TPM News

Today begins a new school year in Wisconsin - but not, as it turns out, for a perhaps record number of public school teachers.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, about double the number of Wisconsin public school teachers have retired this year when compared to the past two years, before Scott Walker's anti-union law -- which stripped away most collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions, and required greater contributions by public employees for their healthcare and pensions -- was ever proposed or much less passed.

"It wouldn't make sense for me to teach one more year and basically lose $8,000," said Green Bay teacher Ginny Fleck, age 69, who has 30 years of experience.

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The Chairman of Maine's Republican party has doubled down on his crusade against the apparently widespread problem of voter fraud-committing college students, declaring this week that if students want to vote they should be paying taxes.

"I get tired of talking about this because the law is clear," Charles Webster said. "If I want to vote, I need to establish residency. I need to register my car and pay taxes in that community. You can't just become a student and vote wherever you want."

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Faced with growing criticism Tuesday, including from members of his own party, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) appeared to soften, slightly, his general view that federal disaster relief should be offset with equal or greater budget cuts.

He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, that relief funds would not get bogged down in the sort of protracted budget fight that has dominated Congressional politics all year. His spokesman Brad Dayspring, in a statement to several reporters, echoed this. "People and families affected by these disasters will certainly get what they need from their federal government," he said. "The goal should be to find ways to pay for what is needed or to find offsets whenever possible, that is the responsible thing to do. Clearly when disasters and emergencies happen, people expect their government to treat them as national priorities and respond properly. People also expect their government to spend their dollars wisely, and to make efforts to prioritize and save when possible."

That will come as welcome news to victims and FEMA alike, if it turns out that they need Congress to pass emergency legislation in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Mark Merritt, a former senior FEMA official in the Clinton administration said these kinds of budget impasses can be a big drag in a disaster management situation.

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Rick Perry says a letter he wrote in 1993 praising Hillary Clinton's health care reform efforts is misunderstood and should not be taken as an endorsement of the law.

The correspondence, recently dug up by The Daily Caller, dates back to when Perry was serving as Agriculture Commissioner in Texas. In it, he asked that rural communities be taken into consideration as a task force led by First Lady Hillary Clinton prepared their recommendations. But he also had some kind words for Clinton personally, writing "I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation's health care system are most commendable."

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After squaring off with House Speaker John Boehner over when President Barack Obama could address Congress on his job plan, the White House announced late Wednesday that they'll move the speech back a day to Thursday, Sept. 8. Republicans were upset that Obama had originally scheduled his speech for next Wednesday, which conflicted with the Republican presidential debate.

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An American solar panel manufacturing company that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy and nearly $1 billion in venture capital funding has declared bankruptcy, dimming -- temporarily at least -- President Obama's hopes of the government spurring employment in the "green jobs" sector, and of reducing American dependence on foreign oil.

Solyndra, a company headquartered in Freemont, Ca. that had been toured by President Obama last year, announced on Wednesday it was laying off all 1,100 workers immediately and filing for Chapter 11, citing strong international competition from more heavily government-subsidized Asian and European manufactures as the prime factors in its downfall.

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For the first time in history, a U.S. House Speaker has publicly rebuffed -- or at least moved to rebuff -- a request from the President of the United States to address a joint session of Congress.

The unexpected request, and unprecedented diss, have touched off a round of public partisan sniping so bitter, it's been at least since debt limit negotiations broke down waaaaay back in July that we've seen anything like it.

The White House confirms to TPM that it gave Congressional leadership the heads up before announcing its request publicly and no objections were raised at the time. Republicans say they never signed off, and were never asked to sign off.

"No one in the Speaker's office - not the Speaker, not any staff - signed off on the date the White House announced today," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner. "Unfortunately we weren't even asked if that date worked for the House. Shortly before it arrived this morning, we were simply informed that a letter was coming. It's unfortunate the White House ignored decades - if not centuries - of the protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement."

A senior Democratic aide, granted anonymity to explain the sequence of events honestly, does not dispute that the White House acted hastily.

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AT&T's proposed $39 billion mega-merger with T-Mobile to create a mammoth wireless company was controversial from the start, and judging by AT&T's early effort to rack up political support for the deal, the company knew it would face stiff opposition.

The Obama administration's Wednesday move to stop the merger on an expedited basis cast even darker clouds over its prospects, and it shows that the administration doesn't think the stated benefits of AT&T's merger outweigh its cost to innovation in the long run.

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Michele Bachmann says President Obama scheduled his job speech on the same night as one of three nationally televised Republican presidential debates in the month of September because he wants to prevent Americans from seeing the group of Republicans who may face him next fall.

Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called on Obama to move the speech, citing the time needed "for a security sweep of the House Chamber before receiving a President."

Bachmann supports Boehner's move, and said "clearly the administration has a great deal of insecurity about their job plan and the lack of it."

Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Bachmann argued, "Boehner is saying... rather than the president hiding his speech, and trying to divert the American people away from hearing from the presidential candidates on their assessment of his job that he failed to do for the economy."

She continued, "John Boehner is rightly saying, let's have the American people watch you."

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Jon Huntsman is looking to reboot his flagging campaign with a new jobs plan, offering up a list of ideas to spur growth in a speech on Wednesday. But despite his recent breaks with party orthodoxy on issues like climate change, he stuck to the usual conservative line on revenue, putting tax breaks for the rich and corporations at the center of his proposal.

"I'm not running for president to promise solutions, I'm running to deliver solutions," he said, according to prepared remarks. "Some of my entitlement reforms come directly from the Paul Ryan Plan. Other solutions come from the Simpson-Bowles Commission - a bipartisan group that last year put forth some very sensible tax reforms."

Under Huntsman's proposal, the tax code would be simplified into three brackets of 8%, 14%, and 23%. In addition, the corporate tax rate would be lowered to 25%, and taxes on capital gains and dividends would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, however, the whole shift would be revenue neutral. How?

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