Sunday, November 4, 2012
Nonvoters: They're too busy, fed up or say their vote doesn't count
For different reasons, Suzann Holland, of Monroe, Wis., Heather Felton, of Parrish, Fla., and Ryan King, of Buffalo, N.Y. will not be voting in the Nov. 6 elections.
By Isolde Raftery, NBC News
Tabitha Brown, 29, of Oregon, says she won't vote because she finds her ballot too confusing. “I’m just a simple girl," she said. "Dumb it down for us.”
In Buffalo, N.Y., Ryan King, 19, said he won't vote because he doesn't know if he's registered. He mailed in a registration form, but no one replied, so he doesn't know where to show up. Further south in the Bronx, Lala, a woman who is staying at a shelter, isn't voting because she thought she needed a state ID, which she can’t afford. When she learned she didn’t need an ID, it was too late to register.Political pundits say undecided voters will determine the election, but little is said about people like Brown, King and Lala, who aren’t voting. Since the 1960s, voter turnout has steadily declined in the U.S., which already ranks near the bottom among established democracies.
In 2008, 64 percent of voting-age citizens voted,
compared with 93 percent in Chile,
86 percent in Germany and
74 percent in Canada.
In this election, the fear is that some nonvoters may have wanted to vote. In Florida, voters cried out in frustration as polling stations became overwhelmed, and the Democratic Party had sued to extend early voting after some people were stuck on lines for hours trying to meet Saturday's deadline. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.NBC News recently asked readers via Twitter, Facebook and through NBCNews.com to tell us why they won't cast their ballots. Their responses paralleled those from a 2008 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau: They don’t like their choices, they’re busy or they’re not interested. Broken down, the least likely voters have the lowest level of education. In fact, the most pronounced voting gap in 2008 was not between young and senior (49 to 72 percent) but between those without a high school degree and those with advanced degrees – 39 percent to 83 percent.
The wealthier are more likely voters -- 52 percent of those whose annual family income is less than $20,000 voted versus 80 percent among those whose families bring in more than $100,000. That could be partly because low-income people have more trouble taking time off work to vote.
“Everyone’s pressed for time these days and therefore whether or not an employer is actively allowing people to vote the employees may feel time-pressed or constrained to take that legally protected time,” said Susan Schoenfeld, senior legal editor for Business & Legal Resources, which provides guidance to employers on human resources issues.
Although some states require that employers give workers time off to vote, human resource experts say those laws are sometimes too confusing for employers and employees to understand.
About 13 percent of those responding to the Census survey said they didn’t vote because they didn’t like the 2008 candidates. That theme emerged among our readers too – many of them women in their 30s and 40s – who said not voting was itself political. Leaving their forms blank was, in a sense, a vote of no confidence.
“It feels like a third choice,” said Suzann Holland, a 41-year-old public library director from Monroe, Wis. “We tend to think we have two choices because third parties are not viable, but there is a third choice – to let other people decide because sometimes either choice goes against everything we believe in.”
Holland has voted in the past but this year, she said the debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney “cemented my distaste for both candidates.”
Breeanne Findley, 32, of Moline, Ill., is also fed up with Obama and Romney. She and her husband have five children between the two of them; she is a stay-at-home mom and is devoutly Pentecostal.
“I kept going back and forth, I looked online at who else was running for president – the Green Party and some other independent groups – but I didn’t like those guys either,” Findley said.
Her sister-in-law was appalled, she said. “She says that I’m not allowing my voice to be heard, saying that I should reconsider because my vote matters, there these are things I need to be voting for.”
She has decided it doesn’t matter who becomes president: “I’m a Christian and I believe that God is in charge. If this guy wins, it’s not the end of the world because God is still God.”
In Parrish, Fla., Heather Felton, 37, said she found herself lost in the political middle. She is Catholic, opposed to abortion, but also opposed to the death penalty and in favor of gun control. She has nuanced views about immigration.
“I posted to my Facebook page, ‘Who should I vote for? Give me a good moral reason,'” she said. “But people aren’t giving me a good moral reason. They’re presenting negative inflammatory language.”
Back in New York, King, a student at Cansius College, is not alone in struggling with registering to vote. Six percent of nonvoters between the ages of 18 and 24 didn’t vote in 2008 because they didn’t know how or where to sign up, according to the Census data.
After mailing in a voter registration form, he looked online for clues about where he should vote. He asked the College Democrats and the College Republicans at his school, but they told him they didn’t know.
Increasingly jaded, King now questions whether his vote would count. (Which lands him in another Census category: Four percent of nonvoters said they didn’t register because they didn’t believe their vote would make a difference.)
“I just feel so disenfranchised voting in New York,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anyway. If I voted for Obama, it wouldn’t count, so why bother?”
He added: “If you want me to vote so bad, at least meet me halfway.”
In the Bronx, Lala was slightly sheepish to find out she didn’t need an ID to vote. (She used to live in Georgia, where ID is required.) But mostly, she said, she feels increasingly apathetic. More pressing was food for dinner and ultimately, a job. She checked her wallet – she had $30 to her name.
She said she read Romney’s five-point plan but found it lacking and disjointed.
“As much as I would love to be bitter about living in poverty during the Obama administration, I have to consider that the alternative is a man without a plan,” Lala said. Then she grew contemplative.
“All I need is something as simple as a job,” she said. “I could have my quality of life back. I don’t know how voting is going to meet my immediate needs.”
Delphi retirees say Obama administration betrayed them
Retirees do not point fingers only at the obama administration, Mittens may have also been in this. He has stock in Delphi and he made millions in auto bailout. Somewhere there is a huge, big, whopper conflict of interest.
In Ohio, a battleground state, thousands of former employees of General Motors' principal parts supplier, Delphi, blame the Obama administration for the deep cuts to their pension. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
By Talesha Reynolds and Lisa Myers, NBC News
At first glance, David Kane, 63, appears to be solidly middle class. He has a home on a lovely suburban street in Sandusky, Ohio, and a boat docked in the nearby marina.
But looks can be deceiving. Kane doesn’t have television or even a functioning wristwatch. He and his wife Dianne live on their boat, a 1976 Trojan Tri-Cabin in need of repair, for part of the year to save on utility costs. He does outdoor maintenance at the marina to pay for the docking fees.
After a 35-year career at Delphi, the primary parts supplier for General Motors, Kane expected retirement to look much different. He left the company at age 54 as it was downsizing, and he was offered a buyout.
But in 2009, Kane received word that, as part of the bailout to save General Motors, the pensions that he and 20,000 fellow Delphi salaried employees were promised would be reduced 30 to 70 percent. Kane lost almost half his pension and now receives only $1,600 a month. He says it has been devastating. “It’s just a beat down, day in and day out, to struggle to get through.”
What makes it more difficult is that other Delphi workers who worked alongside Kane, members of the powerful United Auto Workers union, did not suffer the same fate. They are receiving their full pensions.
When the government stepped in to bail out GM, providing a total of $50 billion from taxpayers, it also had to deal with Delphi, which already was in bankruptcy, because GM needed Delphi’s parts to build its cars. In the process, Delphi’s pensions were handed over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBCG), a government-backed entity that insures private pensions. The PBCG terminated the pension plans, which were underfunded at the time.
Then General Motors did something that the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, later called “unusual.” GM agreed to top up the pensions of 22,000 Delphi members of the United Auto Workers union – at a cost of $1 billion. That enabled the UAW workers to still get their full pensions.
But there was no such sweetener for the company’s salaried employees or for the non-UAW hourly workers. And because the PBGC has statutory limits on how much it can pay in benefits, their payments were reduced sharply.
“We were the group that was just kicked to the curb like yesterday’s trash,” said Bruce Gump, vice-chairman of the Delphi Salaried Employees Association.
Now, two congressional committees and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (SIGTARP) are investigating the basis and motivation for this decision. Was this a political favor for a powerful union that backed President Barack Obama, as critics claim? Or was this a business decision by GM, based, according to the company, on an agreement originally negotiated in 1999 during Delphi’s spin off from the automaker? What role did the Obama administration play?
Inspector General Christy Romero, has said she’s looking into “whether the (administration’s) auto task force pressured GM to provide additional funding for those pensions.”
In a later agreement with the new GM, two other unions, IUE and USWA, were also topped up. Members of the Delphi Salaried Employees Association say they do not begrudge the union retirees their pensions, because they earned them. The salaried workers just want equal treatment, and they want answers from the government.
Retirees hard hit by ‘broken promises’
Mary Miller, a divorced mother of four who worked at GM and Delphi for over 31 years, said the hit to her pension caused a true hardship.
“It's a struggle every day, and every time anything breaks, it's a near disaster,” she said, adding that she hasn’t had a working dishwasher for two years.
Miller had been counting on her full pension to help her start new career as a life coach.
“My plan was, ‘OK, I have a pension and I have health care. And I have a son in high school and sons in college -- and a daughter also. But if we live very simply, I can make that pension stretch so that I can really have my dream.”
Miller started the business anyway, but she says it is growing slowly because of the economy.
Miller has a friend, a former colleague at Delphi with whom she worked closely for several years in the same role, though he was paid hourly while she was drawing a salary. She can’t understand why he was treated differently.
“What made the work that that person did more valuable than the work I did? What was greater about the promise he received when he went to work for GM and Delphi than what I was told?”
Gump, who worked for General Motors and Delphi for almost 33 years and was a senior engineer when he retired, lost about 30 percent of his pension.
“Inside our organization we have lots of people that have seen their homes foreclosed,” he said. “They’ve had to declare personal bankruptcy. There’s been some families that have broken up over the stress associated with this. There’s even been a couple suicides.”
The DSRA retirees are a politically diverse group – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – but regardless of political stripe, many of them believe the Obama administration betrayed them. Howard Collins, a Democrat, said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but isn’t sure he would do so again.
“I don't know if I will decide until I actually go in the voting booth,” he said.
Did the government pick winners and losers?
As senior advisor on auto issues at the Treasury Department, Ron Bloom led the administration’s Auto Task Force. He insists the government was not involved in GM’s individual decisions but simply approved the overall plan as being viable and based on commercial rather than political considerations.
“What I think is a fair surmise is that General Motors made a judgment that there was a commercial necessity for treating the UAW the way they did,” says Bloom. There was concern that the unions might interfere with the flow of parts from Delphi to the auto company, which could harm new GM. Topping up the union pensions ensured the work would continue.
“The UAW had commercial leverage in this case, which they utilized.”
Bloom now says he feels for the Delphi workers. “There's no making it nice. There's no saying it's OK. The only thing one can say is that it was done in a responsible and fair way relative to the rules of the road in a bankruptcy.”
His position was echoed by Treasury Spokesman Anthony Coley, who told NBC News, "As has been exhaustively documented, Treasury's consistent approach to the auto restructuring was to defer to GM's business judgment and not approve or disapprove individual business decisions. While the GM restructuring involved painful concessions from all stakeholders, President Obama's decision to stand behind GM and the American auto industry saved more than a million jobs."
But Bruce Gump, the Delphi salaried workers representative, calls that justification a “smoke screen.”
“I believe that what really happened was that this administration simply wanted to take care of their political base,” he said.
The administration has turned over thousands of documents related to Treasury’s discussions between GM, Delphi and the PBGC, but not to the satisfaction of members of the House Oversight Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, or attorneys for the salaried Delphi employees They accuse the Treasury Department of stonewalling and withholding key documents.
Ron Bloom and key Task Force members Harry Wilson and Matthew Feldman refused to be interviewed by the special investigator general of TARP about the Delphi pension decisions for almost a year, until July, when they were called to testify before a house subcommittee. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called their refusal to answer questions “a happy train of silence.”
The three have now complied and the special investigator general’s audit is nearing completion.
Emails and testimony from lawsuits and ongoing investigations suggest the administration was deeply involved in GM’s decisions and considered a list of “politically sensitive” issues, but so far there is no proof the pension decisions were driven by political favoritism.
For its part, General Motors maintains that by topping up the union pensions, the company was fulfilling an agreement made at the time of the Delphi spin-off. And GM holds that the fate of the salaried employees was in the hands of the new Delphi.
“Delphi’s salaried pension plan was fully funded, and it was transferred to Delphi at the time the new company was created,” GM spokesperson Greg Martin said in a statement to NBC News. “Responsibility for the future health of that plan – including funding levels and asset allocation – rested solely with Delphi. The new GM is not in a position to fund salaried Delphi pensions twice.”
In 2010, then UAW President Ron Gettelfinger expressed support for Delphi’s salaried pensioners.
"This is a grave injustice," Gettelfinger wrote in a letter to the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. "While the restructuring of America's auto industry requires shared sacrifice and responsibility, Delphi's salaried retirees/former employees are being forced to bear extra burdens that are not warranted."
The salaried workers have bipartisan support for their cause.
Last week Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to Department of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the White House Counsel requesting compliance with a congressional request for documents.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, has introduced legislation that would restore the salaried pensions using proceeds from the sale of the government’s shares of GM stock.
But legislation takes time. The group representing the salaried workers would prefer to receive their full pension directly from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which they say would not cost taxpayers a dime, because it receives its income from the premiums paid by the companies whose plans it insures.
Whether or not they believe the decision was made to appease an influential ally of the administration, the salaried retirees say that after a three-year struggle, it is just time to put things right.
“Really, that's in the past to be honest with you,” said David Kane. “You can't do anything about history. It's locked in. Where do we go from here? I'm more focused on what we do now to change the future. That's the only thing we can change.”
Kane’s wife, Dianne, lost her job around the same time his pension was reduced. Together, the couple has nine part-time jobs, but they are still barely making it.
“Our finances were based upon this scale, if you will, of expected income. And even with all the number jobs that we're working, it doesn't replace what we lost. It was easier sliding down the hill than to climb back up it,” Kane said.
Kane’s health has created additional challenges. Months before his pension was cut, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He also suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Kane is still looking for full-time work but has had no luck. He suspects his age and poor health are a factor. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful.
“What I would like to see now is that portion of our pensions restored to the levels that they were before Delphi exited bankruptcy and did away with our pensions,” he said. “If I can get that portion back, I can make it. It's just too tough without it.”
Did Mitt Romney Break the Law by Failing to Disclose Delphi Investments?
Should not Retires in the buyout also not point to Mittens and Bain Capital, especially if he has stock in Delphi and he made lots of millions in money on the auto bailout. Something stinks here in Ohio. I do not care if he made money although I think it stinks, but somewhere he should have to divulge where he made this money.
George Zornick on November 1, 2012 - 5:33 PM ET
We now know, thanks to Greg Palast’s recent scoop in The Nation, that Mitt Romney reaped a large financial windfall from the auto bailouts. Romney didn’t talk up this shrewd investment while touting his business experience on the campaign trail, for obvious reasons—he is a strong critic of those bailouts.
But while Romney had ample political reasons to conceal his investment, he apparently had no legal justification for doing so. Federal law requires that candidates disclose stock holdings that are affected by government action—and Romney’s million-dollar (at least) investment in a hedge fund that bought up Delphi stocks surely fits that bill.
Now, unions and good-government groups are calling on the feds to investigate Romney’s oversight.
Thursday afternoon in Toledo, Ohio—where the story has received significant play in local media—United Auto Workers president Bob King joined Palast and Service Employees International Union vice president Tom Woodruff to call upon the US Office of Government Ethics to look into Romney’s financial disclosures and their failure to list the Delphi investments. Along with several groups like CREW and Public Citizen, the union leaders also sent a letter to OGE demanding a formal investigation.
“The American people have a right to know about Governor Romney's potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,” said King. “It’s time for Governor Romney to disclose or divest.”
As Palast reported, a trust in Ann Romney’s name listed “more than $1 million” invested with Elliott Management, run by hedge fund guru and GOP mega-donor Paul Singer. (That’s the minimum amount of disclosure required by law, so it could have been much more than $1 million.) Singer subsequently snapped up large amounts of stock in Delphi at pennies on the dollar, and then, along with other hedge funds, demanded that the government assume pension responsibilities and bail the company out—or they would shut it down, thus crushing General Motors as well.
The government acceded, Delphi became lucrative again and then went public, and Elliott Management and its investors—including Romney—reaped enormous rewards.
Under any rational interpretation of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, these are holdings that a presidential candidate would need to disclose, because they can be affected by government action. The Romney campaign doesn’t argue that they are not, but rather that, since Ann Romney’s trust is “blind,” there is no disclosure requirement.
Today’s letter points out, however, that Ann Romney’s trust is blind in name only. Romney himself has said that “the blind trust is an age-old ruse, if you will. Which is to say you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do.” Moreover, this is not a federally recognized blind trust of the sort Romney would be forced to create if he won the White House. If it was, he would have never been able to reap his windfall from Delphi, the letter points out.
Whether or not Romney broke the law will come down to this question of how blind this trust really is, and Romney at least has some plausible deniability there. But no doubt this is a story his campaign doesn’t want to see playing out in Ohio five days before the election.
In Florida, voters cried out in frustration as polling stations became overwhelmed, and the Democratic Party had sued to extend early voting after some people were stuck on lines for hours trying to meet Saturday's deadline. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.
By Michael Isikoff, NBC News
With more than 90 million Americans expected to cast their ballots on Tuesday, election officials across the country are bracing for what some fear will be a “perfect storm” of election day problems that could result in tense confrontations at polling stations and a rush to the courthouse to file legal challenges.
The list of actual and potential problems is unusually long this year, ranging from concerns about machine failures to confusion over new rules governing voter ID and provisional ballots.
Another big wild card: the impact of groups such as “True the Vote,” a Tea Party off-shoot, that is vowing to swarm polling places with an army of hundreds of thousands of “citizen” poll watchers to look for fraud and challenge ineligible voters. 123
It’s a threat that civil rights groups are vowing to fight with their own rival armies of poll watchers -- to “monitor the monitors,” says one activist.
“Our election system has probably never been under as much strain as it is right now -- anything that can go wrong, probably will go wrong,” said Victoria Bassetti, a former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel and the author of the new book, “Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters.”
Bassetti notes that the camps backing both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have “pre-positioned their legal assets” by deploying thousands of volunteer lawyers to battleground states in order to challenge decisions by election supervisors, in court if necessary.
In Florida, the litigation is already heating up. On Sunday, the Florida Democratic Party filed emergency lawsuits to extend early voting -- challenging GOP governor Rick Scott’s refusal to do so -- after some voters were stuck in lines for up to six hours trying to meet Saturday’s deadline for early ballots. When the Miami Dade election office reopened to allow in-person absentee balloting, and then temporarily shut it down, frustrated voters started shouting, “Let Us Vote! Let Us Vote!”-- stirred up by a man wearing an Obama campaign tee shirt.
It could be a preview of what happens Tuesday. “We can expect lots of yelling and screaming- and lawsuits,” said Bassetti.
The upshot is that, if the voting is as close as some (but not all) polls suggest, the winner of the presidential election may not be known for days, if not weeks, after Election Day. “We’re going to be in sudden death overtime,” predicts John Fund, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer and the co-author of “Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”
To be sure, disputes about voting are hardly new -- and some of the potential problems most frequently cited by advocates on both sides of the political fence could prove to be overblown.
But experts interviewed by NBC News identified a number of so-called “nightmare scenarios” that could complicate the counting of returns on Tuesday.
1) The national vote count for president is thrown into doubt because of the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast appears likely to hold down vote totals in the region. In New Jersey, hundreds of polling stations may be without power -- late last week nearly half of the 240 locations in Hudson County were out of commission and officials are scrambling to find alternatives.
On Saturday, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announced that it will allow voters to download ballots off a state Website and return them by e-mail -- a system that some experts have warned could lead to tampering by hackers. (A voting group called the Verified Voting Foundation has repeatedly warned about the security risks from Internet voting.)
On Thursday, the state’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guardagno, said the state will deploy Defense Department trucks with “Vote Here” signs, protected by National Guard members. But that plan prompted concerns among some Democrats that military trucks could intimidate voters, especially in minority neighborhoods, and there were signs over the weekend that officials may be backing away from it.
“Obviously, this is uncharted water for us -- getting hit with this at this late date just before a huge election,” said Michael Harper, the clerk of elections in New Jersey’s Hudson County, during a tour of damaged and flooded polling stations on Saturday.
While the hardest hit states like New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are all considered reliably Democratic and safely in the Obama column, the aftermath of the hurricane could affect the president’s total national vote counts -- and raise questions about his mandate or even legitimacy if he loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College (just as some Democrats questioned President George W. Bush’s legitimacy after he lost the popular vote in 2000.)
2) A large number of provisional ballots makes the Electoral College winner impossible to determine on election night.
The situation appears most acute in Ohio, a crucial battleground, where some experts have warned about a counting disaster stemming from what are expected to be as many as 200,000 provisional ballots.
The background: in an effort to impose uniformity, GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted over the summer directed that absentee ballot applications be mailed out to all of the state’s 6.9 million registered voters -- regardless of whether they had asked for them or not.
About 1.3 million voters filled out those applications and received absentee ballots in the mail. But as of this weekend, 238,678 voters who got absentee ballots had not returned them. If those voters don’t return their ballots by mail by tomorrow and try to go to the polls on Tuesday instead, they along with others whose eligibility could be questioned or who show up at the wrong polling station, will have to cast provisional ballots to make sure they haven’t vote twice. And under Ohio law, those ballots can’t even be counted until Nov. 16, ten days after Election Day.
“There’s a realistic chance that we will not know which candidate won the presidential election in Ohio because of the existence of provisional ballots, that we will be in overtime,” said Edward Foley, an election law expert and professor of law at Ohio State University.
The issue intensified on Friday when Husted issued a new directive that puts the burden on voters, rather than poll workers, to properly fill out a form recording what ID was presented for provisional ballots -- and instructing election boards to throw out provisional ballots if the forms are incomplete or contain any mistakes. The directive has triggered a last minute law suit by voting rights groups, increasing the likelihood of disputes over the counting of provisional ballots in a pivotal battleground state.
3) Disputes over ballot printing errors, machine errors, and a lack of paper trail could bog down the counting in other battleground states.
This problem has already arisen in Florida. About 27,000 absentee ballots in Palm Beach County, Florida -- famous for its “butterfly” ballots and hanging chads during the 2000 Florida recount -- can’t be read by voting machines because of a printing error. This forced election officials last week to begin the arduous process of hand-copying those ballots in order to feed them into the machines -- while lawyers from both sides looked on, raising challenges.
An exasperated Susan Bucher, the country’s election supervisor, was caught on camera admonishing lawyers over what she termed “frivolous” objections and threatening to eject them.
But questions about machine failures are far broader than that. Last week, lawyers for the Republican National Committee wrote letters to attorneys general in six states asking for investigations after receiving reports that some voters had complained that machines had recorded their votes for Mitt Romney as being for Obama.
Moreover, sixteen states -- including Virginia and Pennsylvania -- rely to some extent on touch screen voting machines that leave no paper trail that can be verified during a recount.
Two voting experts warned on Saturday “we risk catastrophe” if recounts are required in Virginia and Pennsylvania “because most of their votes will be cast on paperless voting machines that are impossible to recount.”
4) Legions of citizen poll watchers on both sides create confusion and even chaos at some polling stations.“True the Vote,” the Texas-based Tea Party inspired group, has launched an aggressive national effort to root out vote fraud, providing training videos and computer software (that contain data on property records and death indexes) to help volunteers identify ineligible voters who show up at the polls on Tuesday.
Hans Von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commissioner who serves as one of the group’s advisers, defends the effort, telling NBC News that in a close election “any bogus vote” needs to be stopped. “Anytime you have a close election, a small amount of fraud could make the difference.”
But voting rights groups say “True the Vote” and its affiliates threaten to intimidate legitimate voters -- a prospect they aim to combat with their own battalions of citizen poll watchers on Tuesday.
Judith Browne Dianas, co-director of the “Advancement Project,” a civil rights group, says her organization has lined up thousands of lawyers and poll watchers in 20 key states to look for “suspicious activity” by True the Vote and its affiliates. “We will also be watching the poll watchers making sure they aren’t acting as bullies,” she says.
Bill Gale and Donald Marron: Five Myths About the 47 Percent
Gale and Marron:
1. Forty-seven percent of Americans don’t pay taxes: The most pernicious misconception about people who don’t pay federal income taxes is that they don’t pay any taxes…. Almost two-thirds of the 47 percent work… their payroll taxes help finance Social Security and Medicare…. [A] family of three with an income of $30,000 would owe no federal income tax… [but] could easily pay more than $4,500, or 15 percent of their income, in taxes.
2. Members of the 47 percent will never pay federal income taxes: Politicians and commentators often talk about those who don’t pay income taxes as though they’re in a special club with lifetime membership…. [Y]oung people… the temporarily unemployed, working parents… entrepreneurs whose businesses experience a loss… look forward to the day, perhaps in just a year or two, when their incomes will rise and they will… pay federal income taxes. The reverse is true for many senior citizens….
3. Many high-income people game the system to pay no income tax: Our jerry-rigged tax code leaves many Americans with a nagging sense that other people are exploiting loopholes to avoid taxes…. Sadly, there’s an element of truth to that. But gimmickry by high-income taxpayers has essentially nothing to do with who does and doesn’t pay income taxes…. The vast majority of people who pay no federal income tax have low earnings, are elderly or have children at home…. About half of these households don’t pay federal income tax simply because their incomes are low. More than one-fifth are retirees… another one-seventh are [poor] working families with children…. Together, these three groups of taxpayers account for almost 90 percent of the households that pay no federal income tax.
4. The 47 percent vote Democratic: In the leaked video… Romney counts the 47 percent as people who will vote for President Obama “no matter what.”… [F]ewer than half of individuals in households with incomes below $30,000 voted in 2008…. Romney appears to hold a lead over Obama among elderly voters [who don't pay income taxes], a group that votes enthusiastically.
5. Tax increases are the only way to bring more of these households onto the tax rolls: Romney’s comments about the 47 percent raise the question: If too many Americans pay no federal income tax, how should we reduce that number?… The expansion of the child credit under President George W. Bush in 2001, for example, removed many households from the rolls…. But there is another way. The share of households paying no income tax is near record highs not only because of tax policy but also because of the struggling economy. Higher earnings, particularly for low- and moderate-income workers, would move more Americans into the income-tax-paying category…
NBC to hold Sandy benefit, Bon Jovi urges donation
Updated: Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 8:09 PM EDTNEW YORK (AP) — NBC will hold a benefit concert Friday for victims of Hurricane Sandy featuring some artists native to the areas hardest hit.
Published : Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 8:09 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 8:09 AM EDT
Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, both famously from New Jersey, and Billy Joel, whose own Long Island was hard hit, are scheduled to appear at the concert, hosted by "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer.
Others taking part include Christina Aguilera, Sting, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Kevin Bacon, Mary J. Blige, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini and Al Roker.
Bon Jovi was in London when the storm hit. He canceled his plans to be with his family and was returning to New Jersey on Thursday, according to his representative. In a statement, he urged people to donate to the victims of the storm and asked those affected to have hope, comparing the weather disaster to 9/11.
"Once again, the eyes of the world are upon us as we wake to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Once again we will have hurdles to clear and challenges we will have to face. When patience is lost ... when it seems helpless ... when you are in need and you feel as if you're alone ... know you are not alone," he wrote in a statement.
"We may not have electricity but we have power," he added.
ABC also announced a relief effort, designating Monday as a "Day of Giving" where shows like "Good Morning America," ''The View," ''World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" would be used as a vehicle to generate donations from viewers.
The NBC telecast will benefit the American Red Cross and will be shown on NBC and its cable stations including Bravo, CNBC, USA, MSNBC and E! Other networks were invited to join in, and HBO announced it will carry the event.
The concert will be simulcast on Bruce Springsteen's E Street Radio on SiriusXM.
Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it would donate $2 million to the American Red Cross and other rebuilding funds. Viacom Inc., the parent of "Jersey Shore" network MTV, said it would donate $1 million to relief and set up a $1 million employee matching gift program with the American Red Cross.
On Chelsea Handler's talk show "Chelsea Lately," guest John C. Reilly asked the studio audience to text a $10 donation to the Red Cross, and Handler responded by saying she would donate $100,000 in his name.
The sports world also has responded. The NFL and its players association joined together to donate $1 million to the Red Cross, while Green Bay Packers safety Charles Woodson announced a $100,000 donation, and the New York Yankees donated $500,000.
Songs offer messages of hope at NBC’s star-studded benefit concert for Sandy’s victims
Superstars perform benefit concert for Sandy victims
Published November 03, 2012
From "Livin' on a Prayer" to "The Living Proof," every song Friday at NBC's benefit concert for superstorm Sandy victims became a message song.
(NBC, Heidi Gutman/ Associated Press ) - In this photo provided by NBC, Mary J. Blige performs during “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event is heavy on stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week’s deadly storm.
New Jersey's Jon Bon Jovi gave extra meaning to "Who Says You Can't Go Home." Billy Joel worked in a reference to Staten Island, the decimated New York City borough. The hourlong event, hosted by Matt Lauer, was heavy on stars and lyrics identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week's deadly storm. The telethon was a mix of music, storm footage and calls for donations from Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg and others.
The mood was somber but hopeful, from Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" and a tearful Mary J. Blige's "The Living Proof," her ballad of resilience with the timely declaration that "the worst is over/I can start living now." Joel rocked out with "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)," a song born from crisis, New York City's near bankruptcy in the 1970s, while Jimmy Fallon endured a faulty microphone and gamely led an all-star performance of the Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk" that featured Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Steven Tyler. The Aerosmith frontman then sat behind a piano and gave his all on a strained but deeply emotional "Dream On." Sting was equally passionate during an acoustic, muscular version of The Police hit "Message In a Bottle" and its promise to "send an SOS to the world."
(NBC, Heidi Gutman/ Associated Press ) - In this photo provided by NBC, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, Al Roker and Matt Lauer applaud during “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event is heavy on stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week’s deadly storm.
The show ended, as it only could, with Springsteen and the E Street Band, tearing into "Land Of Hope and Dreams."
"God bless New York," Springsteen, New Jersey's ageless native son, said in conclusion. "God bless the Jersey shore."
The stable of NBC Universal networks, including USA, CNBC, MSNBC, E! Entertainment, The Weather Channel and Bravo, aired the concert live from the NBC studios in Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, several blocks north of where the city went days without power.
NBC Universal invited other networks to televise the event, but not everyone signed on.
That might have something to do with network rivalries.
After Hurricane Katrina, NBC televised its own benefit before the other broadcasters, one that became best known for Kanye West's off-script declaration that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." The other broadcasters cooperated on their own telethon a week later, and NBC televised that one, too.
Others declined to televise Friday's telethon, even though ABC parent Walt Disney Co. said it would donate $2 million to the American Red Cross and various ABC shows will promote a "Day of Giving" on Monday. The CBS Corp., Viacom Inc., parent of "Jersey Shore" network MTV, Fox network owner News Corp. also announced big donations to the Red Cross.