel III, an international banking agreement, phase out their use. Companies like Nationstar and Home Loan Servicing won’t be affected because they’re not banks.
“The big players are already thinking about the new capital rules kicking in, and that creates an incentive to shrink their market share,” Swire said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Urban at

George W. Bush: I Wish They Weren't Called The Bush Tax Cuts

4/10/2012 @ 9:10AM 


Former U.S. President George W. Bush called for pro-growth tax policies to create a more robust private sector Tuesday morning in a rare public appearance.
Growing the public sector is easy, Bush said, “just raise taxes.” Supporting private-sector growth is more challenging the former commander-in-chief said, and requires leaving more capital in the hands of job creators.
“I wish they weren’t called the ‘Bush tax cuts’,” he said, surmising that they would be less likely to be raised if someone else’s name was attached.
“Much of the public debate is about our balance sheet…or entitlements,” Bush said, but the solution in his view is to focus on private sector growth. ”The pie grows, the debt relative to the pie shrinks and with fiscal discipline you can solve your deficits,” Bush said.
“In life, you’re going to be dealt a hand you don’t want to play,” Bush said. “The question is how are you going to play it?”
Bush, who has made sparing public appearances since leaving office, was speaking at the New York Historical Society for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s conference on “Tax Policies For 4% Growth.”(Forbes is the event’s media sponsor).
“I don’t think it’s good for our country to undermine our president and I don’t intend to do so,” Bush said, explaining part of the reason why he has largely stayed out of the limelight until launching the Bush Institute, which he says is intended to have a “concrete effect.”
The Bush Center’s 4% growth initiative is aimed at finding ways to achieve sustainable, annual growth of 4%, well ahead of the present rate, in large part by focusing on taxes.
James Glassman, founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute argued that tax policy is “the most powerful” public policy that can incentivize citizens to work, invest and start new businesses, and that Europeans work less due not to culture, but the marginal growth rate. Moreover, Glassman noted, states without income taxes (or with lower rates than neighbors) are seeing clear competitive advantages in economic growth.
The tax debate has risen to a higher pitch in this election year, with skirmishes over everything from rates on capital gains and dividends to just how much the government takes out of the paycheck of Warren Buffett‘s secretary.

The Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of 2012 after being extended in 2010, are a big part of the “fiscal cliff” facing the economy that many fear will result in sharply higher yields on U.S. Treasury debt as investors become more concerned with the country’s financial condition. The current yield on the 10-year note — just over 2% — suggests those concerns remain on the backburner for the moment.
As to whether he misses the presidency, “I really don’t,” Bush said, though he quipped that “it was really inconvenient having to stop at stop lights [on the way to Tuesday's conference]. I guess I miss that.”

President Obama Makes the Case for the Buffett Rule

President Obama was in Florida today to talk about our economy, and what he called the essence of America: the idea that everyone who works hard should be able to do well.
America has always been a place where anybody who's willing to work and play by the rules can make it.  A place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, it grows from the bottom; it grows outward from the heart of a vibrant middle class.
Instead of giving more than a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the very wealthiest Americans—those who make more than $250,000 a year—we need to be investing in the things like education and research and health care. These are the same investments we’ve been making for generations because they lead to strong, broad based economic growth that helps everyone, as the President explained:
What drags our entire economy down is when the benefits of economic growth and productivity go only to the few, which is what’s been happening for over a decade now, and gap between those at the very, very top and everybody else keeps growing wider and wider and wider and wider.
 The fact is, the share of our national income going to the top 1 percent of earners is as high as it’s been since the 1920s. And those same people are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years. To address this imbalance in our tax system, President Obama has proposed the Buffett Rule, based on the simple idea that people who make more than $1 million each year pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle-class families do. With the Buffett Rule in place, the President said:
 …it makes it affordable for us to be able to say for those people who make under $250,000 a year -- like 98 percent of American families do -- then your taxes don’t go up. And we can still make those investments in things like student loans and college and science and infrastructure and all the things that make this country great.  

The Buffett Rule - - - explained

The Buffett Rule  

No household making more than $1 million each year should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than a middle class family pays. This is the Buffett Rule—a simple principle of tax fairness that asks everyone to pay their fair share.

You pay your fair share in taxes, and the wealthiest Americans should, too.

Share this on your social networks to help others learn about the Buffett Rule and why we need it.

Buffett Rule  

The Buffett Rule Explained

What's the deal with our current tax system?

Under the current U.S. tax system, a number of millionaires pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than a significant proportion of middle class families. Warren Buffett, for example, pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, and that’s not fair.
A full 22,000 households that made more than $1 million in 2009 paid less than 15 percent of their income in income taxes — and 1,470 managed to pay no federal income taxes on their million-plus-dollar incomes, according to the IRS.
And, the very wealthiest American households are paying nearly the lowest tax rate in 50 years— some are paying just half of the federal income tax that top income earners paid in 1960. But the average tax rate for middle class families has barely budged. The middle 20 percent of households paid 14 percent of their incomes in 1960, and 16 percent in 2010.

What is the Buffett Rule?

The Buffett Rule is simple principle that everyone should pay their fair share in taxes. No household making more than a $1 million should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay. For the 98 percent of American families who make less than $250,000, taxes should not go up.

How would it make sure everyone pays their fair share?

The Buffett Rule would limit the degree to which the best-off can take advantage of loopholes and tax rates that allow them to pay less of their income in taxes than middle-class families.
Anyone who does well for themselves should do their fair share in return, so that more people have the opportunity to get ahead—not just a few. And at time when we need to pay down our deficit and invest in the things that help our economy grow and keep our country safe—education, research and technology, a strong military, Medicare and Social Security—giving tax breaks to millionaires simply doesn’t make sense.

“If you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with the rising cost of everything from college tuition to groceries. You’re the ones who deserve a break.”
—President Barack Obama, January 31, 2011

We are in the General Election, Today?

Gingrich is irrelevant...He has only 2 states
Paul is also no concern, unless he tries the 3rd party route.
So, it is all Romney....Mr. Flip-floppity, extreme right leaning, over the side of the ship.

Family: Bullying by 'wolf pack' led to Texas teen's suicide

Michael Zamora / Caller-Times

Family friend D. Garcia (right) hugs Mingo Molina, father of Ted Molina, last Wednesday during a rally against bullying outside Flour Bluff High School.

Bullies had been hounding high school freshman Teddy Molina for years, making fun of him for being mixed race and threatening to hurt or even kill him, his family says.
The teasing from a group known as the “wolf pack” grew so bad that Molina wound up leaving his Corpus Christi, Texas, school last month. Then he took his life last week with a hunting rifle.
Molina’s death has triggered outrage and tumult in his South Texas community: an anti-bullying rally erupted into violence, a rumored gun threat online led to a stepped up police presence at Flour Bluff High School and a number of parents have come forward claiming that the district is not doing enough to combat bullying.

“We need to come together and we need to stop this, and we need to do it peacefully,” his sister, 18-year-old senior Misa Molina, told

Bullying has become one of the hottest issues facing schools, with a newly released documentary focusing on the issue, and sites like Facebook and Twitter allowing rumors and taunts to spread like wildfire.

The family of Teddy Molina says the Texas teen took his own life after being bullied for years by a group of students who call themselves the "wolf pack." KRIS-TV's Lindsay Curtis reports.

While there are no hard and fast statistics linking bullying to suicide, Dr. Melissa Reeves, a school psychologist and expert on bullying, says harassment by peers can be a “big factor” in youth suicide but that it’s usually one among many causes.
“When they really get to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, you know, where they see no other way out of this particular situation, then, unfortunately that is when we do see completed suicides,” said Reeves, chair of a National Association of School Psychologists’ Prepare Working Group on Crisis Prevention and Intervention.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24, with males making up 84 percent of the approximate 4,400 victims reported a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hispanic and Native American teens and young adults have the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities.

MPAA changes 'Bully' rating to PG-13
The trouble for Molina, who was part Korean and part Hispanic, began at Flour Bluff Intermediate School in Corpus Christi, a port city of 300,000 along the Gulf of Mexico.
At the school, Molina joined the football team, where, his sister said, the players picked on him and the coaches allowed it. She said her brother told her that some of the bullies said they were going to repeatedly kill him and that she had helped come to his rescue when some teens cornered him at a taco stand and appeared ready to jump him.

Courtesy of Molina family

Ted Molina, also known as Teddy, earlier this year.

“It got really worse this year, and that’s when my mom pulled him out of school” in March, she said, adding that Teddy had expressed a desire to commit suicide a few times over the bullying.
A close family friend, Annette Westerkom, 41, said Teddy Molina endured the harassment quietly.
“He kept a lot of it to himself because he did not want the family to know that they were being derogatory toward his family,” she said, noting that Molina was a fun-loving kid who enjoyed hunting, fishing and being around his family. “He internalized a lot of his pain -- he did confide in some of his friends.”
His mother Judy had filed complaints about the bullying, said Westerkom, a junior high school teacher in another district.
“I’m a school teacher, I see it daily,” she said. “We deal with bullying and we take care of it.”

Michael Zamora / Caller-Times

Flour Bluff senior Misa Molina (left), sister of Ted Molina, hugs her grandmother, Mary Ann, on Wednesday during a rally outside Flour Bluff High School. Family, classmates and community members gathered outside the school following Ted Molina's funeral to call for an end to bullying, which they said led Molina to commit suicide.

When asked last week by a local NBC station if the Flour Bluff School District – one of six in Corpus Christi -- had trouble with bullying, spokeswoman Lynn Kaylor said: “No, ma’am, we don’t.”
But Rita McKenzie, a parent, told the TV station that she removed her two children from the district’s junior high school in February due to bullying.
"They know about this problem. They ignore it and do nothing to try to fix it," she said, adding that she told school officials: “I don't feel like my kids are safe here. I just don't.”
When rumor, the Internet and school violence fears collide

Superintendent Dr. Julie Carbajal disputed that characterization, saying the district starts anti-bully efforts early, with kindergartners going through some awareness programs. She said it also has a strong code of conduct, has implemented the character education program “Heart of a Champion," uses Crime Stoppers for anonymous reporting and has security staff on hand.
“We have strong policies and procedures for bullying and we have followed” those, she said.
In 10 years as superintendent of the 5,600-student district, Carbajal said she had not seen any similar incidents, adding that the loss of Molina has been devastating.
“We want to be able to mourn Teddy ourselves and we want to do something for him in his memory. We’d love to have a memoriam,” she said. “But we've just not been able to bridge that kind of discussion with the family at this point, and we’re respecting their privacy until they’re ready to talk to us.”
The school district will be increasing security at all of its campuses, she said, after an altercation at an anti-bullying rally organized by Molina’s family in front of the school last Wednesday, the day of Teddy’s funeral.
Local media reports say the man charged by police in that incident – Tommy Martin, 38 -- was a parent of a student. Efforts to reach Martin for comment by were not successful.
Police said a witness told them an object was thrown from the crowd at Martin’s car. He allegedly then got out of the vehicle and attacked those he believed responsible. He was charged with assault and public intoxication.
After the violence, which several television stations caught on camera, a number of students came forward to say they had been bullied by the same youths who targeted Molina – a group some referred to as the “wolf pack.”
Not much is known about the group, but a law firm representing the Molina family -- Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales L.L.P. -- said the “wolf pack” was formed by a handful of athletes a few years ago.
The local NBC station spoke with a friend of Misa Molina, Andrew Gonzalez, who said members of the group had bothered him too but that not everyone was involved -- just a few bad apples.
Referring to the group, Superintendent Carbajal said: “Any issues that have been brought forward about the ‘wolf pack’ … the school has investigated that and has addressed any issue that involved them, but I can’t comment on it as it is related to Teddy at this point.”
Adding to the tumult, parents were warned Thursday that the high school had received “secondhand reports” on social media “of a possible threat of someone bringing a gun” to school. Extra police were present on campus that day, Carbajal said, and there were no reports of any trouble.
Julea Chel Bendis, a woman who said her daughter – a freshman at the high school -- was friends with Molina, kept her daughter and son home for few days last week because she “knew this was going to escalate. All of the Facebook pages for the in-town news, everybody is up in arms about it.”
He (Molina) was friends with almost everybody in the freshman class besides the people bullying him, and I think that’s where most of the anger is coming from right now is just the loss and the anger and the grief,” Bendis said.
Though parents and students had to sign a “no bullying tolerance” form at the beginning of the school year, Bendis feels that educators “preach it, but they don’t enforce it.”
The Molina family’s lawyer, Bob Hilliard, is looking into possible legal causes of action, which his firm said may include breaches of his rights under the 14th Amendment and possible Title IX violations.
“I’ve got to find out what the school district knew and what they did not do once they knew about it,” he said.
Molina’s parents made more than a dozen complaints about their son being bullied – either verbally or in writing, according to Hilliard’s law firm.
Carbajal, the superintendent, said school officials had talked to Molina’s mom about her son, though she declined to specify if those discussions included bullying.
Not everyone agrees about the depth of the problem in the Flour Bluff schools.
Pam Kasperitis, a mother of five who has two children at the high school, said her children had never heard of the “wolf pack” and was concerned about hysteria fueling the news reports on Molina’s death.
“I don’t want to disparage this child and this family, but as a parent, you know, when something like this happens, I think they are looking for someone to blame,” she said.
Kasperitis noted that her son was bullied in the 5th grade, but school officials handled it right away. She said she had found the district responsive to the various issues she had brought to their attention.
Bullying is serious, she added, “so let’s focus on what the issue is, how to fix it, how to move on, how to help these kids, how to put a stop to it. Let’s stop hurling accusations and threats, and having fights.”
In the meantime, Misa Molina is continuing to hold anti-bullying rallies in front of the school.
“We don’t need any more people dying because kids can’t stop being mean to each other,” she said. “Hopefully, this will teach them a lesson that a life is very precious and we should hold onto that, we should keep that in our hearts to make … each and every one of us a better person.”

George Zimmerman's attorneys withdraw from Trayvon Martin case

George Zimmerman's lawyers say that they are withdrawing as his counsel because they have lost contact with him.
Updated at 5:21 p.m. ET: The attorneys for George Zimmerman, the Florida community watch volunteer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, said Tuesday they have lost touch with their client and are withdrawing from the case.
Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said at a news conference outside the Seminole County Courthhouse in Sanford, Fla., that they heard that Zimmerman had contacted a special prosecutor, who will decide whether or not to press charges against him, against their advice.

They said they have not talked to Zimmerman, whose location is not known, in at least two days but in the past had spoken with him over the phone. “We can’t represent him unless he comes forward and asks us,” Uhrig said.

"We have a pretty good idea where he (Zimmerman) is," Uhrig said, but added that Zimmerman is not answering the phone. The attorneys said they thought Zimmerman was still in the United States, but not likely in Florida.
Uhrig said Zimmerman had called Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, which also worried them. "We believe he spoke directly to Sean," Uhrig said. Fox News representative Dana Klinghoffer declined to elaborate to NBC News on the nature of Zimmerman's relationship with Hannity, saying it would be addressed on the show.
The attorneys said they still believe in Zimmerman's story that he was attacked by Martin and fired in self-defense.
The attorneys also expressed concern about Zimmerman's "emotional and physical safety" and said he may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They also have reservations about a website Zimmerman set up to solicit money for help in his defense.

NBC News
The attorneys for George Zimmerman, Hal Uhrig, foreground, and Craig Sonner at a news conference on Tuesday.
"Him setting up his own website is fine," Sonner said. "I wish he would have told me.” Sonner, the first attorney Zimmerman contacted, said he had been working on the case for free.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and his mother Hispanic, says he shot Martin, who was black, in self-defense Feb. 26 after following him in a gated community in Sanford.
Uhrig said that evidence, including a broken nose sustained by Zimmerman, confirms Zimmerman's account of what transpired the night Martin was shot.
“All the evidence that has come out is consistent with the story that George Zimmerman has told,” Uhrig said. He said Martin supporters have focused on "driving racial divisions" in the community.
Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Martin family, responded to the news conference with a statement obtained by NBC News.
"These attorneys continue to make irresponsible statement to the media," Jackson said. "Not only have they spoken recklessly about racial issues, enflaming passions and reinforcing sterotypes, but now they have throw their own client, George Zimmerman, under the bus by allluding to his possible flight from justice."
"The family is very concerned he's (Zimmerman) unaccounted for, the killer of their son. It all begs the question of whether he will ever be brought to justice," Benjamin Crump, another Martin family attorney, told NBC News.
The lack of an arrest or charges in the case has sparked protests nationwide with many claiming that Zimmerman confronted Martin because of his race. Zimmerman's supporters deny that.
Special prosecutor Angela Corey is investigating the fatal shooting in Florida. She said on Monday said she would not convene a grand jury probe. The U.S. Justice Department is also looking into the case.
More content from and NBC News:

New GOP Immigration Proposals Aim to Woo Latinos

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Girl without a country fights to stay in the US. She was adopted, no papers, mother has tried several times to get paper work done to make her a citizen, and she has been denied, three times.

15 yr old Dallas teen coming back from Columbia, where her grandmother found her on Facebook.  She was a run away, giving ICE a fraudulent name. She was there for a year.  She was 13 when she was deported.

A North Miami high school student and valedictorian could face deportation to her native Columbia.  She came here as a small child.

Published April 02, 2012

  • Romney-immigration-wsj_art.jpg

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks to an audience at a meeting of the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition during a campaign stop in Pewaukee, Wis., Saturday, March 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Congressional Republicans and Mitt Romney's presidential campaign are working to fashion proposals that could make up ground with Hispanic voters, concerned rhetoric on immigration from many in the party is turning away the increasingly powerful constituency.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is developing a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act, which would allow people brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status, but not citizenship, if they enroll in college or the military. Several Senate Republicans have signed on to bipartisan legislation aimed at broadening access to the legal immigrant visa system.
The Romney campaign is looking for new proposals that would show he backs legal immigration, trying to pivot from a primary campaign in which he has taken a tough line on assistance to those here illegally.
It's unclear whether any of these initiatives will bear fruit, but there is an increasing sense among some in the party of the need to try.
This effort is taking on new importance as an increasing number of Republicans signal it is time to end the primary fight and begin positioning the party for the general election. How close it is to wrapping up the primary contest may become more clear Tuesday night, when Mr. Romney looks for victory in the battleground state of Wisconsin, as well as in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Immigration policy is just one part of winning over Hispanic voters, who made up about 9% of voters in the 2008 presidential race and are important to both parties. Many Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), argue that if the party could get past the immigration issue, it would be the natural home for many more Latino voters, who are often socially conservative and value entrepreneurship.
Polls show the challenge. A Fox News survey in March of likely Latino voters found just 14% would support Mr. Romney against President Barack Obama. A Pew Hispanic Center poll conducted in November found that Mr. Romney would get 23%.
That is well short of the 31% of the Hispanic vote John McCain won in 2008, and the 40% George W. Bush won in 2004. Advisers to Mr. Romney say they believe it will be very difficult for him to win unless he gets a percentage of the Hispanic vote in the mid-to-high 30s.
Mr. Romney has turned off some Hispanic voters by calling a strict Arizona law a model for the nation, promising to veto the DREAM Act in its current form and saying he hopes those here illegally will self-deport after tough laws make it impossible to get a job or do other business.
Mr. Obama faces his own challenges. The Pew poll found his approval ratings were down among Hispanics, and it found six in 10 disapprove of his handling of deportations, which have risen to record levels.
In 2008, about 9.7 million Latinos voted, according to Census figures. That is projected to grow to 11.8 million to 12.2 million in 2012. The Latino population is growing in presidential battlegrounds such as Colorado and Nevada. Mr. Obama frequently reaches out to Hispanic voters, often through Spanish-language media, and blames Republicans for a lack of legislative progress.
Many Republican analysts say Mr. Romney could make up much lost ground by choosing a Latino running-mate such as Mr. Rubio, of Florida. Mr. Rubio has dismissed the chatter, but it persists.
Mr. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said Republicans need to change the way they talk about immigration. "We spent a lot of time talking about what we're against and not nearly enough time talking about what we're for," he said.
The Democratic version of the DREAM Act, proposed in 2001, would offer citizenship; Mr. Rubio's expected plan would grant legal status short of citizenship. He said he doesn't want to offer citizenship because that would allow those affected to sponsor others for future visas. Without citizenship, they couldn't vote or hold certain jobs. Others in the GOP oppose citizenship or anything they view as amnesty or reward for breaking the law.
Mr. Rubio said his interest in a modified version of the DREAM Act came from learning the story of a Miami teenager who came to the U.S. from Colombia at age 4 and is now her high school's valedictorian. Set for college, she received a deportation notice. Under the Democrats' version of the DREAM Act, she could earn citizenship by completing at least two years of college.
Mr. Romney is open to giving those who serve in the military a path to legal status. But he wouldn't include those who go to college, as Mr. Rubio would, spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Democrats dismiss the Rubio proposal as inadequate and unlikely to satisfy conservative voices in the GOP or the bulk of Hispanics. Without Democratic support, the bill would have little chance in the Senate.
Republicans "can see what's happening. They are angering and estranging a large group of Americans," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), the lead sponsor of the DREAM Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had an op-ed in the Miami Herald Sunday dismissing efforts like Mr. Rubio's as papering over the GOP's "lurch to the right with opportunistic half-measures that don't solve the crisis."
Clarissa Martinez, an official of the National Council of La Raza advocacy group, said the Rubio approach would create a "generation of nationless children."
The bipartisan bill aimed at repairing holes in the legal immigration system faces better prospects, but it is unclear whether Democrats will move it to the Senate floor.
The Fox News survey found that large majorities of Hispanics support the DREAM Act and a path to citizenship for the broader set of people in the U.S. illegally. Mr. Romney opposes both policies.
One key for Mr. Romney will be to develop new policies aimed at fortifying the legal immigration system, said Jose Fuentes, co-chairman of the Romney Hispanic Steering Committee. One possibility, he said, is to broaden guest-worker programs allowing more people to work in the U.S. and then return home.
Senate Democrats are looking for an immigration bill to bring to the floor this year, knowing it probably wouldn't pass but hoping to score political points. In September 2010, they forced a vote on the DREAM Act. Though the 55-41 vote in favor was short of the 60 votes needed, Democrats think it helped them win a couple of close Senate contests.
Mr. Bush as president led an effort to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul, including a path to citizenship for those here illegally, but many Republicans who supported him then have since backed away.
Last week, Republican pollster Whit Ayres spoke to Senate Republicans about the GOP's image problems with Hispanics. "Clearly, the tone has to be one of welcoming new people into the party," he said in an interview. "But the substance has got to be right as well. We need to be sure any positions we take are not perceived in the community as anti-Hispanic."