Morning News and Stuff

Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich

Jan 30, 2013 at 10:11 am
Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

Between October and December, the U.S. economy

unexpectedly shrank

by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong.

Some Republicans want another go at

reducing voting rights

. Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project,

found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud

in the United States between 2000 and 2012

. That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were

excluded

by photo ID laws in 2012.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax

hits the poor and middle class

a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”

Cincinnati is

extending its contract

with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really

much ado about nothing

. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth

here

.

More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are

expecting a net profit

in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.

The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is

driving economic growth

in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.

When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice

may hurt

education standards in the state.

Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is

gearing up to run for the governor's race

in 2014.

Scientists have taught bacteria to

eat electricity

. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.