Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Mitt Romney Government

   Here is another reason, out of thousands, to not cast a vote for Romney.

Mitt Romney is promising (threatening?) that if elected president, he will not fill his Cabinet with these punk-ass academics and politicians. No, no, no. If you want to run a government to the exclusive benefit of Wall Street and corporate executives, then that's who you put on the Cabinet. Why have a middle man between Wall Street and the president?

"It would be a very different lineup than the president has assembled. His team is almost entirely void of anyone with any experience in the business sector, in the private sector, that understands how the economy works," Romney told Medved. "I will assuredly have members of my team who have had experience in the real world, in the private sector… It will have a number of people who have been out working real jobs so they understand what it takes to keep real jobs in America and to have real jobs coming back."

The only thing that is real to Mitt Romney is the profit motive. The idea that government should maybe have some motives other than private profit for the wealthiest is foreign and illegitimate to him. And in many cases this "real world" experience that Romney so valorizes comes from Wall Street, a sector in which a new survey finds that 24 percent of executives "said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful" and 30 percent "said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law."

It makes sense, though. If Romney wants to demolish environmental and safety regulations, why not stock his administration people who have spent their careers avoiding and lobbying against those regulations? If he wants to break unions, why not have the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board run by executives who've spent their careers trying to break unions? If he wants to gut consumer protections and constraints on Wall Street's ability to wreck the economy again, why wouldn't he be guided by the people who did all that the last time around? The policies Romney is proposing and the people's he's proposing to implement them are entirely consistent. And both are aimed at destroying the economy as people who have to work for a living experience it.

       Posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jul 10, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Saturday Satire: Those Darned Republicans


Jay Leno: "Mitt Romney told the crowd at an NAACP conference that if he were elected president he would fight for all millionaires, black or white."

"Mitt Romney's campaign raised $35 million more than President Obama for the month of June. Out of force of habit, Mitt stashed it all in the Cayman Islands."

"At a Democratic fundraiser in Seattle earlier this week, Vice President Biden said that Romney's economic policies were 'George Bush on steroids' – as opposed to Obama's policies, which are 'Jimmy Carter on Ambien.'"

"In Mexico, the loser of their presidential election is accusing the winner of election fraud. He says the winner bought millions of votes. To which Mitt Romney said, 'You can do that?'"

"An awkward moment for Mitt Romney today in Colorado. A homeless guy asked him for a dollar, but all he had was Swiss Francs"



Jimmy Kimmel: "Mitt Romney gave a speech at the annual NAACP conference in Houston. Why, I don't know. Maybe he confused NAACP with NASCAR."

"Romney isn't very popular among African-American voters. In fact, diabetes is more popular among African-American voters than Mitt Romney."


Jimmy Fallon: "In a new interview, Mitt Romney said he doesn't know where his financial records are because he doesn't manage them. Yeah, he would have said more, but he had to give a speech on why he's the perfect guy to fix the economy."

"The White House is telling Americans not to 'read too much' into Friday's bad jobs report. Or as Americans put it, 'You had me at 'don't read too much.'"



Teapublicans: Building A Bridge To The 19th Century

    By bfrederk 

We can govern ourselves in the exact way the Founders intended, or we can adequately govern an interdependent 21st century society. We cannot do both.

There is a range of possible democratic systems: at one end is an emphasis on individual rights, limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances. This is the system our Framers put together. This is 'original intent.' This is what libertarians and Teapublicans favor. They lament that we have strayed from this founding vision. Starting with FDR and the New Deal, government has become too big. They see health care reform as continuing this historical aberration. This is what they mean when they say they want to 'take our country back.'

At the other end of the spectrum of possible democratic systems is majority rule. No separation of powers, no checks and balances, just the people electing parties to the parliament and those parties passing legislation. Most democratic systems around the world are on this end of the spectrum. Most democracies do not have federalism, executive vetoes, judicial review, or an upper house with a supermajority decision rule. Most democracies can actually do things. They are not paralyzed by partisan and institutional gridlock.  They can respond to their current realities and act to protect their citizens.

Our democratic system is not even close to this end of the spectrum, but since the 1930s it has slowly moved in that direction. We could not reconcile our constitutional tradition of limited government with 20th century realities: global depression, the cold war, and changing cultural values of race and gender. We could not establish economic safety nets, act as a global superpower, or pursue civil rights without accumulating more power at the national level. We altered our  constitutional understanding of the commerce clause, the necessary and proper clause, the supremacy clause, and the commander-in-chief powers to deal with these 20th century realities. We simply had to do this - imagine our lives if we had no Social Security, no Medicare, no NATO, no access to foreign oil, and no civil rights laws. We adapted our democratic system to 20th century realities. We did not govern ourselves according to original intent.

Now we  face 21st century realities. The most important contemporary reality is interdependence at community, state, national, and global levels. We are all living on this planet together: our decisions influence the lives of others, and others' decisions influence our lives. (The health care debate is so important because it is so typical of contemporary life - the decision to not buy health insurance raises health care costs for the rest of us. We are interdependent. We are all in this together.) We do not live in an 18th century frontier world of self-sufficiency. We no longer live in a world where we can live the life we want as long as the government leaves us alone.

Limited government in the 21st century means our food will not be safe. It means that college will be unaffordable for millions. It means that 50 million people will not have health insurance. It means that an unregulated Wall Street can tank the global economy. It means that we cannot build infrastructure and create jobs in tough times. It means that women and minorities cannot make discrimination claims. It means that we cannot stop spewing carbon into the atmosphere. It means - literally - that we cannot adequately govern a 21st century society.

But this is what the Teapublicans are offering us. They prefer a vision of government that not only prevents us from adequately governing a 21st century; they want to roll back our 20th century governing as well. The conservative movement to 'take our country back' by returning to a 1920s understanding of federalism and the commerce clause can undo things that other democracies take for granted.

Take a look at what is going on. The Teapublicans are building a bridge to the 19th century.  They have allowed corporate money to flow into politics. They are taking voting rights away from minorities and the poor. They are dismantling union rights. They use xenophobic language regarding immigration. They want to deny contraception to women. Their proposed budget dismantles Medicare, savages safety nets, and cuts taxes on the rich. Next year a challenge to the Voting Rights Act is going to the Supreme Court. Basic things like minimum wage laws, worker safety laws, and civil rights laws are next.

Their agenda goes beyond repealing health care reform. Their agenda is to repeal the last 80 years of progressive legislation. Their agenda is to repeal all 20th century movement in the direction of majority rule. This is a strategy that guarantees the eventual extinction of the Teapublicans. It simply is not a plausible governing strategy for a truly democratic society in the 21st century. But it sure can do a lot of damage in the short run.

Originally posted to bfrederk on Tue Jul 10, 2012

Health Care


Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Bad Day for Mitt Romney To Call The President A Liar

So here's Mitt Romney's new ad defending his record on outsourcing by saying President Obama "doesn't tell the truth" and calling him "dishonest" for questioning Romney's activities at Bain Capital:

Romney Ad

The ad even uses the 'L' word, inexplicably accusing Obama of having "lied" about Hillary Clinton in 2008. I don't think any voter anywhere is going to be swayed by old clips from the 2008 primary, but I guess they wanted to play the video of Hillary saying "shame on you, Barack Obama." Whatever, I guess.

Anyway, that strange blast from the past aside, Mitt Romney really couldn't have picked a worse day to defend his Bain record by calling the president a liar.

First, the Boston Globe reported that contrary to Mitt Romney's claim to have left Bain in February of 1999, documents filed with the government described Romney as Bain's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president" as late as 2002. So Romney is either lying now or he was lying then about his affiliation with Bain.

Second, David Corn of Mother Jones reports that in 1998—during which time even Romney admits he was still running Bain—Romney invested millions in a Chinese company whose business model was to help U.S. companies outsource manufacturing. And not only that, Romney used his Bermuda shell corporation to handle a portion of the investment. So he invested in outsourcing ... while using an offshore company domiciled in an international tax haven.

So with reports like these, you can see why I say this was a bad day for Mitt Romney to call President Obama a liar. And it might be time to start asking this: is it too late for Mitt Romney to end the bleeding by releasing his tax returns? Even if the returns don't lead to further revelations, aren't the facts that are already coming to light damning?

7:53 AM PT: The Obama campaign points out that the "evidence" in Romney's ad is entirely based on news reports that accept as given that Romney left Bain in February of 1999, but as today's Boston Globe report once again documents, that is not the case. In addition, Corn's story obviously puts the lie to Romney's claim.

7:55 AM PT: Also, it's amusing to note that while Romneyland tries to use February 1999 as a cutoff date to argue that nothing that happened after that point can be blamed on Romney, the centerpiece of Romney's argument that Bain created jobs is Staples. And much of that job creation took place ... after February of 1999. So even if Romney were telling the truth about when he left Bain, he's still tried to have it both ways.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Thu Jul 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mitt Romney: Is He The Best That The Mormons and Republicans Have To Offer?

   Mr. Romney, the Mormon man of deep convictions and principles, does the same thing that all of the Republican’s in the primaries have done. That is, they have spouted off about their faith and about their Christianity, only to turn around and “ bear false witness “ against each other, and against President Obama. When it comes to Romney though, even his Mormon principles get brushed aside during pursuit of the almighty…dollar, that is. I have to wonder just exactly which God it is that he theoretically worships. I say that it is the “ father of lies “ since Romney has that characteristic down to a science.

The discovery of Mitt's Boson

By  Jon Perr aka Avenging Angel on Sun Jul 08, 2012

Even with four months to go until Election Day, Mitt Romney's shameless lying has already become one of the defining storylines of the 2012 campaign. Theories abound as to why Romney has emerged as a reverse George Washington, a man who cannot tell the truth. Jonathan Chait turned to Freud, explaining there's a clinical term for Mitt's compulsive aversion to the truth known as "fundamental attribution error." Rick Perlstein suggested Romney's pathological dissembling could be viewed in Shakespearean terms, with Mitt playing an undoubting Hamlet determined to avenge his father's defeat most foul in 1968. Meanwhile, Paul Krugman and Mark Kleiman applied deconstructionist theory to Romney's "post-truth campaign" and "post-modern way with the facts." And in "A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney", "The Romney Uncertainty Principle" and "Schrödinger's Romney," analysts turned to particle physics to explain why on almost any issue, Mitt Romney's position changes when observed.

But how Mitt Romney is able to get away with his effortless dishonesty has remained one of politics' enduring mysteries—until now. Steve Benen, whose series "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity" has already reached volume XXIV, posited:

"Romney gets away with it because he and his team realize contemporary political journalism isn't equipped to deal with a candidate who lies this much, about so many topics, so often."

Put another way, Mitt Romney's falsehoods occur faster than can be observed, measured, reported and, most importantly, understood by the media charged with investigating them. The result is that voters, or at least some of them, are attracted to rather than repelled by the Republican nominee. And it's that elusive force and the distortion field it produces which give Romney's presidential campaign its critical mass and threaten to turn back the hands of time.

Call it Mitt's Boson.

Continue reading below the fold.

Like the CERN Large Hadron Collider, for months Romney has been producing a seemingly limitless number of collisions with the truth. But his falsehoods aren't merely generated faster than the speed of the news cycle, but come in all sizes as well. After all, the son of American Motors magnate and Michigan Governor George Romney, Mitt fondly recalled being with his father for Detroit's Golden Jubilee, a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the American automobile which occurred on June 1, 1946, "fully nine months before Romney was born." Years later, Mitt would similarly "remember" seeing his dad march with Martin Luther King, Jr.

While time (and the capacity of the internet) prohibit listing them all here, Romney's frauds are of the greatest magnitude on health care and the economy, the two issues Republicans claim are most important in the 2012 election.

This week, Romney denied the individual mandate in his signature Massachusetts health care law constituted a tax, despite having repeatedly described the fees for noncompliance as "free-rider surcharges," "tax penalties," "tax incentives" and sometimes just as "penalties." (For its part, the state of Massachusetts uses the term "tax penalty.") The former Bay State governor has also pretended that he never called his 2006 Massachusetts reform "a model for getting everybody insured. "

But those two misdirections pale in comparison to Romney's health care uber lie. As he put it during a Republican debate back in December:

"Am I proud of what we did for our state? Yes. But what the president has done is way beyond what we envisioned. We were trying to take of the 8 percent of the population that didn't have insurance. The President is not just worried about the people without insurance. Obamacare is about taking over 100 percent of the people's insurance in this country."

Romney's repetition of the lie doesn't make it any more true.

The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in the spring of 2010 targets the 17 percent of people (over 50 million people) who are uninsured. As Politifact explained in deeming Romney's fraud another "Pants on Fire" lie:

According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans without health insurance nationally was slightly under 17 percent in 2009, the year Obama began pushing for the bill. According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the number was about the same in 2010, when the measure was signed into law. Other estimates have pegged the national number at about 15 percent.

As Henry Aaron, a senior fellow with the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution right noted, comparing 8 percent to 17 percent "would have been apples to apples" when it comes to the impact of the individual mandate at the center of both the Massachusetts and national plans.

But Romney's chicanery (which Politifact branded "a felony case of comparing apples and oranges") hardly ends there:

Both laws leave in place the major existing insurance systems -- employer-provided insurance, Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. They reduce the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and by offering tax breaks to help people with moderate incomes buy insurance, using voluntary "exchanges" that individuals and small businesses can use to purchase private-sector health insurance. Under both laws, individuals are required to have insurance or pay a penalty, a mechanism called the "individual mandate." And companies that don't offer insurance to employees must pay fines, with exceptions for small business and a few other cases.

MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, who helped design both Romneycare and the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama, dismissed Mitt's cynical effort to put distance between the two laws:

"The problem is there is no way to say that," Gruber said. "Because they're the same f--king bill. He just can't have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it's the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he's just lying. The only big difference is he didn't have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it."

On the economy, Mitt Romney's lying is similarly laughable. And the duplicity of the "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" author hardly ends with his jaw-dropping declaration that "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's comeback."

After he formally announced his candidacy a year ago by declaring when President Obama "took office, the economy was in recession, and he made it worse, and he made it last longer," fact checkers quickly demolished Romney's obvious falsehood. But despite his subsequent denial just days later that "I didn't say that things are worse," Governor Romney has never stopped regurgitating some version of his "Obama made the economy worse" lie.

Then in advance of the President's major address on the economy last month in Cleveland, Mitt Romney unveiled a new formulation of his fraud:

"The reason it has taken so long for this recovery to gain traction and to put people back to work is in large measure because of the policy choices the President made. He is not responsible for whatever improvement we might be seeing, instead he is responsible for the fact that it's taken so long to see this recovery and the recovery is so tepid."

Unfortunately for Romney, the facts and the overwhelming consensus of economists—including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and John McCain's 2008 brain trust—flatly contradict Mitt's mythmaking.

The data are straightforward. Barack Obama entered office in 2009 as the Bush recession was in full swing. GDP had plummeted by a shocking 8.9 percent the previous quarter. In January alone, 820,000 jobs were lost; all told, 2.2 million evaporated in the three months before Obama's stimulus was passed in February. (That might explain why even three years after he left office, Americans still blame George W. Bush for the economic calamity he bequeathed to Barack Obama.) Now, even with the difficult recovery, the U.S. has produced 28 months of private sector job gains and a return to economic growth. And despite Romney's charge that President Obama's are "the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of polices in modern American history," the Dow Jones has jumped by over 50 percent since January 20, 2009 and corporate profits are at record highs even as firms' tax burden continues to drop.

Nevertheless, in June Governor Romney told a Missouri audience that the President "slowed the recovery and harmed our economy," a result Romney insisted constituted "a moral failure of tragic proportions." Sadly for him, just 24 hours earlier, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office blew Romney's bogus claim out of the water.

As the Washington Post reported, the House Budget Committee heard testimony from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf to answer simple question: Did the $787 billion Obama stimulus work? Unfortunately for Republican propagandists, Elmendorf clearly refuted Mitt Romney's claim that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was "the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history."

Under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.

In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.

"Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. "That," he added, "is a distinct minority."

Of course, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's Mitt Romney's target market.

Besides the elusive Higgs Boson, particle physics and cosmology also provide other helpful analogies for understanding Mitt Romney. Romney's gymnastic flip-flops on abortion, immigration, climate change, health care, Ronald Reagan ("I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush" became "My life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right") and even flip-flopping itself ("I think you'll find that I've been as consistent as human beings can be" after having declared "if you're looking for someone who's never changed any positions on any policies, then I'm not your guy") show that Mitt, like Schrödinger's Cat, can occupy two positions at once. Or looked at another way, perhaps there's another "multiverse" in which Mitt Romney is still pro-choice and claims "my views are progressive." And when he's in doubt about what to say about his personal finances, immigration, the DREAM Act, paycheck fairness, the Lily Ledbetter Act, the Violence Against Women Act, his scrubbed Massachusetts records, details on which tax deductions and loopholes he would cut and so much else, Mitt Romney becomes a black hole, a void into which reporters' inquiries disappear, never to be answered.

He has admitted as much. As Mitt explained to the Weekly Standard, a lesson he learned from his 1994 defeat by Teddy Kennedy was to answer questions about, say, what federal agencies he'd eliminate, by answering, "I'm not going to give you a list right now." In December, the Wall Street Journal concluded that Romney's evasiveness was a feature, not a bug:

Amid such generalities, it's hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. "I happen to also recognize," he says, "that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn't been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you're gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election."

In Mitt Romney's world, those beings are called "demagogues." But in the rest of this universe, they are known as "voters." And thanks to the dark force of Mitt's Boson, enough of them may yet be attracted to Romney to put him in the White House.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Day, Another Obamacare Repeal Debate In The House

Tue Jul 10, 2012

For the 31st time in 18 months, Republicans in the House of Representatives are spending today debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with the final vote tomorrow. This time is extra special, though, since the Supreme Court ruled last month that the ACA is constitutional. It gives a certain oomph to this iteration of the temper tantrum, the utterly futile "Repeal of Obamacare Act." It will never reach the Senate floor, but if by some miracle it did, it would be vetoed. Like wasting time is going to stop this crop of Republicans.

Demonstrating just how absurd all this is, they actually let Rep. Allen West (R-Crazytown) out in public to act as spokesman.

"I don't think it's symbolic," Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., told ABC Monday evening. "Now that we know that the truth is out there that this is a tax, we need to be able to let the American people know where we stand." [...]

"If you've got orders to take a hill, you're going to keep going until you take the hill," West, R-Fla., explained. "The American people don't want this Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. It's heinous, it's onerous. They want it gone so we as their representatives are going to continue to do what they sent us up here to do which is every way that we possibly can make sure that this bad policy, this bad law is irradiated from our rolls."

Not just repealed. Irradiated. Which is complete gibberish, but it's decisive gibberish. But what's not gibberish is what Republicans are intent upon doing, as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) explains: "It's more than just whether or not they will do it and its politics. It is about the philosophy that is behind it and who they are willing to hurt and whose side they're on. That's what this vote is about. [...] It's making health care affordable for those who have it and for those who do not have it. That is what Republicans do not want to have happen."

Of course, it could also be about Republican members of Congress not wanting to lose the very sweet deal that they have for health care. During the negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) offered what he thought would be a cute poison pill amendment, requiring that all members of Congress give up their federal employees health benefits, and shop for their insurance on the new exchanges. Democrats loved the idea, and it was adopted. And now, Republicans want to get rid of it, and keep their very generous health insurance, which they get to keep for their whole lives, if they want to.

So it's lifetime government health care coverage for them, but not for you. That's the Republican vision of freedom.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter

Obama's Tax Plan Puts Middle Class In Spotlight Again

Georgia Logothetis on Tue Jul 10, 2012


A lot of ink was used these last couple of days writing about the wealthy at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's mega-donor retreat last weekend. Now it's time to talk about the middle class again.

Yesterday, President Obama urged an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while arguing that the tax cuts for wealthy Americans should expire. Here's the pundit reaction to his proposal.

The New York Times Editorial Board looks at President Obama's plan to extend tax cuts for middle class families:

In calling for cooperation from Congress, Mr. Obama said that the point is to “agree to do what we agree on”: extend the middle-class tax cuts. As a matter of fairness and responsible policy making, he said, the majority of Americans, and the broader economy, should not be held hostage again to another debate over the merits of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Unfortunately, it is not a message Congressional Republicans want to hear, committed as they are to preserving tax cuts for the rich at all costs. It is not even what some Democratic leaders want to hear, including Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader and Senator Charles Schumer of New York, both of whom voiced support on Monday for Mr. Obama’s approach but have advocated in the past for extending the tax cuts for households that earn up to $1 million a year, a level that would please wealthy campaign donors.

But it’s a message that needs to be sent, loud and clear, over and over.

The Chicago Sun-Times:
[Obama's plan] would keep more money in the pockets of middle-class Americans, whose spending provides a direct boost to the economy, while generating $850 billion in revenues over 10 years. That’s money desperately needed to fund a host of worthy programs, from student loans to the military, without adding to the federal deficit.

Republicans say it would be a mistake to raise taxes on anyone, even on multimillionaires, at a time when the economy is so weak, and we might agree if the alternative were not worse. But we can’t imagine an America where money for education, for example, is slashed to nothing while Warren Buffett’s billions go untouched.

We also find it curious that this general GOP worry — the danger of slowing spending during hard times — fails to discourage them from chopping mightily at government spending. Too many Republicans on Capitol Hill, we fear, are doing the bidding of their billionaire benefactors or are captive to Grover Norquist’s mindless no-tax pledge.

Dana Milbank at The Washington Post:
President Obama is a reluctant populist.  [...] His reelection campaign has doubled its effort to allow the George W. Bush-era tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans — a policy that should be an easy sell to the remaining 98 percent of Americans. But where he needs to be fiery and passionate, he stood in a business suit behind a lectern in the executive mansion, making a presentation that was almost apologetic.

He presented an argument that would appeal to political strategists: “The American people are with me on this. Poll after poll shows that’s the case.” [...] Obama launched his new offensive in a defensive posture, anticipating the Republican criticism and trying to defend against it.

“They’ll say that we can’t tax ‘job creators,’ and they’ll try to explain how this would be bad for small businesses,” he said. He made sure everybody knew that he “cut taxes for small-business owners 18 times” and that he wouldn’t raise taxes on “97 percent of all small-business owners in America.” [...]

So if the wealthy are going to accuse Obama of class warfare, he might as well do something to merit the charge. “Always take the offensive,” the legendary populist Huey Long said. “The defensive ain’t worth a damn.”

Ezra Klein, also at The Washington Post:
If Obama signed his name onto the upper-income tax cuts in the months before the election, it would effectively take tax rates on the rich off the table in the election, as both parties will agree on the issue, at least through 2013. But with its announcement today, the Obama campaign signaled that that’s not going to happen. And that means no clarity for the market on how — or whether — the fiscal cliff will be resolved until after November.

Some economists think the economy can weather the uncertainty — at least through to the election. ”It’s July now, and early November is soon,” says Wolfers, a visiting professor at Princeton. “While I can see the fiscal cliff having an effect on financial markets and on confidence fairly quickly, it’s hard to see that effect having much of an effect on the real economy prior to the election. Given that, if all you cared about were electoral math, it would make sense to go for the populist policy choice now.”

Konrad Yakabuski at the Globe & Mail:
Mr. Obama moved on Monday to revive his push for higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, making the proposal a key plank of his re-election strategy. It marked a new offensive in his attempt to cast Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a ruthless corporate raider whose policies would protect the rich. Mr. Romney is against all tax increases.

While Mr. Obama’s position is not new, he had not pushed it much in recent months. By suddenly making income inequality a key part of his re-election strategy, Mr. Obama may be hoping to take the focus off a stubbornly high unemployment rate and discontent over his health-care overhaul, both of which have dominated the news in recent weeks.

The tax plan also provides a unifying theme for his campaign. Some Democrats had complained that it had been lacking as the President centred most of his efforts on wooing selected segments of the electorate, such Latinos, gays and single women.

Tamara Keith at NPR:
Much of the political focus when discussing the Bush-era tax cuts is on the wealthy, but they're not the only ones who would be affected if the tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year.

The vast majority of American taxpayers would take a hit, including Randi Cartmill and her husband Josh Walling who live in Madison, Wis., with their three children.

The family's household income hovers a little below the national median, in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. Cartmill says the tax cuts have helped the family's bottom line.

"Small businesses who are struggling to make payroll and working families who have tightened their belts to meet their budgets cannot afford to be hit with a massive tax increase come January," Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said.

Democrats say that line of attack is misleading, pointing out that 97 percent of small businesses would not be hit, according to nonpartisan congressional estimates.

Also, mega law firms and hedge funds are part of that category - not exactly sympathetic figures for Republicans looking to portray Obama as a job killer ahead of the November 6 election.

Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek:
As the GOP primaries revealed, Romney has a strange compulsion to talk about his wealth in unbecoming ways: joking to a group of unemployed people, for instance, that he, too, is unemployed. James Fallows dubbed this Romney’s “gaffe Tourettes.”

More often, though, Romney invokes his wealth as a political defense in a way that’s clearly intentional and no less unattractive. Questions about everything from his business practices at Bain Capital to the problem of growing income inequality are routinely met with the claim that people are just jealous of all his money. A good example is this Today Show interview with Matt Lauer wherein Romney dismisses Lauer’s questions about income inequality as “very envy-oriented” and a matter best discussed in “private rooms.”

Wealthy presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush were far more gracious and thoughtful about the subject of their wealth, and, not coincidentally, more successful politically than Romney has been when speaking about his own.


Monday, July 09, 2012

If Not For Republicans, Unemployment Would Be Less Than 6%

Blue Mark  on Sun Jul 08, 2012      

The GOP has been on an economic wrecking mission ever since the election of Barack Obama - indeed we now know that leading Republican strategists and legislators met and planned a course of economic sabotage and complete obstruction on Obama's very first day in office.

This obstruction has had a huge price - a deliberate price that the GOP is betting the American people will blame on President Obama. GOP obstruction did not prevent the passage of ARRA - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - popularly know as "The Stimulus" bill of 2009 during the height of the economic disaster as the economy was falling off a cliff - the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that ARRA has saved up to 3 million jobs. But nearly every economic measure since then has been blocked by GOP obstruction, filibusters and brinksmanship.

What has been the result of GOP obstruction?

It is hard to quantify what constant obstruction has cost - you could tally up estimates of every measure that came along, but not all would have passed - nor even been introduced if previous measures had been adopted that obviated their need. But we can look at just two big examples and get a minimal measure of the human cost to American citizens of a deliberate policy to destroy the economy in order to bring down the president; 1) austerity, and 2) obstruction of the 2011 American Jobs Act. Taking just those into account, the unemployment rate would be under 6% were it not for deliberate GOP wrecking.

Austerity is madness - many in the GOP actually believe that austerity during an economic downturn is the right thing to do - even 'socialist' Europe was convinced of this - although most realize it is not true, and has no history of success - even Mitt Romney unwittingly admitted as much in an unguarded moment. But that hasn't stopped savage austerity on the state and local level - which has cost over 600,000 public sector jobs so far.

Normally in a recession and recovery government at all levels increase public employment - this has happened in every GOP administration - and much of that increase is funded by federal government grants to the state and local governments. But since the Stimulus, the GOP has blocked any substantial help for the states, and in GOP led states severe austerity cuts have been the rule - even including GOP governors rejecting projects fully funded by the federal government. The economic cost of this is far more than just those 600 thousand jobs - the spillover effect on private business and local economies has been devastating - when you factor in all these effects the total job cost of austerity has been estimated at 2.3 million jobs.

President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act in his 2011 State of the Union address, and spent the next year promoting it at every opportunity. Although expensive - it contained a combination of targeted tax cuts and some tax increases, along with direct spending designed to increase consumer spending and lower the cost to business of hiring new workers, all while paying for the bill. The CBO said the bill would not only have paid for itself within 10 years, but would have reduced the deficit by at least 6 billion dollars. According to an analysis by Moody's it would have created about 1.9 million jobs.

The result of GOP obstruction with those two things cost us 2.3 million jobs and 1.9 million jobs respectively. US employment as of May 2011 is about 155 million jobs, which means those 4.2 million jobs that the GOP has prevented account for 2.7% of the unemployment rate. But let's be fair, there is a small amount of overlap in those jobs - a small portion (about 8%) of the American Jobs Act would have gone to State and Local governments to pay for teachers, first responders and the like - although for the most part it would have just prevented further layoffs rather than resulted in new hires. It is also very likely that without the economic wrecking of GOP obstructionism the labor participation rate would be higher - so instead of a reduction of unemployment to 5.5% it would be slightly higher, but still well under 6%.

Now just for fun, consider if we had done during this recovery what every GOP administration has done, and substantially increased public sector employment.

Without knowing how much we would have increased public sector employment we can't make a firm estimate of how much better employment levels would be, but if we make the assumption that we increased the public sector by just half of the amount we actually reduced it - the total effect on the economy in both public and private sector jobs would be around 1.15 million - which would push the unemployment  rate below 5%.

That is the human cost of GOP economic obstruction.                                     Original

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Romney Economics….Cheat Main Street

By Leo W Gerard  on Wed May 30, 2012

Mitt Romney contends his money making as CEO of Bain Capital qualifies him to be President of the United States. That’s true if Americans believe money should flow out of their pockets, out of the cash registers of Main Street shops and into the Swiss bank accounts of Romney and his 1 percenter cronies.

Mitt Romney made a boatload of money for himself and his fellow fat cats. No doubt about it. Billions. But he made it the way Americans hate most – Wall Street style wheeling and dealing.

Americans hate it because when all that scheming went bad, when the market collapsed, it was the 99 percent who footed the bill to bailout Wall Street. The same is true of Romney and Bain. When Bain bankrupted the companies it bought – and Bain did that shockingly often – workers and Main Street businesses paid the price.

Romney contends his money making as CEO of Bain qualifies him to be President of the United States. That’s true if Americans believe money should flow out of their pockets, out of the cash registers of Main Street shops and into the Swiss bank accounts of Romney and his 1 percenter cronies.

Here are some of Romney’s victims, Main Street businesses owed money by just one bankrupted Bain company, American Pad and Paper Co. (Ampad): Technical Coatings Laboratory, owed $125,191.20 and paid in bankruptcy $237.03; Services Plus Inc., owed $12,064.71, paid $22.84; Crown Vantage, owed $32,155.26, paid $60.89.

In the 15 years Romney ran Bain from 1984 to 1999, 22 percent of the companies it invested in went bankrupt or closed within eight years, according to a study by the Wall Street Journal.

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, the bulk – 70 percent – of the $2.5 billion Bain made for investors during that time came from just 10 deals. Four of those ended up in bankruptcy as well – killing jobs and jilting Main Street businesses. Despite that, Romney and the Bain investors fattened their Swiss bank accounts.

More Main Street victims: Lakeway Container Inc., owed $47,143.56 by Ampad, paid $89.26 in bankruptcy; Olympic Adhesives, owed $6,566, paid $12.43; American Chain and Gear, owed $505.54, paid 96 cents.

Bain’s handling of Ampad illustrates how the rich extract money from these deals and leave behind wounded workers and Main Street shops. Bain bought Ampad from Mead Corp. in 1992 and added SCM Office Supplies to the holdings two years later. Like many leveraged buyout deals, these were financed with loans secured by the purchased companies’ assets.

Within hours after buying SCM, Bain fired every one of its 350 workers in Marion, Ind. Bain, through Ampad, told the shocked and terrified workers they could apply for their former positions if they wanted them back – at less pay, fewer benefits and worse working conditions.

One way leveraged buyout firms like Bain make money is by taking it from workers – slashing their pay, benefits and pensions. This also makes companies look more productive, enabling buyout firms like Bain to make money on taking them public.

Bain bought SCM early in July, 1994. Within two months, the workers went out on strike, seeking restoration of some of their pay and benefits. Workers sought help from Romney, who rebuffed them as he was running for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat. After losing that race, Romney returned to Bain, permanently closed the Marion plant and moved its equipment to other Ampad facilities.

More Main Street victims of Ampad bankruptcy:  Green Bay Packaging Inc., owed $75,551.92, paid $137.37; Springfield Electric, owed $3,919.88, paid $7.23; American Coffee Break Service, owed $1,349.73, paid $2.56.

Through 1999, Bain continued to be the single largest shareholder in Ampad, and three Bain executives sat on its board of directors. Ampad struggled to meet the low price demands of big box retailers – like Staples, in which Bain had also invested and where Romney sat on the board of directors.

Ampad fell into bankruptcy in 2000. Companies besieged with debt -- as Ampad was -- because of leveraged buyouts often fail because they are too weakened to deal with normal business adversity.

More Main Street victims of Ampad bankruptcy: Economy Plumbing Co., owed $1,505.69, paid $2.85; Hohner Stitching Products, owed $2,095.76, paid $3.97; Mount Tom Box Co. Inc., owed $34,351.96, paid $65.04.

When Ampad went under, it owed $182.6 million to its suppliers across America. The bankruptcy left only $328,633 to pay nearly 1,300 unsecured creditors – that worked out to 10 cents for every $10 Ampad owed. That’s how a company liked Hometown Café & Catering, owed $600.60 by Ampad, got all of $1.14. And Hometown Café received that big fat check 11 years after Ampad filed for bankruptcy.

These Main Street shops and businesses are the heart of American communities, supporting the local United Way, Little League teams and Memorial Day parades. Debts never paid mean less money for them to hire their own workers, fewer dollars for them to contribute to their communities and a higher probability they’ll be forced into bankruptcy.

Bain invested $5 million in Ampad and took more than $100 million out, through numerous methods, including fees. That $100 million would have gone a long way toward paying the debts Ampad owed to Main Street businesses across the country.  It wouldn’t be surprising if they felt a little like Romney and Bain robbed them at gunpoint.

But everything Bain did was legal. It’s Romney economics, working for the wealthy while double crossing Main Street.