Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won’t

 

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox ...

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
“Publicly, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered another deal to Obama on Tuesday night claiming to concede more than $800 billion in tax revenue - still without any tax increases.”

As the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire automatically in a few weeks, some Republicans are urging their leaders to accept President Obama’s deal to allow tax rates to rise for the top 2 percent of earners, while looking ahead to the next budget showdown. The US will hit its debt limit in early 2013, and the GOP sees an opportunity to once again use the threat of default to force Democrats to concede to devastating cuts to entitlement programs along with more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Publicly, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered another deal to Obama on Tuesday night claiming to concede more than $800 billion in tax revenue — still without any tax increases. As 

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
“Privatizing disaster relief has been proven to be its own disaster; federal agencies like FEMA, despite Rep. Scott Garrett’s (R-NJ) maligning, are far more efficient and more able to coordinate resources than private efforts.”

As New Jersey continues to suffer from extensive damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy at the end of October, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) is poised to veto $60 million in federal aid meant to help his own constituents recover and rebuild.

Sandy’s devastation of the New Jersey shoreline was estimated to cost the state at least $29.4 billion. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said the proposed $60.4 million in federal aid would cover the state’s damages. Garrett, however, suggested to CNBC host and fellow New Jersey resident Jim Cramer that he might deny his home state these much-needed funds, claiming he is concerned about “accountability” for “wasteful spending.”

CRAMER: Our state has been hit by a storm that may be worse than Hurricane Andrew. It requires spending. Do you veto that spending on principle?

GARRETT: At this point in time, we just got the president’s proposal as to the 60 some odd billion dollars. The governor said they’re looking for more. [...] I think in those numbers, I think it’s appropriate for Congress to look at them, and to also look for what I was asking for, that we never got with Katrina, and that was some degree of accountability. You remember all the stories about the FEMA trailers, about the credit, debit cards, whatever ...

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“The United States is not in wonderful shape and it needs to get back some of that spunk that it had when people were willing to talk very bluntly about harsh and tough measures.”

With the Republican Party in a state of turmoil following Mitt Romney’s loss three weeks ago, we begin today’s show with a guest who was once one of the most influential Republican strategists. In 1969 Kevin Phillips wrote the groundbreaking book, "The Emerging Republican Majority." Newsweek described the book as the “political bible of the Nixon administration.” After a series of best-selling books on the Bush family, Wall Street and the American theocracy, Phillips is looking back at the roots of the American Revolution in his new book, "1775: A Good Year for Revolution.” “What happened that set the United States in motion in the mid 1770s is still relevant in some ways because what it showed was that you sometimes have to have a lot of very disagreeable politics to make progress. That you don’t get anywhere by having all kinds of nice slogans and by trying to barter every difference with a cliche and pretend thats all’s well and the United States is in wonderful shape,” Phillips says. “The United States is not in wonderful shape and it needs to get back some of that spunk that it had when people were willing to talk very bluntly about harsh and tough measures.”

 

Transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: With the Republican Party and a ...

Published: Monday 26 November 2012
The first thing that a Nate Silver would likely point out in discussing the budget is that the large deficits of the last few years cannot be attributed either to either extravagant social spending or the Bush tax cuts.

 

At this point almost everyone has heard of Nate Silver, the New York Times polling analyst who had all the pundits looking stupid on election night. Silver managed to call every state exactly right. He ignored the gibberish about momentum or voters’ moods and simply focused on the data given by the various polls taken in the final weeks of the campaign.

While Silver’s work has likely permanently transformed election coverage, it is interesting to think about a similar analysis being applied elsewhere, for example the debate over the budget. Suppose that we had someone focused on actual data involved in the budget debate instead of the silly rhetoric coming from the Republicans and Democrats.

The first thing that a Nate Silver would likely point out in discussing the budget is that the large deficits of the last few years cannot be attributed either to either extravagant social spending or the Bush tax cuts. The reality that neither Republicans nor Democrats like to acknowledge is that deficits were relatively modest until the economy collapsed in 2008.

The data here is straightforward and not debatable. The Congressional Budget Office reports (Table 1-1) that the deficit in fiscal year 2007, the last full year before the downturn was 1.2 percent of GDP. We can run deficits of 1.2 percent of GDP forever. At this level, the debt-to-GDP ratio was falling. Furthermore, the deficit was projected to remain in this neighborhood until 2012 when the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was expected to bring the government to a small surplus.

The reason that we got deficits of close to 10 percent of GDP in 2009 and 2010 and continuing large deficits through the present is that the economy collapsed. This led to a plunge in tax collections and increased spending on programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps. There were no large unfunded increases in ...

Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
Four years ago, candidate Obama made a commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with working people if their rights were ever threatened. That time has come.

 

With Barack Obama’s reelection last night, we witnessed the labor movement once again, as in every successful Democratic presidential race in recent decades, saving the president. Its ground troops and financial backing provided the bulwark to shore up Obama’s lead against Romney. By aiding in Obama's victory, unions helped avert the crisis that the election of Romney/Ryan would have represented—an attack not only on organized labor, but on women's rights and the whole of the social safety net.

But what, in terms of a positive agenda, should working people expect that's different from when President Obama was first elected? After the election of the last two Democratic presidents, organized labor had a clear legislative priority to hand to the successful candidate—the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in the case of Obama’s first term, and a proposed ban on striker replacement in the case of President Clinton. In both cases, labor waited for the White House to lead on those issues, and that never happened. Neither EFCA nor the striker replacement ban came to pass.

This time around, labor does not have a single marquee piece of legislation that it is rallying around. We already know that any worker-friendly legislation that the White House advances will certainly face a blockade from Congressional Republicans. But that's no excuse for the president to neglect using the bully pulpit to stand in defense of the rights of ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“Why did voters, including huge majorities in the state’s two wealthiest counties, approve a tax on high-income earners to increase funding for public education?”

What’s the matter with California? It is a question once asked about Kansas when that state came to be viewed as a harbinger of a more conservative America. But now the trend is quite opposite, the right wing is in retreat and the Golden State is the progressive bellwether.

How is it that the state that incubated the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan is now so deep blue Democrat that Mitt Romney hardly bothered to campaign there? Why did voters, including huge majorities in the state’s two wealthiest counties, approve a tax on high-income earners to increase funding for public education? 

The answer is that the shifting demographics of California, forerunners of an inevitable national trend, are producing an American electoral majority that is more culturally sophisticated, socially tolerant and supportive of a robust public sector than can be accommodated by the simplistic naysayers who now dominate the Republican Party.

The big news from the last election is that California, home to 12 percent of Americans and the world’s eighth-largest economy, is a model of rational political thought. Not only did President Obama garner almost 60 percent of the vote there, but the Democrats who already controlled all branches of the state’s government gained a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature, the first time one party has done so since 1933, when the Republicans were in power. The Democrats have not managed such a feat since 1883.

Instead of voters rewarding the state’s Republican Party for its obstructionist tactics on any measure requiring a two-thirds vote, they provided California’s Democratic leadership with the votes needed to trump limits on tax collection imposed by the infamous Proposition 13, which for 34 ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“It’s amusing that at this late date, the Republican who distanced himself from health care reform claims that Obamacare helped Obama to win.”

 

Trying to explain away his decisive, sweeping and very expensive rout to his disappointed supporters — those one-percent Republicans — Mitt Romney offered a new version of the discredited "47 percent" argument that was so ruinous in its original form. In a Wednesday afternoon conference call, the defeated Republican nominee told donors and fundraisers that President Obama had won by lavishing generous "gifts" upon certain groups, including young voters, African-Americans and Latinos.

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," said Romney, after apologizing for losing what he called a "very close" election (he lost by more than 100 electoral votes and more than 1 percent of the popular vote, perhaps as much as 4 percent when all the state results are eventually certified).

"Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2009 ... Likewise, with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group."

It's amusing that at this late date, the Republican who distanced ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
To put a finer point on it: “Estimates suggest that a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million people who would have coverage if he lost, with two-thirds of that difference due to the assault on Medicaid.”

 

Mitt Romney has done it again.  In a conference call with fundraisers and donors yesterday Romney demonstrated how he and a coterie of severely cosseted conservatives managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Here's what this prince of the Park Avenue Plutocracy (PAP) had to say:  “You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge.” 

 

He added, “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

On the eve of last week's big election, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a piece on a related subject. Medicaid.

 

Medicaid?  Perhaps Krugman saw Hurricane Sandy brutalizing the Big Apple as a metaphor, or maybe as an omen: "If he [Romney] wins, Medicaid — which now covers more than 50 million Americans, and which President Obama would expand further as part of his health reform — will face savage cuts."

 

Of course, Romney lost, and it's a good thing for anybody who a) does not have the good fortune to be born rich or b) will have the bad fortune to get seriously ill anytime in the future.  To put a finer point on it: "Estimates suggest ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Overall, the Republican Tea Party was slammed not simply because Democrats ran terrific campaigns, but because so many core GOP contradictions imploded, then exploded, the huge price for living too long in deluded bubbles.”

Enough uplifting, all-purpose notions why Obama and Democrats prevailed, some pertinent (like demographics), many laughable: it was Sandy the storm, tons of “stuff” Obama promised, or Democratic voter repression (right!). “No, no,” shout disbelievers, “Mitt was too moderate, or too extreme, his V.P. too fixated.” Or Obama was simply superior on the stump. Below such media noise rumbles a larger tectonic, thus my nomination for what made this election significant: a gang of rightwing contradictions reared up, then crashed and burned.  


  
While this trend transcends any one folly, Romney was the ideal, fossilized Republican awash in a fantasy golden age when bountiful bosses generated jobs and pampered laborers. Likewise, what bizarre political deviance tabbed Paul Ryan as more than a shrill ideologue with zero national clout? For the first time, both misfits atop a ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that no one understands this better than the profiteering electioneers cashing in on Democracy, Inc.

 

The pundit class has offered a slew of postmortems in the attempt to extract meaning in the aftermath of the 2012 elections. Missing from the majority of these analyses altogether: the real winner of the 2012 election.  No, not Democratic Party President-elect Barack Obama nor Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but rather what Portland State University Professor of Urban Studies and Planning called the “Global Electioneering” industry in his 2005 book by that namesake.  “Corporate domination, centralization, and professionalization of political space have eliminated almost all but limited symbolic participation of ordinary people” in the electoral politics, Sussman explained in the first chapter of his book. On Nov. 10, The Washington Post reported that tens of millions of dollars were made by private consultants during the 2012 presidential campaign alone, writing:

In the presidential race alone, the two main media firms working for President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney earned profits for handling more than half a billion dollars of campaign advertising, according to disclosures and ad tracking data. Neither company is required to report how much it received in compensation for that work, but their combined cut could easily be $25 million or more at standard industry rates. 

Other big earners were the digital strategy companies, telemarketing firms, air charter services, pollsters and consultants who saw a spike in business in a presidential contest that cost at least $2.6 billion. The surge in spending was a ...

Published: Friday 9 November 2012
“All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. ”

Yes, election night was a heck of a party and it’s great that the really bad guys lost. Karl Rove and his reactionary ilk were defeated by a new American majority that is younger, more tolerant, rainbow colored and multilingual and one in which women now trump the depressing ignorance of so many older white men. But morning in America already feels too much like a hangover. The house is still a wreck, the family is dysfunctional and there are enormous bills to pay that are not about to go away.

All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. We won but at what cost? Fool me once, shame on Obama, but fool me twice and I’m the one responsible. That goes for his promises to right the economy by leveling the playing field as well as to end what Obama termed in his victory speech “a decade of war.”

It is now our fingers on the video game buttons that order the drones to kill innocent civilians, and we bear responsibility if the president maintains the Guantanamo gulag and continues to vilify Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for confronting America with its war crimes. Will he make good on his promise to hold the line on the incessant demands of the congressional defense contractor caucus or will he find yet another “good war”?

What about our expectation that Obama will be more vigilant than his vulture capitalist opponent in reining in the greed of the Wall Street crowd that has caused so much economic turmoil? The good news is that Obama, and his party, are far less beholden to the titans of the financial industry than they were the first time around. His own funding from top Wall Street firms that favored him in 2008 was way down, and across the country voters rejected the deregulation and lower tax on high roller income that the finance industry thought it ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters.”

Add this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans’ support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break—and that it could be broken through discouragement and voter suppression, rather than by specific appeals to their concerns.

Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters. That figure is comparable with the estimate at this time in 2008, which later rose to 52 percent as final results trickled in. Nearly a fifth of all voters were under 30 (19 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008), and they voted for Obama by a twenty-three-point margin, 60 to 37 percent.

The president could not have won without them. An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggests that eighty of Obama’s electoral votes  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations.”

Money can't buy happiness, nor can it buy an election, apparently.

The top donors to super PACs in 2012 did not fare well — casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the No. 1 super PAC contributor with more than $53 million in giving, backed eight losers at this writing.

Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations. Romney lost to President Barack Obama. In addition, Adelson's contributions to super PACs backing U.S. Senate candidates in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey were also for naught.

He was not the only conservative billionaire who had a bad night.

Contran Corp. CEO Harold Simmons, (No. 2), homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3) and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, (No.4), also bet on Romney. Collectively, the trio gave $13.4 million to Restore Our Future, and Ricketts’ super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, spent an additional $9.9 million helping Romney’s failed bid.

The super donor winner of the night was Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner (No. 5). Eychaner gave $3.5 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities ...

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.”

Local and state campaigns have become a moneyed battleground this year for corporations and special interest groups hoping to sway the results of elections for local and state offices on Nov. 6.

From California to Texas to Florida, global businesses as well as ideological organizations and extremely wealthy groups have helped channel more than 1.6 billion dollars through political action committees and non-profit groups and into local campaigns and issues this year, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that analyses state campaign-spending reports.

Some of the cash went into campaigns of local lawmakers. Other amounts supported campaigns for judges, sheriffs and other offices. More than 6,000 legislators are running for election Tuesday, according to the National Council of State Legislators, with most relying on private funding.

Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.

“Money is access, and it definitely influences the outcomes of elections,” Judy Nadler, a government ethics expert at Santa Clara University in California, told IPS. In some states, “huge amounts of money [go] unreported and unregulated.”

This “outside spending” increased 38 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Spending by candidates increased 19 percent during that time, it found.

Large chunks of special interest ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Over the weekend, long lines were reported across the state as voters braved cold weather to line up for hours at the polls. Even longer lines were reported in Florida, where early voters waited for up to six hours to cast their ballot.

With the presidential election just one day away, 11th-hour Republican voter suppression could swing the critical battleground state of Ohio for GOP nominee Mitt Romney. On Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a last-minute directive which could invalidate a large number of legal provisional ballots by placing the burden on the voter to correctly record the form of identification provided to election officials. Over the weekend, long lines were reported across the state as voters braved cold weather to line up for hours at the polls. Even longer lines were reported in Florida, where early voters waited for up to six hours to cast their ballot. We’re joined from Cleveland by Ari Berman, contributing writer for The Nation magazine and author of "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics."

AMY GOODMAN: Well, there are problems around voting outside of Superstorm Sandy, so we’re going to go to Ohio right now. As Mitt Romney and President Obama push for a strong Election Day turnout, the 2012 election will likely wind up setting a record for early voting. More than 1.6 million people have already voted in the critical battleground state of Ohio, either at the polls or with absentee ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Anyone who thinks all this is funny should be disqualified from being taken seriously, not only as presidential candidate, but from holding any responsible position in public life.

When Gov. Romney gave his acceptance speech at the Republican convention he quipped that President Obama wants to slow the rise of the oceans, by contrast he wanted to help American families. It would be interesting to see if Romney would care to repeat this line today.

Perhaps he wants to tell the people of New York and New Jersey who have seen their homes — and in some cases lives — destroyed by the rise of the oceans, how silly President Obama is for taking steps to counter global warming. These people will surely get a good chuckle from the Governor’s sense of humor as they wait to have to electricity restored or their home rebuilt.

It is remarkable that the Democrats have not been harsher in holding Romney in contempt for his comments in these final days leading up to the election. Imagine the shoe were on the other foot.

Imagine a world where we had not seen the Sept. 11 attacks and a Democratic challenger to President Bush’s re-election in 2004 had mocked the money that Bush had spent on defenses against terrorism. If the country had then been hit by a terrorist attack in the week before the election would the Republicans be shy about going after their challenger’s bad sense of humor?        

Beating up Governor Romney is not just a question of cheap politics. Global warming is serious business. Over 100 people died last week in New York and New ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
Published: Monday 5 November 2012
Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“You can be a patriotic American with all the rights of citizenship even if your first language is Spanish.”

 

To be a Democrat in 2012 probably (liberals never ever agree on everything) means you believe:

 

1.  Every man, woman, and child in America has a right to affordable health care.

 

2.  You can be a patriotic American with all the rights of citizenship even if your first language is Spanish.

 

3.  Pretending to put the good of the country above personal gain while firing workers and outsourcing everything possible to India is dishonest and hypocritical, not to mention un-American.

 

4.  Banks too big to fail cannot be trusted to make financial decisions affecting the well-being of us all without regulation but a woman can be trusted with decisions about her own body.

 

5.  This president did not cause the Great Recession; the conservative extremists in Congress sought to thwart him at every turn because as Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview in the National Journalon October 23, 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

 

6.  Jesus loves you even if you're are a socialist, homosexual, pacifist, Rastafarian, vegan, tree-hugger, African-American, union member, or your Kenyan father was raised in a Muslim family.  

 

7.  Corporations are not people.  If it doesn't have a heart, it's not a person.  If it has more rights than people, it's a corporation. 

 

8.  The difference between people and corporations is obvious unless you're on the Supreme Court.  When the Supreme Court ruled that free speech under the First Amendment creates ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.” 

 

It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”

The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.

Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama -- he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing -- but it’s no hollow threat.

The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy -- and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.

Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  ...

Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
“The overall lesson is simple, and Democrats used to know it. As Harry Truman put it in 1948, we need a government ‘that will work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.’”

It’s not too early to draw some lessons. Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Democrats should have three big takeaways from the 2012 election.

Lesson One: Democrats Can Own the Future.

Latinos, African-Americans, young people, and women have become the major Democratic voting blocs. That’s good news for Democrats because the first three constitute a growing percentage of the voting population (young people eventually become the entire voting population), while women continue to gain economic ground.

The challenge for Democrats will be to hold these groups in the future. All have been attracted to the Democratic Party in recent years mainly because Republican policies have turned them off – policies like the GOP’s draconian responses to undocumented workers, its eagerness to slash Medicaid and food stamps, its misogynistic approach to abortion, and its demand ...

Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“Mitt Romney is apparently hoping that the citizens of this country won’t take their voting responsibility seriously, either - at least, not seriously enough to look up his record.”

Mitt Romney's campaign promoted the speech he gave today as his "closing argument." Underneath the fluff, that argument boils down to this: Give me the Presidency or your economy gets it.

The PuffBot 3000

Romney's speech was so weighted down with preprogrammed platitudes it could've been written by a computer: Just feed in the clichés and let 'er rip.

"If you believe we can do better, if you believe America should be on a better course, if you are tired of being tired, then I ask you to vote for real change."

You mean, "change we can believe in"?

"... our campaign has gathered the strength of a movement.  It’s not just the ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“The Republicans can’t buy the election so they have to steal it.”

I’ll say it, since the Democrats aren’t. The Republicans have become a party of radical extremism and oppression. Election stealing? Check. Agenda to keep women second class citizens? Check. Religious lawmakers who reject science and reality? Check. Lying demagogue who will say anything to gain power? Check.

If we were located in a different part of the world, we might be invading us.

The Republicans can’t buy the election so they have to steal it. The champions of democracy – at home and abroad – have created a new era of “Jim Crow” laws. As they should have virtually limitless money, this may speak even more to their incompetence than corruption.  Killing the estate tax alone (something in the “Ryan budget” that Romney said he would sign) would bring $1 trillion to the rich and $30 billion to Walmart heirs. A tax holiday would give $350 billion to corporations; slashing regulations, billions more. Thus in flows the money.  Major supporters include the Koch brothers, whose company was responsible for "the largest compensatory damages judgment in a wrongful death case against a corporation in U.S. history" ($296 million), and Newt Gingrich fan Sheldon Adelson who was once the third richest American.

But apparently the big money isn’t enough to craft a credible message. The party of wealth needs to lie, cheat and steal like some Third World tyrant.  Voting ID laws passed in 18 states this election cycle. Laws requiring government-issued photo ID could disenfranchise ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Ranieri called Romney’s conclusion “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.”  Romney neither responded not retracted the  comment.

 

When the presidential candidates are calling each other liars or something close to that, that’s hardly new – but a major American corporation all but calling a presidential candidate a liar, when did that happen before?  Never mind happen twice.  In one week. 

 

Widespread coverage of the story of the Chrysler Corporation’s flat contradiction of Mitt Romney’s campaign assertions, followed by General Motors doing the same, suggests that such sharp corporate responses are unprecedented.  Certainly the relationship of these corporations to the Republican Party are far removed from the time when one of President Eisenhower’s cabinet members said that “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa” (although the urban legend version has him saying “what’s good for General Motors is good for America”). 

 

The catalyst for these sharp corporate reactions came on October 25, in Defiance, Ohio, when Mitt

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
“The UAW complaint calls for Romney to reveal exactly how much he made off Delphi - and continues to make.”

For Mitt Romney, it's one scary Halloween.  The Presidential candidate has just learned that tomorrow afternoon he will be charged with violating the federal Ethics in Government law by improperly concealing his multi-million dollar windfall from the auto industry bail-out.

At a press conference in Toledo, Bob King, President of the United Automobile Workers, will announce that his union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)  have filed a formal complaint with the US Office of Government Ethics in Washington stating that Gov. Romney improperly hid a profit of $15.3 million to $115.0 million in Ann Romney's so-called "blind" trust.

The union chief says, "The American people have a right to know about Gov. Romney’s potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,” “It’s time for Gov. Romney to disclose or divest.”

“While Romney was opposing the rescue of one of the nation’s most important manufacturing sectors, he was building his fortunes with his Delphi investor group, making his fortunes off the misfortunes of others,” King added.

The Romneys' gigantic windfall was hidden inside an offshore corporation inside a Limited Partnership inside a trust which both concealed the gain and reduces taxes on it.

READ FULL POST 118 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
“In September, inspectors found more than 120 violations at 13 coal mines.”

A federal enforcement blitz targeting coal mines with potentially dangerous levels of dust found a host of violations at more than a dozen sites where conditions left miners at risk for developing black lung disease.

Following the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia, regulators have focused on problem mines under a new special enforcement program. The most recent round of inspections, however, used new criteria to target mines likely to have problems controlling the dust that can lead to black lung.

The inspections followed a Center for Public Integrity-NPR investigation that highlighted the resurgence of black lung disease and exposed widespread misconduct by coal companies and often-lax enforcement by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In September, inspectors found more than 120 violations at 13 coal mines. Many companies failed to ...

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
President Barack Obama takes a small lead late in the Presidential race.

 

With less than a week left in the 2012 election campaign and much of the Northeast recovering from Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former governor Mitt Romney, are running neck and neck in the national popular vote, according to the most recent surveys.

Online bettors and seasoned political analysts, however, appear to agree that by virtue of his edge in about nine key battleground, or “swing” states, the president will most likely emerge victorious after the final ballots are cast on November 6.

Instead of a direct popular vote, the presidency is determined by the electoral college, through which each state is allocated a certain number of votes based on their representation in Congress. Almost all states use a winner-take-all formula, so that the candidate that wins a majority receives all of a state’s electoral votes. With most states either solidly “red” (Republican) or “blue” (Democratic), “purple” swing states are critical.

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Far-right politicians like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann are merely reading from a prepared script when they claim that deficit reduction is a moral issue.

 

Poll after poll has shown that the public rejects the millionaire-oriented, tax-cutting, government-slashing austerity plan known as “Simpson Bowles.” And yet politicians in both parties keep trying to force it through the legislative process under the banner of a “Grand Bargain.” Word is they're going to try again, either during the lame-duck session or when the new Congress convenes in January.

That plan was originally called “Bowles Simpson,” but its well-financed architects soon ran afoul of the “BS” acronym. But “BS” can stand for something else, too: “bait and switch.” That's exactly what they'll be doing if politicians force a “BS” austerity plan on the public after the votes have been counted.

For years voters didn't even consider the deficit a very important issue. They correctly considered job creation a much higher priority. Now, after years of media hype, some (though by no means all) of the polls say that this issue is a top READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Eighteen beliefs you probably have if you are a republican.

 

To be a Republican nowadays you have to believe concurrently that:

 

 1. Jesus loves you, but shares your deep hatred of homosexuals, gay marriage, gun control advocates, conservationists, animal rights activists, and Barack Obama.

 

 2. "Support our troops" means backing old white men who have no qualms about sending other people's kids to die in wars we can't win in countries whose people hate us for being there.   

 

 3.  The best way to restore growth and prosperity to the US economy is to fire your workers and outsource everything possible to Asia.

 

 4.  Venture capitalists who makes millions of dollars slicing and dicing companies and loading the unlucky ones with so much debt that they have to declare bankruptcy and cease operations cannot possibly continue to create jobs unless they get huge tax breaks and pay at an average rate of 14% or less; otherwise, they won't be "incentivized" to go on making millions while transacting important business on the golf course. 

 

5.  Being a lesbian, petty thief, or drug addict is a sign of moral degeneracy unless you're the daughter of a conservative politician, investment banker, or extreme right-wing radio host. Then it's either laudable or an illness for which the appropriate remedy is prayer, not punishment.

 

6.  The National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council are trying to protect the public, but non-profit public interest groups like the Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, and  the Urban Land Institute only care about taking away our freedoms and turning everybody into tree huggers and vegetarians.

 

7.  Providing comprehensive family health care and generous job benefits to members of Congress, federal employees, ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.”

Over the weekend, Romney debuted an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed as a narrator says Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to separately consider expanding into China, the world’s largest auto market.

Responding to the ad, Chrysler emphasized in a blog post that it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

“They are inviting a false inference,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on political advertising.

This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)

Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?  

Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up? 

And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Thanks to Romney, never again will the once-unelectable 1% be summarily excluded from running – now you can’t be too rich, with too many extremist billionaire backers, a past littered with shattered companies and outsourced workers, too low a personal tax, too many certified offshore accounts, and too many hidden tax returns.”

This election is already historic for, win or lose, Mitt Romney has shaken up the game by expanding the talent pool. With a surge that notched his credibility, Mitt gained no small victory against a skillful professional second in brand promotion only to Bill Clinton. Hell, the self-righteous Bishop could win, and that doubles down the damage. 

 

  
My question: is Romney a one-off outlier, or do the floodgates open for like-minded, ruthless, perhaps more charming members of his exclusive corporate club? If Mitt the besmirched “vulture capitalist,” a pedestrian campaigner at best, imperils a personally-popular incumbent, what office holder won’t shudder when better “outsiders” come forth, bristling with unlimited insider fortunes?

  
Though only the lead warrior, Mitt’s success thus expands the second stage of the Citizens United contagion: first gobs of money, now higher caliber, corporate generals taking the field. Why suffer dim bulb, merely elected prima donnas when business heavies may command power centers from which they’ve been exiled for a century? That makes this election a game-changer, even if Obama survives. Think smarter versions of Herman Cain who discover how to lock in our under-regulated, under-taxed, heavily subsidized capitalism.

 

Thanks to Romney, never again will the once-unelectable 1% be summarily excluded from running – now you can’t be too rich, with too many extremist billionaire backers, a past littered with shattered companies and outsourced workers, too low a personal tax, too many certified offshore accounts, and too many hidden tax returns. What astonishing resume reversals, all in one season!


  
Bets are Really Off

 

All bets, 10K or otherwise, are off, thanks to Romney-ization of Citizens ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland.”

Much of the East Coast is shut down today as residents prepare for Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. The storm has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba. "This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc," says Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day. Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland. The megastorm comes at a time when President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have refused to make climate change an issue on the campaign trail. For the first time since 1984, climate change was never addressed during a presidential debate. "It’s really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, ... in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude," McKibben says. "If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it." We’re also joined by climate scientist Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University.

Transcript: 

AMY GOODMAN: READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers with misleading or just false information.

 

Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes downright false — information about voters’ rights.

Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, six such trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks.

One blatant falsehood occurs on page 5 of the training packet, which informed poll watchers that any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” isn’t ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“When it came to saving the U.S. carmakers, Romney was no Superman. He was a super-panderer willing to sell out America’s industrial heartland for a few right-wing votes.”

Of Mitt Romney's many costume changes, the new Superman outfit portraying him as the would-be savior of the American auto industry wins for most imaginative. Understood: His infamous "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed has proven a great inconvenience to winning votes in the industrial Midwest. But continually insisting that one didn't say what one said is severely not honest. Romney is the kind of politician you ask, "Trick or treat?" and he answers "both."

A new Romney campaign ad for Ohio intones, "He has a plan to help the auto industry." A nice sentiment now that the carmakers no longer need saving. His plan in the winter of 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler were clearly going under, was to deny them government aid. (As you ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
Has integration really ever been attempted?

 

A few months after Congress passed a landmark law directing the federal government to dismantle segregation in the nation's housing, President Nixon's housing chief began plotting a stealth campaign.

The plan, George Romney wrote in a confidential memo to aides, was to use his power as secretary of Housing and Urban Development to remake America's housing patterns, which he described as a “high-income white noose” around the black inner city.

 

The 1968 Fair Housing Act, passed months earlier in the tumultuous aftermath of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, directed the government to “affirmatively further” fair housing. Romney believed those words gave him the authority to pressure predominantly white communities to build more affordable housing and end discriminatory zoning practices.

Romney ordered HUD officials to reject applications for water, sewer and highway projects from cities and states where local policies fostered segregated housing.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
It would be insane to compound the damage by raising taxes on the middle class and not on the rich.

 

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded — and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down — the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. 

President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”).

Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. 

Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
This election is not between Obama and Romney, it is between corporate power and us.

 

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel ...

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
While the so-called Nevada “issues guides” don’t specifically endorse Romney, the pamphlets strongly imply that Obama’s policies could cause workers to lose their jobs.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has donated more than $50 million to Republicans, is now pressuring his casino employees to vote for Mitt Romney. According to the Huffington Post, Adelson’s Management at Las Vegas Sands Corp. “has been distributing voter guides friendly to Republican nominee Mitt Romney and critical of President Barack Obama to its casino employees in Las Vegas.”

While the so-called Nevada “issues guides” don’t specifically endorse Romney, the pamphlets strongly imply that Obama’s policies could cause workers to lose their jobs. “Too much of big government doesn’t just affect our company; it affects our employees, our customers, and our shareholders,” the guide says. “Voting is an important way for you no only to do your civic duty, but to protect your job.” It goes on to misrepresent Obama’s health, tax, and energy policies — while painting Romney’s proposal in a favorable light:

HEALTH CARE: “The federal government requiring all U.S. citizens to buy or otherwise obtain health insurance coverage as a condition of their citizenship is not good for America, our company, and our employees….Gov. Romney favors reform that encourages competition and brings down costs.”

TAXES: “The President would increase many types of taxes, including those on businesses that file taxes as individuals…The governor supports a flatter, simpler and fairer tax code for all Americans that will help businesses and families to prosper.”

ENERGY: “[Obama's] administration restricted the expansion of leases for oil and gas exploration on government ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy.”

 

As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate. 

Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy

For example, Romney says if elected he’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. He promises he’ll provide health coverage to people with pre-existing medical problems but he doesn’t give a hint how he’d manage it. 

Insurance companies won’t pay the higher costs of insuring these people unless they have extra funds — which is why Obamacare requires that everyone, including healthy young people, buy insurance. Yet Romney doesn’t say where the extra money to fund insurers would come from. From taxpayers? Businesses? 

Talk about uncertainty.

Romney also promises to repeal Dodd-Frank, but here again he’s mum on what he’d replace with. Yet without some sort of new regulation of Wall Street we’re back to where we were before 2008 when Wall Street crashed and brought most of the rest of us down with it. 

Romney hasn’t provided a clue how he proposes to oversee the biggest banks absent Dodd-Frank, what kind of capital requirements he’d require of them, and what mechanism he’d use to put them ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated “constitutional lawyer.”

A confession: I recently received my Colorado ballot but, even though my state will play a key role in the presidential election, I still haven't voted. Yes, I'm one of the oft-ridiculed undecideds, and here's why:

I am a left-leaner who previously voted for Barack Obama with clear eyes. Having looked at his record, I knew he was no progressive, much less a Marxist, as his conservative detractors claim. He has always been a thumb-to-the-wind politician who shrouds corporate-backed policies in the veneer of altruistic liberalism. But I voted for him because in 2008 he presented the best opportunity for change.

Sadly, that opportunity was missed. Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated "constitutional lawyer."

Now, four years later, Obama and Democratic Party-affiliated media outlets are demanding that voters ignore this record, or at least believe that a President Mitt Romney will automatically make things worse.

For liberals, that belief certainly has some merit. On economics, Romney proposes punitive trickle-down policies to reward the wealthy "makers" with new tax cuts and punish impoverished "takers" with cuts to public services. Likewise on social issues, he stands against same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose an abortion.

That said, there are far more similarities between the candidates than differences. They both support entitlement cuts, corporate tax cuts, the Drug War, expanded fossil fuel drilling, privatizing education, warrantless surveillance, ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
“The United States isn't immune from contagion if Romney and Ryan enact a full-blown austerity program.”

 

At last Monday's debate Mitt Romney said the United States is "heading toward Greece." That remark was filled with bitter ironies, not the least of which is the fact that the world's current economic miseries were triggered by financial speculators like Romney himself. And while Romney says his harsh economic policies are designed to reduce the national debt, we now have proof they'll have the opposite effect.

Austerity makes victims pay for other people's crimes. And the lesson of Europe confirms what we always suspected: It's not just morally wrong. It's self-defeating.

Nations like Greece aren't just wracked with sky-high unemployment, endangered by full-scale depression, and experiencing the first throes of social disintegration. They're also struggling with soaring debt. That why even the International Monetary Fund, hardly a bastion of leftist dissidence, has turned against Romney-style austerity.

The United States isn't immune from contagion if Romney and Ryan enact a full-blown austerity program. The riot-torn streets and malarial villages of Greece could become our nation's future.

Austerity Increases Debt

Two stories seemed to tell a contradictory story this week. One said that European countries like Greece were "closing their spending gap," while another said that their overall debt was soaring.

Here's how that happens: When a country's economy is collapsing from within, investors don't feel ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
Romney’s defensive statement came in response to a remark by Obama noting that the Republican nominee is “familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas.”

 

"I'm a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars," said Mitt Romney on Monday night when he met with President Obama to discuss foreign policy. "And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry."

That might be considered true — unless moving the most important American auto parts manufacturer to China counts as hurting the U.S. auto industry. But those words now stand as one of Romney's most glaring falsehoods in the final debate.

Romney's defensive statement came in response to a remark by Obama noting that the Republican nominee is "familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas." Moments later, he added: "If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China."

Most viewers had little idea what Obama was talking about or why Romney felt the need to rebut him so specifically. But their coded exchange almost certainly referred to an investigative report that broke wide on the Internet, without much attention from the mainstream media so far — Greg Palast's article in The Nation magazine, exposing Romney's huge profits from Delphi, a crucial auto parts company, that moved nearly all of its jobs to China after taking billions in auto bailout moneyfrom the Treasury.

As Palast reported, the Romneys ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
We can’t afford not to ensure that those who want birth control, get it.

Mitt Romney is running ads explaining that he does not object to birth control. But no one questions his stance that women should have, as the ads say, “access” to contraception. They already do. They also have access to Coach handbags and flights to Acapulco. And that's where the Romney smokescreen, intended to close a gender gap favoring Democrats, needs clearing.

Most women of childbearing age would consider birth control an essential part of their health care. But of the medical services employers must provide under the new health care law, Romney singles out birth control as one thing that should be optional.

Sure, most women can afford birth control. Women who lead disciplined lives would move heaven and earth to manage their fertility. From a practical standpoint, these women can be counted on to take care of business. To them, this exclusion in coverage is merely insulting.

But they are not the concern. The concern is women scraping by. Some live paycheck to paycheck, or don't have one. Some are high school kids with no income stream. Some are strangers to the larger world of responsibility or lack the mental capacity to make sound decisions about unprotected sex.

READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout.”

We turn now to a major new exposé on the cover of The Nation magazine called, "Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions From The Rescue of Detroit." Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney's top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout. Palast's report is part of a film-in-progress called, "Romney's Bailout Bonanza." Palast is the author of several books, including recently released New York Times best seller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal An Election in 9 Easy Steps."

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock (R) said last night that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift” that “God intended.”

 

Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock (R) doesn’t just want to prevent women who have been raped from obtaining an abortion; he also doesn’t think they should be able to access affordable birth control through their health insurance that could prevent such a pregnancy.

Months before Mourdock commented last night that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift” that “God intended,” ThinkProgress spoke with him at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference about Rick Santorum’s belief that insurance plans shouldn’t cover birth control at all. When asked whether he agreed with Santorum on the matter, Mourdock replied: “I do, I do.”

KEYES: I know Rick Santorum in his speech was talking a lot about this. He even went so far as to say, “I don’t think insurance plans should be covering birth control in the first place.” Do you think he’s right about that?

MOURDOCK: I do, I do. I don’t think that’s the role of government. We have to start rolling back government. There are many issues out there beyond Obamacare, but really the issue overlying everything is, is this nation going to survive? And that ultimately becomes an issue of economics.

Watch it:

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
Neither candidate responded directly to the question as Gov. Romney mentioned Libya as well as Syria, Egypt, Mali and Iran, while President Obama said in passing, “your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map….”

 

Critics have called the Romney-Obama debates as narrow as they were shallow, but few have done more to try to broaden and deeper the national discussion

than Amy Goodman and the Democracy NOW!  team, who have produced their “Expanding the Debate” series with third party candidates added to the pair anointed by the two parties’ debate commission. 

 

For the final debate October 22, Democracy NOW! went on the air in front of a live audience at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, California, pausing the debate in progress to allow comments by two third-party presidential candidates who were excluded from the official debate: Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.   

 

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was invited, but he declined. 

 

The first question at the Florida debate purported to be about “Libya,” but was really about the September 11 events in Benghazi and their aftermath, as Bob Schieffer asked it: “What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure?”  Neither candidate responded directly to the question as Gov. Romney mentioned Libya as well as Syria, Egypt, Mali and Iran, while President Obama said in passing, “your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the ...

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“The president has also floated a Constitutional amendment to address Citizens United — an idea that’s currently politically impossible.”

With campaign finances limits rendered nearly meaningless, election spending is on pace to set records. Where does each presidential candidate stand on how to regulate money in politics?

President Obama talks about changes but hasn’t instituted many. He favors legislation that would require disclosure of donors to dark money nonprofits. The president has also floated a Constitutional amendment to address Citizens United — an idea that’s currently politically impossible. Yet advocates point out Obama hasn’t even instituted campaign finance measures that he could do on his own using executive power.   

Mitt Romney has mostly stayed mum. His campaign doesn’t have an official position paper on campaign finance and wouldn’t answer questions. When asked, Romney has said he favors removal of contribution limits to candidates, as a way to bring money from outside groups back into campaigns. He has also said he favors donor disclosure but hasn’t signaled support of specific legislation.

Here are the details:

President Obama

Obama supports the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require disclosure of donors to politically active nonprofits, which are currently funded with anonymous money. In July, the bill

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
During the last presidential debate on October 22nd, Romney told 24 myths in his 41 minutes of speaking time.

1) “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” Romney has his geography wrong. Syria doesn’t share a border with Iran and Iran has 1,500 miles of coastline leading to the Arabian Sea. It is also able to reach the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

2) “And what I’m afraid of is we’ve watched over the past year or so [in Syria], first the president saying, well we’ll let the U.N. deal with it…. Then it went to the Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something.” While Russia and China have vetoed multiple resolutions at the U.N. Security Council on Syria, the United States has also been 

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
“The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins.”

growing number of CEOs are pressuring their employees to vote for Mitt Romney, whose tax cut plan could offer millionaires an $87,000 tax break. Now, MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, has uncovered at least one executive who called on his employees to donate up to $2,500 to the GOP presidential candidate’s campaign.

The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins. But Allen sent another email on the eve of the Republican convention soliciting donations for the former Massachusetts governor:

To all ASG domestic employees,

This coming Monday, Mitt Romney will be officially nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate. I am encouraging everyone to go to the Romney for President web site and contribute as much as you can to his campaign for President, up to the maximum of $2500.00 per person. I am also encouraging you to contact all of your friends and relatives and ask them to support Romney and to go to the polls and ...

Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates—$2.3 million—than anyone else on Wall Street this election season.

Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romney’s November 2008 New York Times op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneys’, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.

It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines. No bailout of GM—or Chrysler, for that matter—could have been successful without saving Delphi. So, in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi—and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.

One of the hedge funds profiting from that bailout—
$1.28 billion so far—is Elliott Management, directed by 
Paul Singer. According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates—$2.3 million—than anyone else on Wall Street this election season. His personal giving is matched by that of his colleagues at Elliott; collectively, they have donated $3.4 million to help elect Republicans this season, while giving only $1,650 to Democrats. And Singer is influential with the GOP presidential candidate; he’s not only an informal adviser but, according to the Journal, his support was critical in ...

Published: Friday 19 October 2012
“Like Brewster, if Perot ran for president today on that budget, he'd be lambasted by pundits and politicos not for spending too much but for spending too little.”

 

The two names that best explain money's unprecedented political influence in America are not Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but Montgomery Brewster and Ross Perot. The former duo, who will each raise nearly $1 billion for their presidential campaigns, are mere symbols of the problem. The latter, by contrast, tell us how huge the problem now is and how quickly it has grown.

Let's start with Brewster, the fictional character played by Richard Pryor in 1985's satirical film "Brewster's Millions." An adaptation of a Gilded Age book of the same name, the movie is about Brewster accepting a relative's challenge to try to spend $30 million in 30 days without accruing any assets. This feat is portrayed as hilariously difficult, even with the protagonist figuring out that he can waste lots of money by running a "vote none of the above" campaign.

Today, Montgomery Brewster is more than just a fixture of cable's vast wasteland of '80s reruns. When he periodically appears on our televisions, he proves how crazy this era's politics have become. Whereas spending $30 million in 1985 — or about $64 million current dollars — in a month was once considered impossible and thus a narrative for Hollywood humor, the two real-life presidential candidates will each spend roughly three times that amount in the last 30 days of the ultra-serious 2012 election. Put another way, if Montgomery Brewster were today a presidential candidate, his $64 million would still be a comedic punch line. Only the laugh wouldn't be about his profligacy, it would be about how poorly financed a candidate he is.

Then there is Perot, the businessman who, in 1992, mounted one of history's most electorally successful independent presidential candidacies. During his campaign, he spent $63 million. For that, he has been ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Describing the deficiencies of the Republican program, a famous man once said, “it‘s arithmetic” — and as usual, the Romney campaign can‘t seem to add or subtract without cheating.

 

When innocent citizens asked about unemployment last night at the town hall presidential debate on Long Island, would Mitt Romney again tout his plan to create 12 million jobs? Unable to Etch-a-Sketch away that often repeated claim — one that he has hired several conservative economists to endorse — the Republican candidate had little choice. It's up on his campaign website, it's there in his own well-advertised words, and it is the central appeal of his candidacy for the non-billionaire voting bloc.

But there is a serious problem with that promise. It now stands exposed as a complete fraud by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, who pinned upon it his highest (lowest?) prize of four “Pinocchios.”

Here is how Kessler reached that troubling conclusion. After requesting the specific numbers behind Romney's jobs claim, he soon discovered that the citations offered by the campaign made no sense, and, in fact, the attempted deceptions were transparently obvious.

Romney's economic program has three basic elements that he says will produce those 12 million jobs, as outlined in a TV ad quoted by Kessler:

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Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
“The AAPC has also demonstrated that we will remain vigilant in guarding political speech and defending our profession from unwarranted infringements.”

 

 

No doubt about it:  If Willard Mitt Romney wins on November 7 it will be a watershed in American history – the first time a candidate and his rich backers clearly bought a presidential election.  No one with a passing familiarity with the facts or a scintilla of common sense can argue otherwise.  Anyone so inclined is urged to do a quick internet search using these key words: 1) Citizens United; 2) Super Pacs; and 3) 501(c)(4) organizations.

 

Next, check out the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) and the rise of for-profit enterprises that specialize in campaign strategy and tactics, especially the use of attack ads, disinformation, and propaganda.  Start with "The Lie Factory"(Jill Lepore,The New Yorker September 24, 2012) , a trenchant piece of journalism about "How politics became a business" starting in the 1930s.   Then go and have a look at AAPC's website where you will learn, "…the cornerstone of the American Association of Political Consultants is ethical conduct in campaigns by political professionals.  The AAPC has also demonstrated that we will remain vigilant in guarding political speech and defending our profession from unwarranted infringements."  Presumably, the latter is defined to include limits on campaign contributions and regulations aimed at re-injecting sanity into our elections. 

 

NPR's Peter Overby, who recently reported on how big money and secrecy (mega-contributions from undisclosed donors) are shaping this election (October 15), revealed how the business of politics has, for all practical purposes, been turned into a racket (like, say, bootlegging and prostitution in the 1930s) and the shadowy individuals who operate behind the scenes are little different from racketeers like ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Koch mailer is one of several recent examples of executives warning that employees may lose their jobs if Republicans do not win in November.

The Koch brothers’ $60 million pledge to defeat President Obama — along with their political network’s $400 million spending — make them two of the most influential conservatives this election.

Not content with their unprecedented influence in politics, the Kochs have also taken to influencing the votes of their employees. According to In These Times, Koch Industries sent 45,000 mailers to employees at Koch subsidiary Georgia Pacific, urging votes for Romney and other conservative candidates. The letter warns ominously of “consequences” for the workers if Republicans lose. 

The Koch mailer is one of several recent examples of executives warning that employees may lose their jobs if Republicans do not win in November. Here is an excerpt ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Republican candidates are creating war between the generations.

A weird war between the generations is growing, and the Republican candidates are the mongers.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both accuse President Obama of taking money out of Medicare to help younger Americans get health care — while they blame government spending ( Medicare is a big item) for burdening "our grandkids" with debt. They reassure older Americans that their traditional Medicare program will not be touched, but tell younger folk that VoucherCare will offer the wonderful world of choice and, by the way, they can have “traditional Medicare,” if that's their preference.

Never mind that Obamacare is projected to reduce deficits while adding benefits to Medicare, thanks to cost savings within the plan. Never mind the obvious point that if VoucherCare were so wonderful, Romney and Paul Ryan would bestow the pleasure on today's and near-term retirees. Never mind that traditional Medicare within a voucher system would rapidly turn into a ghetto for the very sick, then collapse.

But this is not about the double messaging, telling contradictory stories to different groups. This is about the assumption that helping one generation unfairly hurts another.

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Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
There comes a time when we must say to the ruling elite: No more!

The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not take place in city parks and plazas, where the security and surveillance state is blocking protesters from setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in the nation’s heartland, where some ranchers, farmers and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land seized by eminent domain and their water supplies placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. They have formed an unusual coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on tribal lands along the proposed route of this six-state, 1,700-mile proposed pipeline are fast becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have begun against the corporate state. Join them.

The XL pipeline, which would cost $7 billion and whose southern portion is under construction and slated for completion next year, is the most potent symbol of the dying order. If completed, it will pump 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow. Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure. Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source of one-third of the United States’ farmland irrigation water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it ...

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
Published: Monday 15 October 2012
The President’s been undercutting his own party’s best message and keeps threatening to cut benefits for its signature programs.

 

If you support strong and effective government, then the unfamiliar glow you felt after last Thursday's debate was the satisfaction of seeing your opinions forcefully defended by a national candidate. There hasn't been much of that going on lately. But a deceptive question was asked in the Vice Presidential debate, while other important ones still haven't been asked of any national candidate.

The President's been undercutting his own party's best message and keeps threatening to cut benefits for its signature programs. As for Mitt Romney and his running mate, there's little left to be said: They're both determined to undermine Medicare and Social Security. Even if they're retreating from their most radical ideas now, you know those ideas will be back once they're in office.

If what follows focuses more on the President than on his challenger, its because the Republicans are beyond redemption on this issue. But both candidates need to answer some direct questions on this topic.

This Tuesday the Presidential candidates will meet with voters face-to-face for a town-hall style debate. Let's hope the voters will ask the questions the media haven't.

Joe in the Flow

What you saw that night was a candidate on the Democratic national ticket doing something we haven't seen in a while: representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party." It was a pleasure to watch a gifted politician in the 'zone,' that state of maximum achievement sometimes called the "flow state."

But there were shadows over Biden as he spoke his stirring words about these two programs. First there was the shadow of Martha Raddatz's deceptive and scaremongering characterization of these programs, when she posed her question by stating that Medicare and Social Security are "going ...

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
“How can we continue to justify this war begun to avenge the 9/11 attacks and punish those responsible?”

Matt Sitton knew the war in Afghanistan was going badly. He knew it because he was fighting it. He could see for himself. Twenty-six years old, with a wife and child back home, Staff Sergeant Sitton was on his third combat tour there.

Time and again, he and his men were sent through what he called “a minefield on a daily basis.” His comrades were being blown apart — at least one amputee a day, he said, “Because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives.”

Morale was low; the men struggled to remain alert. Sitton said he asked his officers to give them a break but was told to stop complaining.

“I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when there is a desired endstate and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done,” he wrote. “But when we are told basically to just walk around for a certain amount of time is not sitting well with me.”

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Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

When it comes to tax policy, Mitt Romney is not merely a spinner, an equivocator or a run-of-the-mill dissembler. He's a liar. Hyperbolic and overwrought as that label seems, it is, alas, the only accurate description for someone who would, in February, promote a proposal to cut taxes "on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent" and then appear at an October debate and insist that the very same proposal "will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

For the most part, analyzing such hideous dishonesty is where political reporting has started and stopped. How big a liar is Romney? Was he lying in the first statement or the second one? These are, no doubt, important questions — and to answer but one of them, it's obvious Romney was lying in the most recent one. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported, the Republican nominee's proposal, if enacted, would "result in a net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."

However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

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Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
As a practical matter, then, negotiations over America’s budget deficit will drag on into the new year, right over and beyond the fiscal cliff. A deal might not be struck until February, or even March.

These are awkward days for deficit hawks who believe the American economy can get back to health only if the nation gets its fiscal house in order. If they get their wish, the economy goes over a cliff.

Regardless of what happens Election Day, at the beginning of next year more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts automatically go into effect. That’s equivalent to about 5 percent of the entire U.S. economy, more than the projected growth of the whole gross domestic product next year.

The problem is, if we fall off this fiscal cliff we plunge into recession. That’s because the cliff withdraws too much demand from the economy too quickly, at a time when unemployment is still likely to be high.

The Congressional Budget Office projects real economic growth will drop at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first half of 2013, and unemployment will rise to 9.1 percent by the end of next year.

As Spain and Great Britain have demonstrated, launching fiscal austerity at a time when a nation’s economic capacity is substantially underutilized causes the economy to contract. This makes the debt even larger in proportion to the size of the economy. Rather than reassure global lenders and investors, it spooks them more.

America is about to fall off the fiscal cliff because Democrats and Republicans in Congress haven’t been able to agree on a plan for long-term deficit reduction – and this failure will trigger automatic spending cuts in January. Meanwhile, the temporary tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, and extended for two years by President Obama, will run out December 31st, as will the President’s temporary jobs measures – a payroll-tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits.

In a rational world, deficit reduction on this scale wouldn’t happen until the economy is once again healthy – when unemployment has dropped to below 6 ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“The political views of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been evaluated and dissected by hundreds of websites and countless political pundits.”

As Election Day looms, voters across the country are deciding which of the two candidates will get their vote. The political views of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been evaluated and dissected by hundreds of websites and countless political pundits. We’ve seen the two candidates debate on TV and approve countless commercial messages. We’ve heard their talking points and read their plans. However, we wanted to know how they got so smart.

To read more please visit DegreeJungle.com

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.”

Are Big Bird’s 15 minutes up yet? Last week, Mitt Romney pulled public broadcasting into the presidential campaign when he said he would “stop the subsidy” to PBS, despite his love for the furry yellow Muppet.

The remark launched endless Internet memes, fueled late night television jokes and spawned a satirical Obama campaign ad (which the Sesame Workshop, a private, non-partisan charitable organization, has requested the campaign pull). Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.

How large is the federal subsidy to public broadcasting?

It’s not exactly breaking the bank. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity created by Congress in 1967 to disperse funds to nonprofit broadcast outlets like PBS and NPR, is set to receive $445 million over the next two years. Per a statutory formula, public television gets about 75 percent of this appropriation while public radio receives 25 percent.

This amounts to roughly .012 percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget – or about $1.35 per person per year. (Some global perspective:

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Ryan is among 181 members of the House who received a score of zero, but of course Ryan stands out not only because he is the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate but because he is the intellectual leader of that band of 181 members who never sided with the middle class on a significant vote during this congressional session.”

 

Don't be surprised if Republican Rep. Paul Ryan works hard at tonight's vice presidential debate to counter Vice President Joe Biden's Scranton, Pa. working-class roots with his own small-town roots in Janesville, Wis. But while both will invoke their middle-class roots, it is Ryan who in Congress has been in relentless opposition to the fundamental things that middle-class people want and need.

That opposition is reflected in Ryan's "zero" score in TheMiddleClass.org 2012 Voter Guide, released earlier this month. That voter guide looks at 10 votes during the 112th Congress that are symbolic of the kitchen-table concerns of middle-class and low-income families. Ryan is among 181 members of the House who received a score of zero, but of course Ryan stands out not only because he is the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate but because he is the intellectual leader of that band of 181 members who never sided with the middle class on a significant vote during this congressional session.

Arguably the most important vote we rate in the guide is on what has come to be known as the "Ryan budget," the fiscal 2013 budget resolution. It will—or at least certainly should be—the centerpiece of tonight's debate. TheMiddleClass.org offers a scathing critique of the budget resolution's impact on middle class households: "Supporters of this budget choose to be the tribunes of the 1 percent, willing to destroy basic elements of the American dream in service of that cause. ... [T]his legislation would dramatically lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while cutting programs vital to the security of middle-class families."

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
“When it comes to foreign policy, what the powerful and the media tell us is what most of us accept as true.”

 

Part I – Earning a Place in the Eighth Rung of Hell

 

Mitt Romney might be the most brazen political liar since James Polk.   Polk, who was the 11th U.S. president (1845-1849),  lied through his teeth–to Congress, to his cabinet, to the newspapers– in order to get the country into a war with Mexico.  Of course, other presidents have lied to this end, for instance presidents Johnson (Vietnam) and Bush Jr. (Iraq), but Polk had the same audacious, “lying is part of what I do,” disposition as does our current Republican candidate.  

 

If one has any doubt about Mitt Romney’s mendacious temperment, the first presidential debate should have put it to rest.  According to one analyst, Romney let loose with “27 myths in 38 minutes,”  finishing with a big grin after most of these prevarications. ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
“Romney’s health care proposal would leave 72 million Americans without health insurance and wouldn’t provide all uninsured Americans with a stable source of insurance.”

Mitt Romney doubled down on his suggestion that uninsured Americans can find the care they need in emergency rooms, telling The Dispatch that people will always receive the treatment they need, and do not die or suffer because they can not pay for care. He pointed to federal law that requires hospitals to admit emergency patients, repeating his advice that patients rely on the most expensive form of care reserved strictly for emergencies. Romney told the Columbus Dispatch:

“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’  ” he said as he offered more hints as to what he would put in place of “Obamacare,” which he has pledged to repeal.

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Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
How many lies has Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney told since the last debate?

 

It’s been one week since the debate. How many lies has Mitt Romney and his campaign told since? Let’s tally it up.

***

1. Pre-Existing Conditions: Within minutes of the debate's conclusion last week, a Romney campaign spokesman tried to explain his candidate's assertion, in response to the question with what he would replace ObamaCare, that "pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan," clearly inferring that he would not alter that provision of ObamaCare.

Afterwards the spokesman said, “what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage.” But that position does not expand coverage for the uninsured with pre-existing conditions, as ObamaCare does. By continuing to try to blur the ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.”

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama among likely voters, 49% to  45%. But the latest Gallup poll shows the President Obama leading Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

What gives? The Pew poll covered the days immediately following last Wednesday’s presidential debate. It didn’t include last weekend. The Gallup poll, by contrast, included the weekend — after September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.

So it’s fair to conclude the bump the President received from the jobs report bump made up for the bump Romney got from the debate. No surprise that voters care more about jobs than they do about debate performance.

But don’t be misled. The race has tightened up.

Moreover, polls of “likely voters” are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they’re likely to vote – including those who hope to but won’t, as well as those who won’t but don’t want to admit it. 

Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two. 

So the real question is which set of potential supporters is more motivated on Election Day (or via absentee ballot) to bother to vote.

The biggest motivator in this election isn’t enthusiasm about either of the candidates. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.

The biggest motivator is fear of the other guy.

There’s clear reason for Democrats and Independents to fear Romney and Ryan — their reverse Robin-Hood budgets that take from the poor and middle class and reward the rich; their ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
“On specific policy recommendations, however, Romney failed to substantially distinguish his own from Obama’s.”

 

In what was billed as a major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Monday assailed Barack Obama for “passivity” in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, arguing that it was “time to change course” in the Middle East, in particular.

Dispensing with some of the neo-conservative rhetoric he has used in the past, he nonetheless argued that the “risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when (Obama) took office” and that Washington should tie itself ever more closely to Israel.

“I will re-affirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security – the world must never see any daylight between our two nations,” he told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, adding that Washington must “also make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their (sic) nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.”

As he has in the past, he also called for building up the U.S. Navy, pressing Washington’s NATO allies to increase their military budgets in the face of a Vladimir Putin-led Russia, and ensuring that Syrian rebels “who ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“Watching the debate on Wednesday, actually, reminded me of the saying to the effect that if voting made a whit of difference, it would be illegal.”

 

John Denver — who sang about “raining fire from the sky” in Colorado — would have been disappointed. There was no fire from the sky, no fireworks, no zingers, hardly any pulse. Wednesday night’s much anticipated first presidential debate at the University of Colorado was one long snooze fest. Watching the debate on Wednesday, actually, reminded me of the saying to the effect that if voting made a whit of difference, it would be illegal. And for lots of people (like many felons), it is illegal. But mostly, people don’t vote because they don’t see the point.

President Obama wore a plush blue tie and called Michelle “sweetie.” Mitt Romney wore a striped red tie and stared at Obama during the split screens with the expression of a condescending puppy. (I welcome suggestions for an alternative description because puppies cannot be condescending.) Jim Lehrer, veteran and venerated journalist, barely registered during those longest 90 minutes of my life — aside from asking a few softball questions and genteelly requesting specifics from the two candidates as they recited talking points and statistics.

I think I would have had a better time if I had been playing one of the many debate drinking games that were available. One drink for ObamaCare? Really, Buzz Feed? Between the two of them, it was uttered 21 times!

Rachel Maddow called debate night her “favorite night in politics,” but I ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
Big Bird and Sesame Street could get the axe for Mitt Romney’s big budget cut.

 

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney held the first presidential debate of the general election last night, and our own co-founder, Van Jones, was there to provide analysis on CNN.

 
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
So why didn’t the President play this winning card last night? Why aren’t more Democrats using it? It’s as if they’ve all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable.

 

There's a lot of post-debate analysis going on -- some would say too much -- but not enough is being said about the ace in the Democrats' deck: defending Social Security and Medicare. That's not just a winning card for the candidates who play it.Seniors, young people, the disabled, the jobless: Everybody at the table wins.

Everybody, that is, except the Republican in the race.

So why didn't the President play this winning card last night? Why aren't more Democrats using it? It's as if they've all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable - by not admitting they hold a better hand.

One-Sided Argument

Jim Lehrer asked the President, "Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?" The answer: "You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker -- Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But the basic structure is sound."

The President didn't mention the deeply unpopular Republican attempt to privatize Social Security, which was spearheaded by Romney's running mate and would have led to financial catastrophe for millions of people after the 2008 crisis. (Which, he might have added, was created by financiers not unlike Mitt Romney.)

The Reagan/O'Neill mention was also significant. It's been clear for a long time that the President almost venerates the Social Security agreement those two leaders made in the 1980s. But that agreement was striking because Reagan and O'Neill shared a characteristic which both the President and Mr. Romney lack: They were passionate and eloquent voices for their political philosophies.

The agreement between O'Neill and Reagan was remarkable, not because they weren't ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“The company managed to survive the many lawsuits from poisoned communities and distance itself from its toxic past — largely thanks to the help of Mitt Romney.”

A new lawsuit over harmful levels of the coolant polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in Massachusetts school buildings is forcing biotech firm Monsanto Company to revisit its unsavory past. Before Monsanto became the agricultural giant it is today, the company’s major product used to be PCBs, which it routinely dumped in rivers and open pits while deliberately attempting to hide the damage. The company managed to survive the many lawsuits from poisoned communities and distance itself from its toxic past — largely thanks to the help of Mitt Romney.

But now the town of Lexington is trying to hold the company accountable for the PCBs used in school construction between 1950 and 1976, when PCBs were banned by Congress. The lawsuit, which seeks to represent all Massachusetts schools, claims Monsanto should have warned manufacturers of the health and environmental dangers posed by exposure to PCBs. The chemical has been definitively ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“The intrusion of massive corporations into the relationships between patients and health-care providers, and the subordination of public-health considerations to profit margins.”

 

From TIME magazine’s provocative photo of a mother breastfeeding her toddler to the recent controversy surrounding an American University professor who breastfed her baby while teaching a class, how we feed babies often attracts its fair share of media attention. 

But while news coverage often focuses on what are perceived as personal choices related to infant feeding, an important piece of the puzzle is often missing from their analysis: the intrusion of massive corporations into the relationships between patients and health-care providers, and the subordination of public-health considerations to profit margins. 

Fortunately, advocates and activists are joining forces and putting a spotlight on this missing piece of the puzzle. And momentum is building as hospitals across the country—including all of those in Massachusetts and Rhode Island—are telling the infant-formula industry to take their marketing pitches elsewhere.

Science or sales pitch?

Consider this: Across the country, up to 72 percent of health-care facilities with maternity units distribute so-called infant formula to new mothers in industry-supplied “discharge bags,” complete with formula samples, coupons for formula, and marketing materials.

With the many benefits of breastfeeding touted by the

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.”

 

With the quadrennial presidential election extravaganza reaching its peak, it’s useful to ask how the political campaigns are dealing with the most crucial issues we face. The simple answer is: badly, or not at all. If so, some important questions arise: why, and what can we do about it?

There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.

The former is regularly on the front pages. On Sept. 19, for example, Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times that the melting of Arctic sea ice had ended for the year, “but not before demolishing the previous record – and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.”

The melting is much faster than predicted by sophisticated computer models and the most recent U.N. report on global warming. New data indicate that summer ice might be gone by 2020, with severe consequences. Previous estimates had summer ice disappearing by 2050.

“But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions,” Gillis writes. “To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil” – that is, to accelerate the catastrophe.

This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril.

That’s hardly all. A new study from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor has found that “climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades.” ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
“Obama has more Santas – almost four times more – than Romney, but they give less: Barack’s donors give $50 on average, while Mitt’s give about $140.”

As we head into autumn, and Thanksgiving, we should remember how lucky our presidential candidates really are: Every month, their “friends” give them tens of millions of dollars in political money. Since our summer infographic, fundraising has only accelerated, giving the candidates record piles of loot—over 700 million dollars between them. For Obama and Romney, Christmas started this summer and will last half the year.

Obama has more Santas – almost four times more – than Romney, but they give less: Barack’s donors give $50 on average, while Mitt’s give about $140. The rate of giving has increased every month, and while Romney had some good months at the end of the summer, in September Obama took back the lead. Check out a detailed break-down of gifts, and when they came, in the graphic.

In all this, remember that a lot of the money is coming from big donors, and even the small donors are giving about $30 on average. Autumn’s harvest is ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Forecasts of Abundance Collide with Planetary Realities

 

Last winter, fossil-fuel enthusiasts began trumpeting the dawn of a new “golden age of oil” that would kick-start the American economy, generate millions of new jobs, and free this country from its dependence on imported petroleum.  Ed Morse, head commodities analyst at Citibank, was typical.  In the Wall Street Journal hecrowed, “The United States has become the fastest-growing oil and gas producer in the world, and is likely to remain so for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s.”

 

Once this surge in U.S. energy production was linked to a predicted boom in energy from Canada’s tar sands reserves, the results seemed obvious and uncontestable.  “North America,” he announced, “is becoming the new Middle East.”  Many other analysts have elaborated similarly on this rosy scenario, which now provides the foundation for Mitt Romney’s plan to achieve “energy independence” by 2020.

By employing impressive new technologies -- notably deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or hydro-fracking) -- energy companies were said to be on the verge of unlocking vast new stores of oil in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations across the United States.  “A ‘Great Revival’ in U.S. oil production is taking shape -- a major break from the near 40-year trend of falling output,” James Burkhard of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) 

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
“Mr. President, if you can’t explain why you are the Commander-in-Chief in this class war against the billionaire bandits attempting to seize our government, then get off the horse and let someone in the saddle who can ride.”

What the hell happened?  Did Barack have a fight with Michelle?  Was it nicotine withdrawal?  Do really rich guys just scare you, Mr. Obama?

Dear Mr. President:  As a journalist I don’t take partisan sides, but I do take America’s side.  And as Commander-in-Chief, you simply cannot fall asleep in the saddle.

I mean Commander-in-Chief in the Class War.  The war of the billionaires against the rest of us.

You were asked, “What is the role of government?”

You seemed stumped.  Lost.

Well, here’s three, Mr. President:

  1. Issue Social Security checks. Checks for cash money.  Not some bullshit voucher.
  2. Save General Motors and Motor City.
  3. Kill Osama.

Maybe you should have written those on your palm.

When Mr. PBS Bumblebrain asked you the difference between your views and Gov. Romney’s on Social Security, you said, “You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.”

READ FULL POST 21 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two debates — and be unafraid to respectfully pin Romney to the floor.

 

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor.

But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan — awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on.

I’ve been worried about Obama’s poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high — he’s known as an eloquent orator. But when he has to think on his feet and punch back, he’s not nearly as confident or assured as he is when he is giving a speech or explaining a large problem and its solution. He is an educator, not a pugilist, and this puts him at a disadvantage in any debate.

Romney stayed on script. If you look at a transcript of his remarks you’ll see that he repeated the same lines almost word for word in different contexts. He has memorized a bunch of lines, and practiced delivering them. The overall effect is to make him seem assured and even passionate about his position. He said over and over that he cares about jobs, about small businesses, and ordinary Americans. But his policies and his record at Bain tell a very different story.

The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for President Obama no matter what.”

The subject of so-called “entitlements” is sure to come up at tonight’s first presidential debate and so perhaps it makes sense to disabuse candidate Romney of his transfer payment fallacies and fantasies before he begins to speak. 

By now we’ve all seen the footage.  First publicized by Mother Jones in September, the infamous seven-minute clip depicts Mitt Romney openly excoriating the “47 percent” of parasitic “Americans dependent of government” at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. (As an aside, the inflation-adjusted median household income for an American family is currently $50,054.)

I give you, Mitt, in his own words…

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for [P]resident [Obama] no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Although Romney’s claim that “47 percent” of freeloading Americans don’t pay income tax is easy enough to disclaim, his remarks represent a more insidious worldview that many conservatives unwittingly embrace. Romney’s anomic “entitlement society” theory begs the question: Exactly who  do republicans think benefit most from programs like unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), and Medicaid?

Well, remember ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
“Occupy the Debates is concerned about the anti-democratic restrictive nature of the debates and about the lack of connection between what will be discussed in the debates and what the people actually care about.”

On October 3, 2012, the first presidential debate will be held in Denver, Colorado and a people's dialogue will be held at the same time to provide broader perspectives. The live-streamed event (details below) will provide an opportunity for the public to discuss how to solve the pressing challenges of the nation.

The presidential debate is being produced, as it has since the mid-1980’s, by the corporate and partisan Commission for Presidential Debates (CPD) and only the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will be permitted to debate. George Farah, Executive Director of Open Debates, said, "The Commission on Presidential Debates undermines our democracy. Because of the Commission's subservience to the Republican and Democratic campaigns, the presidential debates are structured to accommodate the wishes of risk-averse candidates, not voters."

Occupy the Debates is concerned about the anti-democratic restrictive nature of the debates and about the lack of ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
“The lower court judge responded to the state supreme court’s order, and he blocked some — but not all — of the state’s voter suppression law.”

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously rejected a lower court judge’s decision allowing that state’s voter ID law to move forward. The high court ordered the trial judge to reexamine the case to ensure “liberal access” the ID voters need to vote, and to ensure that voter disenfranchisement will not result from the voter ID law — which the state’s Republican House Majority Leader said was enacted to “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

This morning, the lower court judge responded to the state supreme court’s order, and he blocked some — but not all — of the state’s voter suppression law. The punchline of his opinion is that voters will still be asked to present IDs at the polls, but voters without IDs will be allowed to cast ballots of some kind. In November, the opinion indicates that voters will be allowed to cast regular ballots. After November, assuming ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
Published: Sunday 30 September 2012
“Because it is a nonprofit, Americans for Job Security is not required to publicly disclose its donors.”

Americans for Job Security, a conservative nonprofit organized as a trade association, reported that its ad “Running” cost $8.2 million, a significant figure considering the group’s total take in its 2010 fiscal year was $12 million, according to its most recent tax filing.

“Running,” released Wednesday, is the group’s first reported presidential ad of the election. It shows a mother jogging down the street as she says in the voiceover that she’s “running to forget” the bad economy, her husband’s layoffs and the national debt.

“The future is getting worse under (President Barack) Obama,” she says.

The ad is airing in six swing states.

Americans for Job Security is run by president Stephen Demaura, the former director of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee, out of an Alexandria, Va., office shared with the Republican media buying firm Crossroads Media, the Los Angeles Times discovered.

Crossroads Media was co-founded by former Americans for Job Security president Michael Dubke. Dubke is also a partner at Black Rock Consultancy, a GOP consultancy he co-founded with Carl Forti, the political director of super PAC American Crossroads and nonprofit Crossroads GPS.

Forti was Republican presidential nominee Mitt ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
“The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening.”

 

With just over a month before election day, the problem of the current campaign finance system is really starting to take form. The Sunlight Foundation reports that:

The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening. That’s more than the total for the entire 2010 campaign.

In the Congressional races this year, outside spending alone, not accounting for the spending by the candidates themselves, has eclipsed the total spending of PACs, candidates and their parties in 2010. Combined! And that’s just for Congressional races. Overall spending for the first 18 months just topped $4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money enough to fund student pell grants for roughly two million students for a full year.

Barack Obama out-raised Mitt Romney for the first time in August, and he did so substantially. Obama broadened his grassroots base, taking in donations from over 3 million donors. However, this isn’t to say that the President’s pulling ahead in the funds race is strictly on “hard money.” The New York Times reports that:

The ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
The Sacramento Republican Party was found to have hired Momentum Political Services, a firm headed up by a woman described as a “professional con-artist”.

This article was originally posted at bradblog.com

The Republican Party of Florida's top recipient of 2012 expenditures, a firm by the name of Strategic Allied Consulting, was just fired on Tuesday night, after more than 100 apparently fraudulent voter registration forms were discovered to have been turned in by the group to the Palm Beach County, FL Supervisor of Elections.

The firm appears to be another shell company of Nathan Sproul, a longtime, notorious Republican operative, hired year after year by GOP Presidential campaigns, despite being accused of shredding Democratic voter registration forms in a number of states over several past elections.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Strategic Allied Consulting has been paid some $667,000 this year by the FL GOP, presumably to run its voter registration campaigns in the state. That number, however, does not account for another identical payment made in August. The Palm Beach Post is reporting tonight that the firm received "more than $1.3 million" from the Republican Party of Florida "to register new voters."

The firm is not only tied to the FL GOP, but also to the Mitt Romney Campaign, which hired Sproul as a political consultant late last year, despite years of fraud allegations against his organizations in multiple states.

Moreover, the firm is also reportedly operating similar voter registration operations on behalf of the Republican Party, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a number of key battleground states this year, including North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. Strategic Allied has recently taken steps to hide their ownership by Sproul's notorious firm, Sproul & Associates.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Susan Bucher confirmed to The BRAD BLOG late this ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
Romney arguably lost every possible remaining undecided voter when the “47%” video was uncovered on Sept. 18.

 

Mitt Romney arguably lost Ohio on November 18, 2008, when he penned an oped titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Today, 64% of Ohio voters call President Obama's restructuring of the auto industry "mostly good."

Mitt Romney arguably lost Florida, with its heavy concentration of older voters, when he picked as his vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the face of the conservative plan to end Medicare as we know it.

The CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll now has Obama leading Romney by 9 points in Florida, up from a 3 point lead in late August.

In August, Romney was ahead among Florida voters 65 and older by 13 points. Now, Obama is ahead among voters 55 and older (don't ask me why Quinnipiac didn't publish the same age breakdowns) by 8 points. This tracks with what the national Reuters poll found. Romney used to have a 20 point lead with voters 60 and over, now it's less than ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
Romney’s call for a Balanced Budget Amendment would cause even more problems.

The budget and tax proposals put forth by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would not lead to the economic prosperity and job growth he has claimed, according to a new study released this week. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute found that Romney’s plans would actually lead to a net loss of jobs over the first two years of his administration, and the losses could grow even larger if Romney were to stick to his promise of reaching a balanced budget.

EPI had to make assumptions about Romney’s plan because of its lack of specificity, but according to its analysis, Romney’s plan to lower taxes and cut spending would cause a net loss of 554,000 jobs over the next two years if Romney abandons his plan to pay for the massive tax cuts he has promised. But if he maintains his promise to balance the budget while also providing the huge tax cuts, his plan would “lead to employment losses of 608,000 in 2013 and roughly 1.3 million in 2014″: 

 

 

The deep spending cuts Romney has promised are the primary reason for the job losses, EPI’s analysis found. If Romney does pay for the tax cuts, as he insists he will, the spending cuts would get even deeper and thus cause the loss of even more jobs. Another independent analysis, meanwhile, found that fully paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require  READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“In recent years, newspaper reporting had already been severely weakened by drastic cutbacks in newsrooms (including the near-abandonment of hard-nosed investigative reporting by conglomerate CEOs and bean-counters more interested in upping the corporate stock price than in providing journalistic exposes).”

Let us now access the state of the free press in this land of ... well, of press freedom. The assessment? Pathetic. Not because of any government clampdown, but because of increasing press pusillanimity.

In recent years, newspaper reporting had already been severely weakened by drastic cutbacks in newsrooms (including the near-abandonment of hard-nosed investigative reporting by conglomerate CEOs and bean-counters more interested in upping the corporate stock price than in providing journalistic exposes). But the latest decline comes from newsroom managers and staff who've chosen to compromise on a core aspect of good reporting: conducting untainted, straightforward interviews.

Those in charge of running major newspapers and blogs these days have gone all wonky on their basic job of getting public and corporate figures to provide honest, informative answers to important who-what-when-where-and-why questions that inform the citizenry.

The compromise they've made is a pernicious practice called "quote approval." This began with PR flacks for public officials and political candidates demanding that reporters agree — as a price of being granted an interview — to submit any quotes they intend to use from the interview to the interviewee's staff for approval. Thus, when Mr. Big blurts out something shocking, stupid or actually newsworthy, Mr. Big's staff of bowdlerizers can tidy it up or just erase it. The comment might've been news, but — zzzzzzztt — it's gone, as though it were never uttered.

It's not surprising that today's media-sensitive political figures (including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney) would demand this extraordinary right to censor what they themselves said, but it's utterly despicable that media bosses and reporters have so gutlessly caved in to the demand. It ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
Romney’s failing isn’t that he’s a bad candidate. To the contrary, he’s giving this GOP exactly what it wants in a candidate.

I’ve spent the past few days debating right-wingers — among them, Grover Norquist and Ann Coulter. This isn’t my idea of fun. I do it because apparently many Americans find these people persuasive, and it seems important to try to show why they’re profoundly wrong. 

There are two major theories about why Romney is dropping in the polls. One is Romney is a lousy candidate, unable to connect with people or make his case.

The second is that Americans are finally beginning to see how radical the GOP has become, and are repudiating it. 



Many Republicans — including some of the right-wingers I’ve been debating — hold to the first view, for obvious reasons. If Romney fails to make a comeback this week, I expect even more complaints from this crowd about Romney’s personal failings, as well as the inadequacies of his campaign staff. 

But the second explanation strikes me as more compelling. The Republican primaries, and then the Republican convention, have shown America a party far removed from the “compassionate conservatism” the GOP tried to sell in 2000. Instead, we have a party that’s been taken over by Tea Partiers, nativists, social Darwinists, homophobes, right-wing evangelicals, and a few rich people whose only interest is to become even wealthier. 

These regressives were there in 2000, to be sure. They lurked in the GOP in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich took over the House. They were there in the 1980s, too, although Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition gave them cover. In truth, they’ve been part of the GOP for more than half a century — but never before have they held so much sway in the party, never before have they called the shots.

The second view about Romney’s decline also explains the “negative coat-tail” effect — why so many Republicans around the country in Senate and House races are ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
“These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney told his well-heeled audience in Boca Raton, suggesting that voters who don't pay income taxes comprise the same alleged 47 percent who will vote in lockstep for the president.

While Mitt Romney may well wish he had expressed himself more “elegantly” at the swanky Boca Raton fundraiser where he denounced half the voting population as shiftless, government-entitled moochers, he isn't backing away from those secretly recorded remarks — although what he said was entirely inaccurate, as well as obnoxious.

Watching him on video, the Republican nominee sounds not only vulgar and arrogant, but profoundly ignorant about the nation he hopes to govern. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” said the Republican nominee, who proceeded to describe those people.

“All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government ... Those people,” he went on, “believe that they are victims ... believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Let's stop right there: Whatever percentage of Americans plan to vote for the president, there is no plausible evidence that they all think of themselves as entitled to government benefits. Nor is there any evidence that all of Obama's supporters are in fact "dependent on government." And there is plenty of evidence that Romney supporters — Obama supporters and like many Americans who will not vote at all — receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, housing vouchers, veterans benefits and other forms of federal assistance.

The Republican-leaning moochers, as defined by Romney, can easily be found in the red states, which contribute far less in federal taxes than they receive in per capita benefits. Alabama, for instance, receives almost $4,000 per capita in federal spending on retirement and disability, while contributing just over $1,000 per capita in federal income taxes. Kentucky receives ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as “the fiscal cliff,” begin to dismantle and defund some of our most important government programs. Mitt Romney will not stop it. Barack Obama will not stop it.

We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

If you insist on participating in the cash-drenched charade of a two-party democratic election at least be clear about what you are doing. You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution—Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors—are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as ...

Published: Saturday 22 September 2012
Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“To know the man you must know his money. That means a new report listing his chief campaign contributors can also give us insight into Romney’s mind, and those of his powerful backers.”

In a 1994 science-fiction novel called Interface, a Presidential candidate has an electronic chip in his brain that links his mind to real-time polling data. His words, deeds, even his thoughts are immediately responsive to the public mood. Mitt Romney seems a lot like that - except that Romney's chip is connected to money.

That money's Romney's own, along with that of his contributors and his entire financial class. His economic arguments may be incomprehensible but his motives are easily understood. In the words of Snoop Dogg, "he's got his mind on his money and his money on his mind."

To know the man you must know his money. That means a new report listing his chief campaign contributors can also give us insight into Romney's mind, and those of his powerful backers.

Backers

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“Romney’s lack of transparency on his tax returns is especially troubling given that he is similarly evasive on the details of his tax policies.”

On Friday afternoon, the Romney campaign released the candidate’s 2011 tax return, which showed that he paid a tax rate of approximately 14 percent on more than $13 million of reported income. The campaign also disclosed that Romney voluntarily forfeited about $1.8 million in charitable deductions to inflate the tax rate he would have to disclose to the public. The campaign continues to refuse to release returns prior to 2010, flunking an accepted standard of transparency, first established by Mitt’s father George Romney, of releasing multiple years’ returns.

In a blog post, Romney’s lawyer and the trustee of his “blind trust” said, “After you have reviewed all of the newly-posted documents, you may have further questions.” Yes, we do. Lots.

Here are 10 unanswered questions about Romney’s taxes:

1. After the election, when the subject of your tax returns is outside of the public glare, will you file an amended tax return to claim your full deduction of charitable contributions? Was the tax rate you reported for other years similarly manipulated?

2. Why was your 2011 income $7 million lower than you estimated it to be in January? How does someone overestimate their income by $7 million?

3. Financial disclosures show that you have as much as $82 million ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“Romney just released his 2011 tax returns, showing he paid $1.9 million in taxes on more than $13 million of income last year — for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent.”

It’s not just his giant income or the low tax rates he pays on it. And it’s not just the videotape of him berating almost half of America, or his endless gaffes, or his regressive budget policies.

It’s something that unites all of this, and connects it to the biggest underlying problem America faces — the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the very top that’s undermining our economy and destroying our democracy.

Romney just released his 2011 tax returns, showing he paid $1.9 million in taxes on more than $13 million of income last year — for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. (He released his 2010 return in January, showing he paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent.)

America has had hugely wealthy presidents before — think of Teddy Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt; or John F. Kennedy, beneficiary of father Joe’s fortune.

READ FULL POST 38 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama’s chances for reelection become.”

 

For a long time — basically ever since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously stated that the Republican Party's #1 goal was to defeat President Obama — it has been plainly obvious that the Republican Party was committed to a strategy of economic sabotage to further their political ambitions.

The rationale is simple: The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama's chances for reelection become. Thus their sabotage strategy: Make sure the economy doesn't recover. Make sure the unemployment rate stays high. Oppose all attempts to create jobs. Kill jobs that have already been created. Turn the public against Obama. Win back the White House and Congress.

Like I said, this has been their transparent plan from the very beginning. Anyone who doesn't think this is the game plan is either disingenuous or blind. And in case you had any doubts, the Romney campaign just laid this strategy out in the most blatant way possible.

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.”

 

Can Romney possibly recover? A survey conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16 by the Pew Research Center — before the “47 percent victim” video came to light – showed Obama ahead of Romney 51% to 43% among likely voters.

That’s the biggest margin in the September survey prior to a presidential election since Bill Clinton led Bob Dole, 50% to 38% in 1996.

And, remember, this recent poll was done before America watched Romney belittle almost half the nation.

For the last several days I’ve been deluged with calls from my inside-the-beltway friends telling me “Romney’s dead.”

Hold it. Rumors of Romney’s demise are premature for at least four reasons:

1.  Between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – October 5 and November 2. If they’re as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it’s on the mend harder to defend.

With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

2. Also between now and Election Day are three presidential debates, starting October 3. It’s commonly thought Obama will win them handily but that expectation may be very wrong – and could work against him. Yes, Romney is an automaton — but when ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
Published: Wednesday 19 September 2012
“Paulson, a much followed hotshot hedge-fund manager, would announce that he was betting big on the recovery of the U.S. housing market.”

Friday, Governor Mitt Romney had breakfast with billionaires.

JOHN PAULSON, Paul Singer and Ken Langone have dropped more than a million dollars each into the Romney “Super-PAC” Restore Our Future. As Butch said to Sundance, “Who ARE these guys?”

Singer's known as "The Vulture" on Wall Street. Langone's database company came up with the list of innocent Black voters that Katherine Harris wiped off the voter rolls of Florida in 2000. But who is Paulson, a guy so dark and devious he doesn't even have a nick-name?

I tried to join them ("Sorry, sir") just to ask why Romney was chowing down with the nation's most notorious billionaires and ballot bandits.

Here is just a bit about Breakfast Billionaire #3: John Paulson from my new book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps—An investigation of Karl Rove, the Koch Gang and their Buck-Buddies. There's a comic book inside by Ted Rall with an introduction by Bobby Kennedy Jr. Get it here now.

It was just released today and already hit NUMBER ONE NON-FICTION PAPERBACK in the USA. (Barnes & Noble)

In August 2007, billionaire John Paulson walked into Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, with a billion-dollar idea. Paulson’s brainstorm had all the elements that Goldman found enchanting: a bit of fraud, a bit of flimflam, and lots and lots of the ultimate drug: OPM—Other Peoples’ Money.

Paulson’s scheme was simple. ...

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
If the backdrop to this question is not immediately clear, then you should be very angry at the reporters who cover the campaign.

 

That is a pretty simple and important question. Unfortunately most voters are likely to go to the polls this fall without knowing the answer.

If the backdrop to this question is not immediately clear, then you should be very angry at the reporters who cover the campaign. One of the items that continuously comes up in reference to the budget deficit is President Obama’s support for the plan put forward by the co-chairs of his deficit commission, Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson. On numerous occasions President Obama has indicated his support for this plan.

One of the items in the Bowles-Simpson plan is a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment of roughly 0.3 percentage points. This would be accomplished by using a different index that, by design, would show a lower measured rate of inflation. It is important to recognize that this is an annual cut that would accumulate over time. After a retiree has been receiving benefits for 10 years the cut would be 3.0 percent, after 20 years it would be 6 percent. If a typical retiree lives long enough to get benefits for 20 years the average benefit cut over their years of retirement would be 3 percent.

This is the most immediate cut to Social Security in the Bowles-Simpson plan but not the only one. The plan also would gradually raise the ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“The President has guaranteed that each woman can act according to her religious principles. He has made a strong defense of freedom of religion.”

 

Do you believe in freedom of religion? President Obama does, and he is defending Americans’ freedom of religion against Mitt Romney and Fox News in the administration of his health care bill.

The president allows each woman to decide for herself whether or not to ask her insurance company to cover contraception. If this violates a woman’s religious principles, she would never ask. A woman would make such a request only if contraception fit her principles. In short, the President has guaranteed that each woman can act according to her religious principles. He has made a strong defense of freedom of religion.

In difficult cases, he has extended freedom of religion even further, beyond people to churches and houses of worship. Insurance companies are required to cover contraception with no co-pays for the women whose health care they are covering. This guarantees freedom of religion for the women covered, and does not affect insurance companies, which are neither people nor religious institutions.

What about hospitals, charities with a religious affiliation, and religious employers who have a moral objection to contraception? Women getting health care paid through these institutions will be able to obtain contraception from the insurance companies, not the religious institutions. Thus the president has found a way to extend freedom of religion not only to all women, but even beyond people to churches and religious employers.

This makes President Obama a remarkable champion of freedom of religion in contemporary American history.

Moreover, President Obama is very much in touch with the values of Americans. A recent Gallup Poll has shown that, in the US, 82 per cent of Catholics think that birth control is “morally acceptable.” 90 per cent of non-Catholics believe the same. Overall, 89 per cent of Americans agree on this. In the May ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they’re relying largely on one slice of America — middle-aged white men — and alienating just about everyone else.”

 

Unemployment is still above 8 percent, job gains aren’t even keeping up with population growth, the economy is barely moving forward. And yet, according to most polls, the Romney-Ryan ticket is falling further and further behind. How can this be?

Because Republicans are failing the central test of electability. Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they’re relying largely on one slice of America — middle-aged white men — and alienating just about everyone else.

Start with Hispanics, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they become an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney-Ryan by a larger margin than they did six months ago.

Why? In last February’s Republican primary debate Romney dubbed Arizona’s controversial immigration policy – that authorized police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone looking Hispanic — a “model law” for the rest of the nation. 

Romney then attacked GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And Romney advocates what he calls “self-deportation” – making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.

As if all this weren’t enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won’t come to the polls. But they may be having the opposite effect – emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.

Or consider women – whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow (women ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“Studies have shown as many one million eligible voters in the state do not have an acceptable identification under the new law, which requires all voters to show a state driver’s license, government employee ID or a non-driver ID card issued by the state.”

With less than two months to go before the November election, we look a new voter ID law in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Studies have shown as many one million eligible voters in the state do not have an acceptable identification under the new law, which requires all voters to show a state driver’s license, government employee ID or a non-driver ID card issued by the state. In Philadelphia, it has been estimated that 18 percent of voters lack the proper ID. At least one Republican politician, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, has already boasted that the new voter ID law will help Mitt Romney win the state. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to allow the controversial law to go into effect, or to approve a preliminary injunction. For more, we speak with two guests: Vic Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and one of the co-counsels who argued the case; and Jessie Allen, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“The real-estate industry portrays any cross-eyed look at the loophole as a frontal assault on the American Dream.”

 

Letting homeowners deduct interest paid on their mortgages from taxable income makes no sense. It encourages taking on more debt, discriminates against renters, subsidizes one kind of spending over others and favors the upper incomes. It advances the questionable public goal of making more Americans into homeowners. And it costs the Treasury about $100 billion a year.

Although the mortgage-interest deduction is bad policy on numerous fronts, neither party seems keen to take it on. The real-estate industry portrays any cross-eyed look at the loophole as a frontal assault on the American Dream.

To their credit, Republicans baby-stepped in the right direction by trying to drop their usual support for the mortgage-interest deduction from their party platform. Candidate Mitt Romney has called for revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower federal income-tax rates while getting rid of loopholes — what is called "broadening the tax base." (He refuses to be specific on which ones he'd close.) By leaving out mention of the mortgage deduction, the platform would push the message along.

No sooner was that thought on paper than the real-estate industry went to work on the Republican Party. In its place was put a pledge to protect the mortgage deduction if tax reform doesn't happen. Still, progress.

Why offer a tax break for buying one product and few others? If you take out an auto loan, the interest you pay cannot be deducted from taxable income. If you buy a sofa on the installment plan, same no-deal. If you charge airline tickets on your credit card, again, the interest on your unpaid balance is not deductible.

The social-policy argument for the mortgage deduction is that it helps Americans buy homes, and that homeownership stabilizes communities. The first part is debatable. Canada does not allow for a mortgage-interest deduction, and ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Perhaps he doesn't have any tax loopholes in mind. Or perhaps he does. What Romney truly believes is anybody’s guess.

 

What Mitt Romney truly believes is anybody's guess. Whether Romney as president would act on those beliefs is also a guess. And we can't rule out the possibility that he doesn't have any beliefs outside of religion and investment strategies. Why he's running for president remains unclear, though commander in chief looks impressive on a nametag.

Asked over the weekend whether by killing Obamacare he would let insurers again deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, Romney replied that there were parts of the health care reforms he likes, that being one of them. Coverage for pre-existing conditions would stay. Later in the day, his people said, actually, he would not support a federal ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Still later, his campaign harkened to an earlier position in which he'd require coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only for those who already had insurance.

We get it. He likes the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act that cost money but not the unpopular parts that would pay for the popular parts. We speak of the individual mandate and a variety of fees.

Hey, anyone who likes having to pay for things, raise your hand. Anyone? Next, you who don't like writing checks but agree that we should pay for what we buy, raise your hand. ...

Published: Wednesday 12 September 2012
“In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.”

 

In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won't use her name–who'd been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn't do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago's new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

 

In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers' union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field - for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

 

You've guessed it by now:  It's the same teacher.

 

It's Back to School Time!  Time for the ...

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Private equity firms often claim that they develop companies, helping them to grow more quickly and professionally.

 

It was one of the “quickest big hits in Wall Street history,” as the Wall Street Journal put it at the time.

In 1996, an investment group including Bain Capital, the firm then run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, sold the consumer credit information business Experian to a British retailer, making a $500 million profit. Bain and the other investors who reaped that windfall had closed the acquisition a mere seven weeks earlier, stunning the investing world.

Another party was stunned by the deal, but for a different reason. James McCall Springer believed that he had brought the idea to buy Experian to Bain in the first place.

Springer sued to get what he contended was his rightful finder's fee, eventually settling. And he wasn't the only one. At least three other parties had similar legal disputes with Bain during the early 1990s, when Romney led the company, raising questions of how rough-and-tumble the company could be. The suits also shed light on how Bain actually operated, complicating one of the main narratives Bain, the Romney campaign, and many commentators have used to describe the private equity firm.

The Romney campaign declined to ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“Romney’s campaign, however, began walking back his statements as soon as they left his mouth.”

 

This weekend on Meet the Press, Romney said “there are a number of things I like” about President Obama’s health care reform law, including the popular provision on pre-exisiting conditions. Romney’s campaign, however, began walking back his statements as soon as they left his mouth.

After the NBC interview aired, a Romney aide was quick to clarify Romney was “not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer [the] particular features” that he suggested he supported. When further pressed on Romney’s stated support for preventing discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions, a campaign aide explained, “Governor Romney will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited.”

The aide pointed to earlier statements from Romney on the subject, explaining that Romney’s current position is exactly what he expressed at a Florida rally this summer:

ROMNEY: So let’s say someone has been continuously insured and they develop a serious condition. And let’s say they lose their jobs or they change jobs or they move and go to a different ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton's capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him.”

 

Bill killed.

Nominating Barack Obama for a second term, the former president brought to bear the full weight of his political experience and forensic skill Wednesday night, on behalf of a man who was once his adversary. Rewritten up until the final hour before he took the podium, this was among his finest campaign speeches, even surpassing the address he delivered at the last Democratic convention in 2008. Clinton presented an exhaustive argument for Obama (and against the Republicans) with four key elements:

A lesson in presidential economics delivered in professorial style, acknowledging complexity while at the same time presenting issues in an understandable and even simple style. There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton's capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him. He possesses a singular authority to discuss employment, spending and debt, having proved his GOP opponents wrong so decisively in the past that they now attempt to cite him as a model.

Calling him out that way — as both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done in recent weeks — was a woeful mistake. He repaid the cynical compliment by "scoring" them and their party on budgetary arithmetic and job creation, an exercise from which they did not emerge unscathed.

Republicans have ruled the country for more presidential terms than Democrats over the past 53 years, noted Clinton, but they have overseen the creation of only 24 million jobs, compared with 42 million credited to Democrats. He extended that theme into the present campaign, praising Obama for 250,000 new jobs in the restored auto industry and castigating Romney for his advice to bankrupt the industry, which would have created "zero" jobs (and probably caused the loss of millions). And the "country boy from Arkansas" did the sums that show why the ...

Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
“Democracy and free enterprise appear to be mutually reinforcing – it is hard to think of any flourishing democracy that is not a market economy.”

A real debate is emerging in America’s presidential election campaign. It is superficially about health care and taxes. More fundamentally, it is about democracy and free enterprise.

Democracy and free enterprise appear to be mutually reinforcing – it is hard to think of any flourishing democracy that is not a market economy. Moreover, while a number of nominally socialist economies have embraced free enterprise (or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as the Chinese Communist Party would say), it seems to be only a matter of time before they are forced to become more democratic.

Yet it is not clear a priori why democracy and free enterprise should be mutually supportive. After all, democracy implies regarding individuals as equal and treating them as such, with every adult getting an equal vote, whereas free enterprise empowers individuals based on how much economic value they create and how much property they own.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more fromRaghuram Rajan, click here.

 

What prevents the median voter in a democracy from voting to dispossess the rich and successful? And why do the latter not erode the political power of the former? Echoes of such a tension are playing out as President Barack Obama tries to tap into middle-class anger, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appeals to disgruntled businesspeople.

 

One reason that the median voter rationally agrees to protect the property of the rich may be that she sees the rich as more efficient managers of that property. So, to the extent ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted Fluke on his program, calling her a “slut” and saying she should be required to post sex videos online.

Sandra Fluke became famous after Republicans barred her from testifying at a congressional hearing in favor of insurance coverage for contraception. Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted Fluke on his program, calling her a "slut" and saying she should be required to post sex videos online. The episode prompted President Obama to personally call Fluke to offer words of encouragement. Six months later, Fluke took center stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention with a prime-time address. Fluke joins us to discuss the fight for reproductive rights, her support for Obama’s re-election, and her future plans as a women’s health activist.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," Democracy Now!'s special daily two hours of coverage from the Democratic and Republican National Convention, inside and out. I'm Amy Goodman.

Speakers on the second night of the Democratic National Convention Wednesday included Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Bill Clinton, who gave the keynote. But the speaker who took center stage at the top of the 10:00 prime-time hour ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.”

President Barack Obama urged delegates at the Democratic National Convention to beware “the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election” in his acceptance speech Thursday night.

“If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election,” Obama said to a roaring crowd in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

The impassioned speech came the same week that the main pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, said it raised $10 million in August, a record for the group, and enlisted the aid of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s campaign co-chairman, to help it raise money.

Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.

The party is being seriously out raised by Republican super PACs and nonprofits, and its position is in stark contrast to Republicans, whose party platform opposes efforts to undo the high court’s decision.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling overturned an existing ban on corporate- and union-funded advertisements that advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates.

It further said that independent political ads — even those funded with unlimited corporate cash — do not pose a threat of corruption. That’s a point that campaign finance reformers have disputed.

In other speeches, Democratic officials, including ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.”

 

The Democratic party platform released this week suggests that national security officials in a second Obama administration will attempt to leave outdated military projects behind, to bolster the country’s international leadership, and to control nuclear weapons materials — policies that match some but not all of the preferences expressed by members of both political parties in a May survey organized by the Center for Public Integrity.

The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.

The 2012 platform is even more general than the Democrats’ 2008 version, which contained highly specific pledges of new aid to Afghanistan ($1 billion) and Israel ($30 billion) and called for increasing “the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops.” Instead of looking forward, the focus of this year’s document is on what the Obama administration has already accomplished. 

But it still provides a starting point to consider how Obama and his team might handle national security issues if he wins a second term. (Our look at the GOP’s platform was published Aug. 30.) While the platform does not specifically call for defense cuts, it mirrors the strategic plan laid out by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who in January called for moving away from heavy land forces and restructuring how the military spends its ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies.”

 

Bill Clinton’s speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention was very long but it was masterful — not only in laying out the case for Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, but in giving the American public what they most want and need in this election season: details, facts, and logic. 

Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies. 

Therein lies the importance of what Bill Clinton accomplished tonight. But, just as importantly, it wasn’t a wonky talk. He packaged the facts in a way people could hear. This is the highest calling of a public educator.

The question is not how many undecided voters saw the speech (I doubt many did) but whether it galvanizes Democrats — giving them the clarity of conviction and argument they need over the next nine weeks to explain why Obama must be re-elected, and why a Romney-Ryan administration would be a disaster for this country. 

I believe Clinton’s speech accomplished this perfectly. We shall see.

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“Politicians, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, serve the demented ends of corporations that will, until the final flicker of life, attempt to profit from our death spiral.”

I retreat in the summer to the mountains and coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to sever myself from the intrusion of the industrial world. It is in the woods and along the rugged Atlantic coastline, the surf thundering into the jagged rocks, that I am reminded of our insignificance before the universe and the brevity of human life. The stars, thousands visible in the night canopy above me, mock human pretensions of grandeur. They whisper the biblical reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Love now, they tell us urgently, protect what is sacred, while there is still time. But now I go there also to mourn. I mourn for our future, for the fading majesty of the natural world, for the folly of the human species. The planet is dying. And we will die with it.

The giddy, money-drenched, choreographed carnival in Tampa and the one coming up in Charlotte divert us from the real world—the one steadily collapsing around us. The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
“Groups in the network of David Koch, and his brother Charles, intend to spend nearly $400 million ahead of the 2012 election.”

When Mitt Romney walked down the aisle toward the stage Thursday night, among the people whose hands he shook was the conservative billionaire and major political donor David Koch. But it was a moment missed by the tens of millions of viewers at home. While Democracy Now! was there on the floor and captured the handshake on video, the networks cut away just before the handshake to show footage of two enthusiastic young women supporters and then an overhead shot of the convention center. Then, the shot came back to Romney shaking hands further down the aisle as he ascended the stage. Groups in the network of David Koch, and his brother Charles, intend to spend nearly $400 million ahead of the 2012 election.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to that moment when Mitt Romney made his entrance on Thursday night. He walked down the aisle of the Republican convention, and as he was passing the New York delegation, he shook the hand of the state Republican Party chair, Ed Cox, and then he shook hands with David Koch, actually put his hand on his shoulder, pointed at him, and then shook his hand. While Democracy Now! was there on the floor, we captured the handshake on video. The ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
Published: Friday 31 August 2012
“A woman identified as Adelson’s daughter grabbed our video camera, tried to take it into a private suite and then threw the camera to the ground.”

When Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke attempted to interview billionaire casino magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson inside the Republican National Convention, a woman identified as Adelson’s daughter grabbed our video camera, tried to take it into a private suite and then threw the camera to the ground. While Adelson’s daughter first accused Burke of hitting her, she later came out of the suite to apologize. The incident was caught on tape, shortly after Burke questioned another billionaire GOP donor, David Koch, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Burke files a report and joins us to describe what happened.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re broadcasting from PBSstation WEDU here in Tampa, Florida, as we cover ...

Published: Friday 31 August 2012
Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“Romney has made it clear that he intends to expand defense spending if elected in November, having already called for spending a minimum of four percent of the GDP on national defense.”

In May, the Center for Public Integrity and the Stimson Center unveiled the results of a major poll on defense spending. Our poll found wide consensus among the public and across party lines that the defense budget could use some trimming — around three-quarters of those polled thought there should be cuts for air power, ground forces, and naval forces, and over eighty percent said there is “a lot of waste” in the defense budget. In fact, respondents preferred far deeper cuts than those suggested by either the Obama administration or the Republicans.

During the conventions, we decided to take a look at what the party platforms say, and how that measures up to public opinion. First up: the GOP and presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney has made it clear that he intends to expand defense spending if elected in November, having already called for spending a minimum of four percent of the GDP on national defense.

But Tuesday afternoon, as Romney was being officially nominated at the Republican National Convention, his party unveiled the official GOP platform for 2012. Included in the party ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“In their case, the company laying them off and sending their jobs overseas is Bain Capital, co-founded by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.”

 

Four hardy souls from rural Illinois joined tens of thousands of people undeterred by threats of Hurricane Isaac during this week’s Republican National Convention. They weren’t among the almost 2,400 delegates to the convention, though, nor were they from the press corps, said to number 15,000. They weren’t part of the massive police force assembled here, more than 3,000 strong, all paid for with $50 million of U.S. taxpayer money. These four were about to join a much larger group: the more than 2.4 million people in the past decade whose U.S. jobs have been shipped to China. In their case, the company laying them off and sending their jobs overseas is Bain Capital, co-founded by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

We met the group at Romneyville, a tent city on the outskirts of downtown Tampa, established by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign in the spirit of the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. A couple hundred people gathered before the makeshift stage to hear speakers and musicians, under intermittent downpours and the noise of three police helicopters drowning out the voices of the anti-poverty activists. Scores of police on bicycles occupied the surrounding streets.

Cheryl Randecker was one of those four we met at Romneyville whose Bain jobs are among the 170 slated to be off-shored. They build transmission sensors for many cars and trucks made in the United States.  Cheryl was sent to China to train workers there, not knowing that the company was about to be sold and the jobs she was training people for included her own.  I asked her how it ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“While nobody has asked to see the Republican candidate’s birth certificate, as he said at a Michigan rally on Friday, everybody has a renewed interest in examining the tax returns he continues to withhold.”

 

On the same day that Mitt Romney cracked his birther “joke,” new evidence indicated that he and his partners at Bain Capital have used questionable methods to avoid federal taxes — including a scheme that transforms corporate stock into untaxed offshore “derivatives” and a practice that converts management fees into capital gains, which are taxed at a far lower rate.

While nobody has asked to see the Republican candidate's birth certificate, as he said at a Michigan rally on Friday, everybody has a renewed interest in examining the tax returns he continues to withhold.

The complex and tricky tax shelters used by Bain Capital continued to emerge as lawyers and other experts examined the hundreds of pages of previously confidential company documents uncovered by the Gawker website in an exclusive series this week. The authenticity of the documents was confirmed by a Bain spokesperson, who said that the company deplores the public posting of its proprietary materials.

In a sense, the latest revelations about how Bain protected its vast income from taxation are scarcely surprising to anyone familiar with the world of private equity where Romney made his fortune, estimated at $250 million or more. Avoiding taxes is among the most important attractions of that industry for the wealthy clients it aims ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
Don’t count on; the GOP to do it, but it’s time to hold accounting firms - you should forgive the choice of words -accountable.

The presence of scandal-ridden accounting firms on Mitt Romney's fundraising list got me to thinking: What do they expect to get for their money? And why does the accounting profession seem to be so riddled with corruption? And it reminded me of something that happened years ago.

I thought I'd seen it all. As a teenager in pre-punk rock and roll bands I'd been hustled by junkies and serenaded by drag queens from coast to coast. As a political activist I'd been beaten up by goons. As the housemate of a witness to the Patty Hearst kidnapping I'd been wiretapped.

But nothing had prepared me for the world of accountants gone wrong.

Bad Accountant

I was a financial analyst in my early thirties when I was suddenly confronted with a demand from a CEO known as "the meanest boss in America." His corporation's accounting firm, ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“Among other favors, Griffin is the top cheerleader in the House for the XL Pipeline--whose approval is vital to the billionaire Kochs making more billions.”

"Tim Griffin should be in jail." That's the conclusion of civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after going through the evidence I asked him to review.

 

But Griffin's not in jail: he's in Congress. And Tuesday, he'll be the first Congressman the Republicans have chosen to bring to their convention podium.

Predictably, I haven't seen one US press report noting that in 2007, Griffin resigned from the Justice Department in disgrace, ahead of what could have been (should have been), his indictment.

 

Kennedy thought a couple of other characters should join Griffin in the lock-up: first, Griffin's boss, the man whom George W. Bush gave the nickname, "Turd blossom": Karl Rove.

 

And there's yet another odiferous blossom, Griffin's assistant at the time of the crime: Matt Rhoades. Rhoades isn't in jail either. He's the campaign director of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

 

This story is based on the investigations in Palast's new book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps - with a forward by Kennedy and comics by Ted Rall.

 

Kennedy had gone over the highly confidential emails we'd gotten from inside Republican National Committee headquarters i Washington. (How we got our hands on private emails from the top dogs in the Republican campaign, well, that's another story. I can say, they were sent directly from the computer of Tim Griffin. Rove, a computer expert, is careful not to have his own).

“What they did was absolutely illegal—and they ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“One hundred and seventy workers at a Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, Illinois -- of which Bain is the majority owner -- are calling on Romney to help save their jobs from being shipped to China.”

After repeatedly touting his business experience as an asset towards reviving the U.S. economy, Mitt Romney has been put on the defensive by Bain Capital workers who are fighting back against the outsourcing of their jobs. One hundred and seventy workers at a Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, Illinois -- of which Bain is the majority owner -- are calling on Romney to help save their jobs from being shipped to China. The factory manufactures sensors and controls that are used in aircraft and automobiles, but has been dismantling and shipping the plant to China piece-by-piece -- even as it requires the workers to train personally their Chinese replacements, who have been flown in by management. We're joined by two workers from the Sensata plant in Freeport, Illinois: Tom Gaulrapp and Cheryl Randecker. Both worked at Sensata for 33 years and were told their jobs would be terminated by the year's end.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," as we cover the Republican National Convention here in Tampa, inside and out, as we will do in Charlotte next week, as well, covering the Democrats.

Well, as the Republican National ...

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
Romney has repeatedly said he would veto the DREAM Act, which once had prominent GOP supporters.

 

Undocumented youths 15 to 30 years old certainly can’t vote. But they are a large group — estimated at 800,000 to 1.7 million — that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t think he can write off completely.

Why? Conventional wisdom has it that Romney, to win, needs to peel off Latino votes from President Obama in key swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Some Latino voters were once undocumented themselves, or know someone who was or is. They also tend to support the decade-old federal DREAM Act proposal — or something like it that would give youths a chance to earn full legal immigrant status, which isn’t possible within the current immigration system.Over the weekend, former GOP Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned his party that it had to get with the nation’s changing demographics and heed the Latino vote — or get left behind. 

As Romney’s campaign prepares for the sprint to the finish, the GOP standard-bearer might consider the 2010 California gubernatorial campaign of Meg Whitman, a Romney supporter. In a blitz of Spanish-language TV and radio ads, Whitman simultaneously tried to woo Latino moms and dads by praising Latino schoolchildren as “the ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.”

The sixteenth anniversary of TANF hit this week, and the Republican presidential candidate spent his time lying about the president’s position on it. President Obama, Mitt Romney insists, stripped the work requirements out of the temporary assistance program that replaced welfare for poor families under Bill Clinton in 1996.

Although every fact-check has shown he’s wrong, Romney and the Romney-phile propaganda groups keep pounding away at their message with ads like this one:

Unidentified male: “Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”

The president’s responded in typically Obaman fashion. Without wading into the welfare fray, he’s wagged his finger at Romney’s facts: “You just can’t make stuff up….” On the campaign trail this week, the Democrat beat the drum for “more popular” government programs, like those for seniors and students. He's closing all his rallies with Bruce Springsteen’s rousing paean to solidarity, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Good as it is, a bit of the Boss won’t clear things up. As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.

NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke to Peggy Testa and her husband at a Paul Ryan rally outside Pittsburgh:

PEGGY TESTA: You know, we think that the fact that the work requirement has been taken out of welfare is the wrong thing to do.

SHAPIRO: I told her that’s not actually what happened.

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
“Bain took control of Sensata in 2006; last year, it took over the Freeport plant and announced that it would layoff 165 workers and close it.”

 

Workers at Sensata Technologies, a business based in Freeport, Illinois, have been protesting Mitt Romney’s campaign stops across the country all summer because the company, which is owned by Bain Capital, is laying off workers in order to hire employees in China. Bain took control of Sensata in 2006; last year, it took over the Freeport plant and announced that it would layoff 165 workers and close it.

Some of the workers, according to Sensata employees, have been forced to train their Chinese replacements, adding insult to the injury that was their looming job loss.

Bain’s role in the layoffs hasn’t been a secret. But given that it took control of Sensata and the plant well after Romney’s departure from the firm, the candidate has thus far steered clear of the controversy, only drawing protests from the workers who want him to step in and stop the plant’s closure. But according to documents detailing Romney’s finances obtained and published yesterday by Gawker, his connection to Sensata is much more direct.

Romney held a direct investment in Sensata through one fund titled “Bain Capital Fund IX, L.P.,” dated December 31, 2009, meaning he has likely financially benefited from Bain’s ownership of the company in the past, and could benefit from the plant’s closure and the outsourcing of the jobs to China. According to his 2011 personal financial disclosure, Romney still holds the Bain Capital fund that ...

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
“It’s an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse.”

 

What do Marie Antoinette and one Bill Koch have in common? If you'd asked me that a few days ago, I'd have answered "Not much." That is, until yesterday, when I about Bill Koch's private Western town.

There's a new town in Colorado. It has about 50 buildings, including a saloon, a church, a jail, a firehouse, a livery and a train station. Soon, it will have a mansion on a hill so the town's founder can look down on his creation.

But don't expect to move here — or even to visit.

This town is billionaire Bill Koch's fascination with the Old West rendered in bricks and mortar. It sits on a 420-acre meadow on his Bear Ranch below the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County.It's an unpopulated, faux ...

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, however, has tallied Ryan’s budgetary giveaways to the rich and take-backs from the middle-class and the poor.”

Let's talk budget! Yes, the wonky wonderland of the federal budget, with page after page of numbers — what fun, eh?

No. Most people would prefer a root canal to a budget discussion (indeed, I've heard that some dentists use a recording of budget numbers to anesthetize their root-canal patients — everything from the neck up quickly goes numb). But Paul Ryan is different.

The GOP's vice presidential nominee is touted as Mr. Budget, a guy who gets excited by running his fingers through fiscal things. That's why the Washington cognoscenti have declared him to be "serious," rather than just another political opportunist riding the right-wing wave of tea party ridiculousness.

Being branded as "serious" means never having to admit you're a flim-flam man. Thus, the widely ballyhooed Ryan Budget is called "honest" and "responsible" by insiders who obviously haven't run the numbers on it.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, however, has tallied Ryan's budgetary giveaways to the rich and take-backs from the middle-class and the poor. Far from balancing the federal budget, as the self-proclaimed deficit hawk claims, the analysts found that Ryan's plan increases the federal deficit. And not by a little, but by about $2.5 trillion! So, yes, he is serious — serious as a snakebite.

Then there was Ryan's explosive admission recently that the budget plan of his presidential partner, Mitt Romney, is also a con game. Despite Romney's repeated assertion that — by golly — his nifty plan will balance the federal budget in only eight years, Ryan confessed that they don't really know that, because "we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan."

Say what? What? Hello — a budget is nothing but numbers — numbers that have, ...

Published: Friday 17 August 2012
“Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that the ticket would guarantee no changes in Social Security.”

 

It's unclear what effect presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's decision to add Rep. Paul Ryan to his ticket will have on his candidacy, if any. But the choice certainly has had a salutary effect on the Obama re-election campaign.

Naturally, it sparked a full-throated debate on the infamous Ryan and House Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher, and force the most vulnerable -- the elderly, the disabled, and seriously ill -- to pay thousands more for health care out of pocket. (The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put the estimate at about $6,500 per person.) Democrats generally can only be delighted as Romney and Ryan and House members struggle to explain why they have to destroy Medicare to save it. ("It's a great reform, but don't worry; it only applies to folks under 55 who might not be watching.")

Equally important, the debate has led the president and vice president to become vocal defenders of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- the centerpieces of the social compact we make with one another, and the glittering crown jewels of the Great Society and the New Deal.

First, the president made it clear that his Medicare reforms – unlike those passed by the Republican House and advocated by Romney/Ryan – don't cut guaranteed benefits. Instead they take on the entrenched hospital, insurance company and doctors lobbies to exact savings. This focus – initiated in Obamacare -- is vital if we are to fix our broken health care system which now threatens to bankrupt everyone – families, companies and government ...

Published: Thursday 16 August 2012
“Over the years, Ryan has not only pushed for privatizing Social Security, but also dismantling Medicare and slashing funding for Medicaid.”

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s newly picked running mate, Paul Ryan, is on the forefront of efforts to dismantle Social Security by putting seniors’ savings into risky Wall Street investments. Over the years, Ryan has not only pushed for privatizing Social Security, but also dismantling Medicare and slashing funding for Medicaid. In the Republican response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, Ryan defended cutbacks on social spending. "We’re in a moment where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century," Ryan said. "This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency." For more, we speak with two experts on Social Security: independent journalist Eric Laursen, author of the book "The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan," and Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and outreach at the progressive policy group Demos and co-author of a chapter on retirement insecurity in the book "Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and its Poisonous Consequences."

Transcript:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Social Security, which celebrated its 77th anniversary on Tuesday. President ...

Published: Thursday 16 August 2012
Grover Norquist opposes Romney's plan to increase the military budget.

 

Grover Norquist, an influential Republican lobbyist in Washington, is advising his party's lawmakers to cut the defense budget deeply, to avoid a major federal tax hike. 

His remarks on Monday were another sign of splintering views in Republican ranks about spending on national defense that presently consumes about half of the discretionary federal budget — with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney going in one direction and some Republican lawmakers and lobbyists headed in a different direction. 

Norquist, a long-time anti-tax crusader in Washington, said in a talk at the Center for The National Interest that Republicans should not be pushing for increased spending on defense when the national deficit has ballooned. Instead, he said, lawmakers should embrace the need to balance the budget and cut wasteful projects, which he said could be done without negatively impacting national security.

“You need to decide what your real defense needs are,” said Norquist. “That doesn’t mean chairmen of certain committees get to build bases in their states. That’s not a defense need ... [but] a political desire.” The debate so far, he said, has been marked by a ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As Bill Clinton is resurrected by the Democrats, George W. Bush is being erased by the GOP — as if an entire eight years of American history hadn’t happened.

While Bill Clinton stumps for Obama, Romney has gone out of his way not to mention the name of the president who came after Clinton and before Obama.

Clinton will have a starring role at the Democratic National Convention. George W. Bush won’t even be at the Republican one – the first time a national party has not given the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for reelection.

The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice. As whoever-it-was once said, “fool me once …” (and then mangled the rest).

Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history; handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefiting the vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out the Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.

Besides, the resemblances between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are too close for comfort. Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to ...

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Some investors had extensive ties to the death squads responsible for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of deaths in El Salvador during the 1980s.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is facing new scrutiny over revelations he founded the private equity firm Bain Capital with investments from Central American elites linked to death squads in El Salvador. After initially struggling to find investors, Romney traveled to Miami in 1983 to win pledges of $9 million, 40 percent of Bain's start-up money. Some investors had extensive ties to the death squads responsible for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of deaths in El Salvador during the 1980s. We're joined by Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim, who connects the dots in his latest story, "Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads." "There's no possible way that anybody in 1984 could check out these families -- which was the term that [Romney's campaign] used -- and come away convinced that this money was clean," Grim says.

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
It's not just Romney. Both Obama and Romney are deeply in hock to Corporate America.

 

The Obama re-election campaign and the Democratic Party and their backers, like the organization MoveOn, are bitterly decrying the flood of corporate money going to his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is out-fund-raising the president by an ever-increasing amount.

But there is a hollow sound to the president’s whining. Back in 2008, Obama, who had earlier said he opposed corporate funding and had promised to run his campaign using public funds only, in an agreement with his then opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, broke that agreement and went on to accept what still remains at this point a record sum of corporate money.

By the time the 2008 election was held, Obama’s campaign had collected and spent a staggering $745 million. McCain, who had been a leader in the effort to limit corporate campaign spending, stuck with government funding and thus spent “only” $126 million on his losing general election campaign -- the amount that Obama would have also been limited to had he not “opted out” of his earlier promise to use only government funds to run for the nation’s top office.

 

About 80% of Obama’s campaign cash came from large donors -- either individuals or, in most cases, corporations. His second biggest donor, giving ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
“The missing evidence is in Romney's grasp, yet he insists that he will never produce it.”

Harry Reid has provoked outrage among liberals as well as conservatives, who seem to believe he has violated propriety by repeating gossip about Mitt Romney's taxes. The Senate leader says someone connected with Romney told him that the Republican candidate paid no income taxes for a period of 10 years. Offended by Reid's audacity, commentators on the right have indicted him for "McCarthyism," while others on the left have accused him of inventing the whole story.

Evidently the chief complaint against Reid — aside from aggressiveness unbecoming a Democrat — is that he cited "an extremely credible source" who he has so far declined to name. Some journalists have gone so far as to suggest that Reid must be lying because he won't identify the source.

Despite all this righteous tut-tutting among the great and the good, in newspapers and magazines as well as on television, Reid's critics simply have no way ...

Published: Wednesday 8 August 2012
Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“Forget that the government is increasingly trampling on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, with a burgeoning surveillance program and a growing militarization of the police.”

We Americans are taught it in school. The propaganda put out by Voice of America repeats the idea ad nauseum around the globe. Politicians refer to it in every campaign speech with the same fervor that they claim to be running for office in response to God’s call: America is a model of democracy for the whole world.

But what kind of democracy is it really that we have here?

Forget that only half of eligible voters typically vote in quadrennial presidential elections (less than 30% in so-called “off-year” elections for members of the House and a third of the Senate, and less than 25% in municipal and state elections). Forget that the government is increasingly trampling on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, with a burgeoning surveillance program and a growing militarization of the police.

The US government doesn’t even do what the majority of the citizens want. In fact, these days it flat out ignores what we the people want.

Consider the polls, and what they show public sentiment to be on key issues, and then look at what the government, composed of supposedly elected representatives and an elected president, actually does:

1. Military spending

Most polls show that Americans, tired of the endless wars that have been raging almost without pause since the end of World War II, and the huge amount of taxes devoted to the military (currently over $1 trillion per year!), favor cutting the military. Just recently, the Center for Public Integrity conducted a poll and found that when asked whether they wanted to cut funding for education, veterans’ benefits, homeland security and other areas, or military spending, 65% of people said they wanted military spending to get the axe. Overall, people favored an 18% cut in the military budget. Democrats wanted a 22% cut, while even Republicans, usually perceived as pro-military, ...

Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“Nearly every Republican in the Senate, nearly every Republican in the House and the Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney, all support tax plans which would cut taxes for the 2% of households that earn more than $250,000, but also raise taxes on millions of Americans among the poor and middle class.”

It is often stated as fact that Democrats always want to raise taxes and Republicans always want to lower taxes.

We now know this to be false.

Nearly every Republican in the Senate, nearly every Republican in the House and the Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney, all support tax plans which would cut taxes for the 2% of households that earn more than $250,000, but also raise taxes on millions of Americans among the poor and middle class.

Meanwhile, Democrats recently passed tax cuts designed for the poor and middle class only, in President's Obama recession-stopping Recovery Act.

And Congress could have easily extended both the Bush and Obama tax cuts for those in the 98% ... if the House Republicans didn't just reject the Senate Democratic bill.

Republicans have been alluding to their belief that rich people pay too much and poor people pay too little for some time, without being blunt enough to get into trouble. "47% of Americans don't pay income taxes" they cry, "broaden the base."

Instead of ...

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
Published: Friday 3 August 2012
According to Romney the “plan will turn things around and bring the economy roaring back, with twelve millions new jobs created by the end of [his] first term.”

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced today that 163,000 jobs were created in the U.S. last month, but that the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 8.3 percent. Mitt Romney, of course, seized on the latter data point, calling it “a hammer blow to middle-class families.” “Yesterday, I launched my Plan for a Stronger Middle-Class that will bring more jobs and more take home pay. My plan will turn things around and bring the economy roaring back, with twelve millions new jobs created by the end of my first term,” Romney said.

Romney claim that his plan will create 12 million jobs is one that his economic advisers have been echoing. However, a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis found that Romney plan would actually kill 360,000 jobs next year alone:

In a white paper outlining his economic platform, Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, he offers a 59-point plan to create jobs and lower unemployment. Unfortunately, no amount of economic theory, real world evidence, basic arithmetic, or just plain logic could substantiate the belief that his 59-point jobs plan could create even 59 net new jobs in the U.S. economy…In total, by a conservative tally, Gov. Romney’s 59-point plan would actually cost the economy about 360,000 jobs in 2013 alone.

Several of Romney’s proposals entail no change in policy, so its unclear how they would create jobs. Several others — including tax incentives for outsourcing — would ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
Evidence mounts that alternatives to harsh discipline are better at improving behavior.

 

From President Obama to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, politicians are habitually warning us that high dropout rates among some students are a civil rights issue, and a drag on U.S. global competitiveness.

On the East Coast, let’s see if the Maryland Board of Education’s recent decision to force reductions in school suspensions actually helps boost graduation rates in that state’s more troubled schools. A major board report on discipline policies notes that 54 percent of Maryland’s out-of-schoolsuspensions are for non-violent infractions.

On the West Coast, keep an eye on California, which could adopt state bills that also set limits on school discipline policies. A Los Angeles public-interest law firm, Public Counsel, is sponsoring many of California’s eight ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“On the trip’s final leg, the world saw the most unattractive side of the Romney campaign, when the traveling press secretary loudly told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it,” in a display of the attitude that trickles down from the top.”

 

If Mitt Romney's purpose in traveling abroad this summer was to prove his credentials as a potential world leader, the verdict is mixed at best. Neither his tendency to utter bizarre insults nor his shallow, ideological approach to policy inspired much confidence, although he managed to garner support from Israel's right-wing prime minister and an eccentric former leader in Poland. (Our allies in the United Kingdom may never want to hear from him again.)

On the trip's final leg, the world saw the most unattractive side of the Romney campaign, when the traveling press secretary loudly told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it,” in a display of the attitude that trickles down from the top.

Contempt toward the press is an important aspect of this attitude. For most of the campaign so far, Romney has pursued a media strategy that has become increasingly typical of Republican presidential candidates: Speak with Fox News, and avoid the rest of the  READ FULL POST

11 COMMENTS
Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012
“Romney continues to accept campaign contributions from many key figures tied to the bribery scandal.”

On the campaign trail, Republican candidate Mitt Romney often touts his stewardship of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah, which he took over following a massive bribery scandal. In a series of new articles, longtime investigative reporter Wayne Barrett reveals Romney may have violated the new ethics rules he put in place. Today, Romney continues to accept campaign contributions from many key figures tied to the bribery scandal. Barrett, a Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor and a fellow at The Nation Institute, joins us to discuss his findings.

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
Published: Thursday 26 July 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
Published: Friday 20 July 2012
“Because of America’s progressive tax system, all taxpayers under Obama’s plan — including those making more than $250,000 a year — will get a tax cut on their first $250,000 of income.”

 

For all the superheated rhetoric of yet another election cycle, it's as clear as ever that the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington pretty much support the same economic policies. Indeed, any honest perusal of congressional votes proves that the party establishments are roughly the same when it comes to financial deregulation (less of it), job-killing free trade (more of it), bailouts (more of them) and corporate taxes (less of them).

Politicians and partisan media outlets deny this obvious reality, of course. But they do so because they have a vested interest in the red-versus-blue "polarization" narrative from which they generate campaign contributions and ratings, respectively. This is why their hysterical attacks on their foes — and their refusal to acknowledge the political duopoly — has such a grating "doth protest too much" quality. It's also why more Americans are wholly tuning out of politics — we're less and less interested in gazing at two heads of the same economic monster.

That said, if you are still gullible enough to believe the illusion of huge differences on economics, behold the "debate" over taxes that is now roiling the presidential race.

President Obama kicked it off with his claim last week that he wants to stop "another tax cut for the wealthy." As supposed proof, he asserts that by proposing to extend all of the Bush tax cuts except those applying to top marginal tax rates, he will make sure everyone "making over $250,000 a year (will) go back to the income tax rates (they) were paying under Bill Clinton." In response, Mitt Romney, who wants every Bush tax cut extended, played his role in the kabuki theater, claiming Obama "plans on extending (the tax cuts), just for certain classes of ...

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events.”

 

Five months after the Center for Public Integrity reported that four of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet members were willing to raise money for Democratic super PACs, the top Republican investigator in the House is asking for details.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is “investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events,” according to a July 12 letter obtained byPolitico.

In February, Obama reluctantly embraced super PACs and gave the go-ahead on a plan to allow senior campaign aides and top White House officials to fundraise for the nascent political advertising machines, which are legally allowed to collect unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions.

Issa made a request for travel documents by Cabinet members, despite the fact that to date, none are known to have appeared at any such events.

READ FULL POST

2 COMMENTS
Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
“If wrongly accusing Democrats of refusing to compromise on taxes and spending is the price Coburn charges for an otherwise intelligent conversation, let's pay it. Anything for progress.”

 

Nowadays, few politicians will stray from party orthodoxy without also taking unfair whacks at the opposition. Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, is braver and more principled than most. But even he felt obliged to take partisan cover in his most recent blast at activist Grover Norquist, enforcer of the absurd pledge never to let anyone's taxes rise ever.

If wrongly accusing Democrats of refusing to compromise on taxes and spending is the price Coburn charges for an otherwise intelligent conversation, let's pay it. Anything for progress.

Coburn correctly notes that Democrats ...

Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
It doesn't matter if the district is blue or red, or has a defense manufacturing plant.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington may disagree about cutting the defense budget, but their constituents are generally in accord that it should shrink next year by a fifth to a sixth of its present size, according to a public opinion survey by the Program for Public Consultation, the Center for Public Integrity and the Stimson Center, a nonprofit think-tank.

The three groups first reported the existence of a broad public consensus in favor of military spending reductions in May, after conducting a unique nationwide survey in which respondents received information about the defense budget and had the chance to read multiple pro and con arguments about the military budget like those circulating on Capitol Hill.

Now a more detailed analysis of the results of that survey has shown that majorities in both red and blue congressional districts — those with Republican and Democratic representation, respectively — strongly support the idea that the defense budget should be cut more than politicians in Washington are considering.

The Obama administration has only proposed to reduce planned military spending increases, leaving the budget mostly flat over the next decade. Republican presidential candidate ...

Published: Sunday 15 July 2012
Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
The rare media tour comes after Security Exchange Commission (SEC) documents showed that Romney remained CEO of Bain Capital until 2002 and thus may have been at least partially responsible for the company’s activities — including major layoffs and investments in companies that shipped jobs overseas — between 1999 and 2002.

 

Mitt Romney granted a round of television interviews Friday evening to respond to accusations that he stayed at Bain Capital past February of 1999, just as newly-uncovered Bain company documents from July of that year reveal that the former Massachusetts governor had taken a “part-time leave of absence to head the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee for the 2002 Games,” rather than retiring entirely, as the Romney campaign has insisted. A 1999 Boston Herald article similarly reported that “Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions.”

But Romney disputed these accounts. “It’s ridiculous and below the dignity of the presidency and his campaign,” he said in an interview with Fox News and suggested that the story was meant to distract voters from the economy. The president “ought to apologize for what he’s doing,” Romney told CBS. “If I were president of the United States, I would put a stop to it and apologize to my campaign for what has been done by his,” Romney said on ABC. The candidate also said he would not be releasing additional tax returns, as some have requested.

The rare media tour comes after Security Exchange Commission (SEC) documents showed that Romney remained CEO of Bain Capital until 2002 and thus may have been at least partially responsible for the company’s activities — including major layoffs and investments in companies that shipped jobs overseas ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
Obama administration is actually doing through a memorandum issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing states to test more effective ways to move people who are in the welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, into the workforce and into economic independence—actually a bedrock conservative principle.

 

The Heritage Foundation today spread a falsehood about a change the Obama administration is instituting in the 1996 welfare reform law that has rapidly spread through the right-wing blogosphere. Letting Heritage and the right wing get away with this lie would do serious harm to people trying to pull themselves out of poverty.

Heritage headlined its Morning Bell email, "Obama's Imperial Presidency Guts Welfare Reform." Actually, if President Obama got all imperial on us and actually gutted welfare reform, that might not be such a bad thing, given how the law has actually failed in many respects to help people in poverty to get the economic support they need.

But what the Obama administration is actually doing through a memorandum issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing states to test more effective ways to move people who are in the welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, into the workforce and into economic independence—actually a bedrock conservative principle.

"This is not a back-door way to get out of the work requirement," said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. Instead, the explicitly states that the agency "is interested in more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits."

"There was a growing consensus that the current work requirements ...

Published: Saturday 7 July 2012
“If it were not for congressional Republicans’ repeated obstruction or dilution of virtually every significant job-creation proposal sent to Congress since 2009, unemployment today would likely be under 7 percent instead of stubbornly persisting at around 8 percent.”

Today's unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be closely watched for its political impact on the presidential race. But it is not the numbers that will be most consequential. What will determine whether President Obama will keep his job in November is whether he steps up his fight for our jobs and whether we as progressives step up our pressure on Congress, particularly the Republicans who have blocked virtually every major effort to revive the Main Street economy.

From a political standpoint for the Obama administration as well as for job seekers, the news is bad. The economy produced a total of only 80,000 jobs in June, with 84,000 private sector jobs offset by an additional 4,000 jobs lost in the public sector. Middle-class level jobs in construction and manufacturing showed particularly weak growth. But also, the economy lost more than 5,000 retail jobs.

Unemployment among African Americans has creeped up above 14 percent, compared to 7.4 percent among whites; among African-American youth, the official rate is now almost 40 percent. Among Latinos, the unemployment rate is 11 percent; it was 10.3 percent in March and April.

Published: Tuesday 3 July 2012
5 ways Romney is avoiding taxes and other financial expenditures.

 

After significant pressure, Mitt Romney released two years of his tax returns, which showed, among other things, that he pays a lower tax rate than many middle-class families and has employed a Swiss bank account to hold his investments. Today, Vanity Fair ran an expose on Romney’s investments, providing some new details regarding funds that he keeps in the Cayman Islands, how his retirement fund grew so large, and how he manages to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.

“Romney, like the superhero who whirls and backflips unscathed through a web of laser beams while everyone
else gets zapped, is certainly a remarkable financial acrobat. But careful analysis of his financial and business affairs also reveals a man who, like some other Wall Street titans, seems comfortable striding into some fuzzy gray zones,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Nicholas Shaxson. Here are five ways Romney is engaging in such financial shenanigans:

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
Bauerlein and Kroll discuss the role of attorney James Bopp, a key legal advisor behind the Citizens United decision; how Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson and others are quietly bankrolling Mitt Romney's campaign; and why President Obama has opted to accept unlimited super PAC donations.

 In our extended conversation with Monika Bauerlein and Andy Kroll of Mother Jones magazine, we continue to look at "dark money" -- the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by outside groups who are helping to make the 2012 presidential race the most expensive race in history. Bauerlein and Kroll discuss the role of attorney James Bopp, a key legal advisor behind the Citizens United decision; how Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson and others are quietly bankrolling Mitt Romney's campaign; and why President Obama has opted to accept unlimited super PAC donations. "What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United was say that when you are not giving your money in a campaign directly to the candidate's official campaign committee, then we cannot regulate you, because you are free to speak your mind -- and spending a ton of money is a form of speaking your mind," Bauerlein says.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: The special we’ll be doing Thursday morning as the Supreme Court hands down its decision on healthcare will be at 10:00 a.m. Eastern [Daylight] Time. We turn now to dark money, the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by outside groups who are helping to make the 2012 presidential race the most expensive race in history. ...

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
The White House has criticized Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital, pointing to a deal that led to the bankruptcy of GS Technologies, a Bain investment in Kansas City that went belly up in 2001 at the cost of 750 jobs.

The election of 2012 raises two perplexing questions. The first is how the GOP could put up someone for president who so brazenly epitomizes the excesses of casino capitalism that have nearly destroyed the economy and overwhelmed our democracy. The second is why the Democrats have failed to point this out.

The White House has criticized Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital, pointing to a deal that led to the bankruptcy of GS Technologies, a Bain investment in Kansas City that went belly up in 2001 at the cost of 750 jobs. But the White House hasn’t connected Romney’s Bain to the larger scourge of casino capitalism. Not surprisingly, its criticism has quickly degenerated into a “he said, she said” feud over what proportion of the companies that Bain bought and loaded up with debt subsequently went broke (it’s about 20 percent), and how many people lost their jobs relative to how many jobs were added because of Bain’s financial maneuvers (that depends on when you start and stop the clock). And it has invited a Republican countercharge that the administration gambled away taxpayer money on its own bad bet, the Solyndra solar panel company.

But the real issue here isn’t Bain’s betting record. It’s that Romney’s Bain is part of the same system as Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase, Jon Corzine’s MF Global and Lloyd Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs—a system that has turned much of the economy into a betting parlor that nearly imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and devastating household incomes. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls,
and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan.”

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld virtually all of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance.

The 5-4 decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.

The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan. However, Republicans quickly indicated they will try to use the decision to rally their supporters against what they call "Obamacare," arguing that the ruling characterized the penalty against people who refuse to get insurance as a tax.

Breaking with the court's other conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Roberts explained at length the court's view of the mandate as a valid exercise of Congress' authority to "lay and collect taxes." The administration estimates that roughly 4 million people will pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

Even though Congress called it a penalty, not a tax, Roberts said, "The payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation."

Roberts also made plain the court's rejection of the administration's claim that Congress had the power under the Constitution's commerce clause to put the mandate in place. The power to regulate interstate commerce power, he said, "does not authorize the mandate. "

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney renewed his criticism of the overhaul, calling it "bad law" and promising to work to repeal it if elected in November.

Stocks of hospital companies rose sharply, and insurance companies ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Published: Friday 22 June 2012
“More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.”

 

The nutty thing about the health care debate that will play a prominent role in the next election is that most Americans want pretty much the same outcome: to control costs without sacrificing quality. And that’s not what either major-party candidate is offering. Few think that Obamacare, a Romneycare descendant that contains the same kind of individual mandate the then-governor of Massachusetts signed into law, will get us to that desired goal. Nor would Mitt Romney, who has been reborn as a celebrant of the old, pre-Obama system with a few nips and tucks.

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Obama health care approach, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans want Congress to come up with a better plan. They know that the current system is unsustainable. Only a third of those polled favored the law President Barack Obama signed, but according to the AP, “... Whatever people think of the law, they don’t want a Supreme Court ruling against it to be the last word on health care reform.” The article continued, “More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.”

That sentiment underscores the opportunity missed by Obama, who limited his ambition to what Big Pharma and the insurance giants would accept as “reform” in a system that they had so successfully exploited. Obamacare is a faux reform born of opportunism, as was Romney’s original version: Play ball with those who have profited most from the run-up of medical costs and expect them to make it more affordable.

Two dynamics doomed the experiment. First, the new Democratic president wanted to launch a bold progressive program, but rather than channel the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to address the ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
Last week, President Obama was widely criticized for saying the private sector is “doing fine,” while Mitt Romney attacked public sector unions by calling for fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers.


As the presidential race heats up, the focus is increasingly on the nation's slow economic recovery. Last week, President Obama was widely criticized for saying the private sector is "doing fine," while Mitt Romney attacked public sector unions by calling for fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers. We talk to Ralph Nader about the 2012 election and the lessons of last week's victory by Scott Walker, governor of what Nader dubbed "WisKOCHsin." Nader also looks ahead at the Supreme Court's upcoming rules on healthcare and Arizona's anti-immigrant law.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, ran for president three times. Ralph, I want to turn to the two recent comments made by President Obama and Mitt Romney that have become, well, the most famous comments so far of the campaign, and it’s around the economy. Speaking in Iowa Friday, Romney invoked the recent election in Wisconsin to criticize Obama for pushing a measure to help states regain public sector jobs.

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
“In the education arena, it’s long past time for Democrats to go bold in their opposition to Republicans, to call them out as active agents in the dismantling of public schools, and to call for a renewed commitment to the best education that can be provided equally to children and young people everywhere.”

 


A funny thing happened on the way to the news cycle the past two weeks when the issue of education -- specifically, public schoolteachers and student loan relief -- maintained a presence on the political stage.

Because the conclusion among the Very Serious People is that the upcoming election is all about the economy, it was expected that the subject of education would quickly get the hook after last month's candidate sparring on the topic.

Yet after nearly a month in the limelight, we still see issues related to education hanging around stage left.

Education Just Won't Leave The Stage

For instance, just last week, all-but-certain Republican contender Mitt Romney bashed for "hiring more teachers." His comment was quickly affirmed and doubled-down this week when Romney surrogate, former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, declared that there are places where we "need fewer teachers." Sununu apparently must be referring to a country other than America because where we live student population is at an all time high and will continue to grow in the near future.

Romney's pronouncement about desiring fewer schoolteachers was repeatedly rebuked by the Obama campaign on YouTube and Twitter, with Obama surrogate David Axelrod on 

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“The Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) for 2010 provides insights into changes in family income and net worth since the 2007 survey.”

The Federal Reserve released a study this week showing that Americans' net worth fell dramatically between 2007-10. However, while reporting on the study, Fox News hosts falsely claimed the decline occurred during the "last three years," even though it's clear the decline began two years before President Obama took office.

Fed: American Families' Net Worth Declined Nearly 40 Percent From 2007-10Federal Reserve: "Median Net Worth Fell 38.8 Percent ... Between 2007 And 2010." From the Federal Reserve's June 12 bulletin:

The Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) for 2010 provides insights into changes in family income and net worth since the 2007 survey.1 The survey shows that, over the 2007-10 period, the median value of real (inflation-adjusted) family income before taxes fell 7.7 percent; median income had also fallen slightly in the preceding three-year period (figure 1).

The decreases in family income over the 2007−10 period were substantially smaller than the declines in both median and mean net worth; overall, median net worth fell 38.8 percent, and the mean fell 14.7 percent (figure 2).Median net worth fell for most groups between 2007 and 2010, and the decline in the median was almost always larger than the decline in the mean. The exceptions to this pattern in the medians and means are seen in the highest 10 percent of the distributions of income and net worth, where changes in the median were relatively muted. Although declines in the values of financial assets or business were important factors for some families, the decreases in median net worth appear to have been driven most strongly by a broad collapse in house prices. [Federal ...

Published: Sunday 10 June 2012
“On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that pay for the top CEOs on Wall Street increased by more than 20 percent last year.”

Several months before Occupy Wall Street, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%," an article for Vanity Fair. He returns to the subject in his new book looking at how inequality is now greater in the United States than any other industrialized nation. He notes, that the six heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune command wealth equivalent to the entire bottom 30 percent of American society. "It's a comment both on how well off the top are and how poor the bottom are," Stiglitz says. "It's really emblematic of the divide that has gotten much worse in our society." On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that pay for the top CEOs on Wall Street increased by more than 20 percent last year. Meanwhile, census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty or could be classified as low-income. "The United States is the country in the world with the highest level of inequality [of the advanced industrial countries] and it's getting worse," Stiglitz says. "What's even more disturbing is we've [also] become the country with the least equality of opportunity."

Transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to an issue that’s gained ...

Published: Sunday 10 June 2012
“In essence, he would take lands that belong to all Americans and turn them over to oil companies.”

 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is no stranger to attacks on the environment, as seen in his ads against clean energy jobs, his pledge to roll back fuel economy standards that protect public health and reduce carbon pollution, and the fact that he doesn’t know “the purpose of” public lands that belong to all Americans.

But this morning’s Washington Post sheds more light on Romney’s energy plan, including the fact that he would open up “virtually every part of U.S. lands and waters” to drilling regardless of whether they are national parks, national monuments, or protected in some other way.  As the Post reports:

Asked whether any place would be off limits for oil drilling, campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said, “Governor Romney will permit drilling wherever it can be done safely, taking into account local concerns.”

Current law sets some public lands and waters off limits to drilling, including national parks, national monuments, and wilderness areas.  These places are protected for other uses like hunting, fishing, sightseeing, and recreation.

Presumably, if there was oil and gas found there, Romney would allow drilling in places like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and Isle Royale National Park in the ...

Published: Thursday 7 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

Mike Leavitt, the man Mitt Romney has tapped to head his transition should he win this November, has held a wide array of public-sector jobs including Governor of Utah and Secretary of Health and Human Services. But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

 

Romney’s official campaign website has a prominent section on government regulations entitled “Obama’s Failure,” which blasts the EPA ...

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
“There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

Mitt Romney won’t offer “targeted relief for the 11.5 million American homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth,” Lanhee Chen, his campaign’s policy director, told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt. Chen described such policies as insufficient for stabilizing the housing market:

HUNT: There are, as you know, 11.5 million Americans with underwater mortgages. Will Governor Romney do anything to help them immediately, or is this something that the market just has to work out? 

CHEN: Governor Romney has indicated that there are some steps we ought to take to ensure that we’re growing our economy. But on the housing market specifically, I do think we have to resist the temptation for short-term approaches. And I think the President has fallen into that trap a little bit…. .

Chen’s comments are a departure in tone from what Romney himself told voters in Florida — the seventh in the nation in foreclosures — while campaigning against Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination. In January, the former Massachusetts governor said at a roundtable that banks should, in fact, write down mortgage principal — the amount outstanding on a mortgage — for borrowers who find themselves with a mortgage that costs more than their house is currently worth.

“The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself all by itself is probably not real,” Romney said. “There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

Those remarks came after Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent.

 

For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent. On Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee drew the contrast for an audience in Iowa, harking back to a famous Clinton speech in 1996.

“Almost a generation ago,” said Romney, “Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over. Even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President READ FULL POST

3 COMMENTS
Published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
“House Republicans are calling for cuts to food aid, healthcare and social services while protecting funds for the Pentagon.”

Census data shows nearly one in two Americans live in poverty and now the Congressional Budget Office warns things could soon get worse if President Obama and Congress remain at an impasse over the 2013 fiscal budget. House Republicans are calling for cuts to food aid, healthcare and social services while protecting funds for the Pentagon. We discuss poverty with Peter Edelman, who resigned as assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services over then-President Bill Clinton's signing of the 1996 welfare reform law that threw millions off the rolls. "Basically right now welfare is gone," Edelman says. "We have six million people in this country whose only income is food stamps -- that's an income at a third of the poverty line. ... Nineteen states serve less than 10 percent of their poor children. It's a terrible hole in the safety net. Welfare has basically disappeared in large parts of this country." Now a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Edelman has written a new book, "So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America." "I'm very much in support of Occupy," he adds. "The idea ... of the 1 percent and the 99 percent ... all fits together -- we really should be all one country."

 

Transcript:

6 COMMENTS
Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer downplayed the findings and pointed to numbers in the poll that seemed to favor Romney over Obama.”

Fox News is attempting to downplay and discredit its own poll, which found that if the election were held today, voters would re-elect President Obama by a 7-point margin. This is hardly the first time Fox has tried to distort poll findings to advance a certain narrative.

Fox News Poll: If Election Were Held Today, Obama Would Win Re-Election

Fox News Poll Found That Registered Voters Would Vote For Obama Over Romney If Election Were Held Today. In a Fox News poll conducted May 13-15, 46 percent of registered voters said they would vote for Obama, as opposed to 39 percent who would favor Romney: 

[Fox News,  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 18 May 2012
“Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.”

 

Mitt Romney is full of praise for Bill Clinton even as he heaps scorn on Obama.

“Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over,” says Romney, “Clinton was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.” By contrast, President Obama has “tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas.”

It’s politics at its stupidest. Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.

But it won’t work. It might even backfire.

I was in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. I was in charge of Clinton’s economic transition team even before he became President. I’ve known Bill Clinton since he was 22 years old.

Romney doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Clinton doctrine? As president, Bill Clinton raised taxes. Government receipts as a percent of gross domestic product rose from 17.5 percent in 1992, when Clinton was elected, to 20.6 percent in 2000, when he left office. Supply-siders screamed. They predicted the end of civilization as we know it.

In 2011, President Obama’s third full year in office, government receipts were down to just 15.5 percent of GDP.

Does Romney really prefer Clinton’s approach?

Under Bill Clinton, the top income tax rate was 39.6 percent. It’s now 35 percent, courtesy of George W. Bush. Obama wants to return to the 39.6 percent rate, but he doesn’t want to restore the Clinton rates on the middle class. Obama wants a lower rate on the middle class than the rate under Clinton.

(Romney doesn’t even mention George W. Bush, by the ...

Published: Thursday 10 May 2012
“Romney has played up his pro-discrimination stand throughout this presidential campaign, boasting that he’d fought to take away marriage equality from same-sex couples.”

Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, told Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown that the campaign would make President Obama’s support for marriage equality an issue this November and that Romney will actively push for a constitutional amendment to take away the right of states to voluntarily extend marriage equality to same-sex couples.

Gillespie told Todd that same-sex marriage “will be another bright-line difference in this campaign.” He added that the GOP intends to campaign on the issue:

TODD: Will you guys campaign on this, campaign on this issue of marriage?

GILLESPIE: Sure. I think it’s an important issue for people and it engenders strong feelings on both sides. I think it’s important to be respectful in how we talk about our differences, but the fact is that’s a significant difference in November.

Later, Gillespie added that Romney believes a federal marriage constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage “should be enacted.” Watch the video:

 

Gillespie is no stranger to using same-sex couples as a wedge issue; he served as President George W. Bush’s Republican National Committee Chairman during the 2004 campaign. During that campaign, Republicans pushed for anti-LGBT state constitutional amendments to get out the conservative vote. They also wrote the following into the Party’s official platform: “We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to ...

Published: Wednesday 9 May 2012
“The Republican bedroom crowd doesn’t want to talk about the nation’s boardrooms because that’s where most of their campaign money comes from.”

The 2012 election should be about what’s going on in America’s boardrooms, but Republicans would rather it be about America’s bedrooms.

Mitt Romney says he’s against same-sex marriage; President Obama just announced his support. North Carolina voters have approved a Republican-proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters will be considering a similar amendment in November. Republicans in Maryland and Washington State are seeking to overturn legislative approval of same-sex marriage there.

Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced over four hundred bills in state legislatures aimed at limiting womens’ reproductive rights – banning abortions, requiring women seeking abortions to have invasive ultra-sound tests beforehand, and limiting the use of contraceptives.

The Republican bedroom crowd doesn’t want to talk about the nation’s boardrooms because that’s where most of their campaign money comes from. And their candidate for president has made a fortune playing board rooms like checkers.

Yet America’s real problems have nothing to do with what we do in our bedrooms and everything to do with what top executives do in their boardrooms and executive suites.

We’re not in trouble because gays want to marry or women want to have some control over when they have babies. We’re in trouble because CEOs are collecting exorbitant pay while slicing the pay of average workers, because the titans of Wall Street demand short-term results over long-term jobs, and because of a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading, and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations.”

Our crisis has nothing to do with private morality. It’s a crisis of public morality – of abuses of public trust that undermine the integrity of our economy and democracy ...

Published: Wednesday 9 May 2012
“Mitt Romney and his campaign have been unsure, uncertain, or unwilling to articulate a clear stance on an important policy issue for fear of offending a particular political demographic.”

On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee’s National Hispanic Outreach Director claimed that Mitt Romney’s “still deciding what his position on immigration is,” kicking off a firestorm of criticism from reporters and bloggers wondering how the GOP’s presumptive nominee — a man who had been running for office for the last 18 years — had no defined view on immigration. The campaign walked back the remarks minutes later, linking to a page on the Romney campaign site touting his harsh immigration proposals.

But this episode is just the latest in a series of instances in which the candidate and his campaign have been unsure, uncertain, or unwilling to articulate a clear stance on an important policy issue for fear of offending a particular political demographic. It’s a careful dance that many politicians practice, but something in which Romney has engaged in with greater frequency than most:

– VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT: As Congress considers a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Romney has claimed that he wasn’t “familiar with” the measure, said that he “supports it” and “hopes it can be reauthorized without turning it into a political football.” Conveniently, he has not specified if he supports ...

Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012
Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
“Obama’s cool order to kill bin Laden, in a moment of considerable risk to his presidency, finally debunked the decade of smears against Democrats as unpatriotic, wimpish and unreliable.”

 

Nothing aggravates Republicans like seeing nasty, effective tactics upon which they have so long relied being turned against one of their candidates. So when Barack Obama's re-election campaign aired an ad celebrating the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death — and suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn't have achieved that objective — the right exploded with outraged protests.

 

Evidently, the feelings of longtime hatchet men like Bush-era party chair Ed Gillespie, ex-Bush flack Ari Fleischer and the editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal, to name a few, were really, really hurt — because the Obama campaign exploited a moment of national unity for partisan advantage.

 

"This is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history," said Gillespie, now a Romney adviser.

 

To anyone with a functioning memory, however, this whining is implausible. So are the dire predictions that the president will somehow offend voters by claiming credit for whacking bin Laden (or by smacking Romney). During the Bush presidency, Republicans used precisely the same approach and worse, over and over, without fretting whether their words and ads were "divisive."

 

It began weeks after the 9/11 attacks, amid sincere pledges of patriotic cooperation from congressional Democrats, when Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee that their party would "go to the country on this issue" to win the midterm elections in 2002. They won a historic victory by sliming wounded Vietnam hero Max Cleland and former Air Force intelligence officer Tom Daschle as stooges of al-Qaida.

 

Bush's 2004 re-election campaign amplified the same themes, with advertising and pageantry at the Republican convention in New York City grossly exploiting 9/11, a series of conveniently timed terror ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
“Looking ahead, strong headwinds imply that it will be difficult to achieve better economic performance in the rest of the year.”

America’s presidential election is now just six months away. If history is a reliable guide, the outcome will depend significantly on the economy’s performance between now and November 6, and on Americans’ perception of their economic future under the two candidates.

At the moment, America’s economy is limping along with slow growth and high unemployment. Output grew by just 1.5% last year, and real GDP per capita is lower now than before the economic downturn began at the end of 2007. Although annual GDP growth was 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, more than half of that reflected inventory accumulation. Final sales to households, businesses, and foreign buyers rose at only a 1.1% annual rate, even slower than earlier in the year. And the preliminary estimate for annual GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 was a disappointing 2.2%, with only a 1.6% rise in final sales.

 

The labor market has been similarly disappointing. The March unemployment rate of 8.2% was nearly three percentage points above what most economists would consider a desirable and sustainable long-run level rate. Although the rate was down from 9% a year ago, about half of the change reflected a rise in the number of people who have stopped looking for work, rather than an increase in job creation and the employment rate.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Martin Feldstein, click here."

Indeed, the official unemployment rate understates the weakness of the labor market. An estimated 6% of all employees are working fewer hours per week than they would like, and about 2% of potential ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
President Obama supports keeping the current Stafford Loan interest rate at a low 3.4% rate. His opponent Mitt Romney just reversed his position and said he agrees.

Here’s the real debt crisis: student loan debt. Today, the average student graduates from college with a diploma and an anchor — $25,000 of debt.

And if Congress doesn’t act, student loan interest rates will double on July 1.

Don’t let Congress kick new graduates in the teeth. Click here to demand your representatives in Congress stop the student loan rate increase.

President Obama supports keeping the current Stafford Loan interest rate at a low 3.4% rate. His opponent Mitt Romney just reversed his position and said he agrees. This should not be a partisan issue.

Yet the House bill to stop the scheduled rate increase has no Republican sponsors.

The Republican chair of the House education committee says he has “serious concerns” about the bill. And the Republican budget — championed by Paul Ryan and embraced as “marvelous” by Mitt Romney — both calls for deep cuts in Pell grants and assumes that the interest rates on government sponsored student loans will double.

What are the Republican “concerns”? They claim to be opposed to the $6 billion cost of keeping the rate low.

But jacking up the rate simply shifts that $6 billion cost onto the next generation of students who are already crushed by debt.

And House Republicans didn’t have a problem last week passing a bill with yet another tax break for the rich that would add $46 billion to the national debt.

It gets worse, the key Republican subcommittee chair recently revealed her ignorance about today’s high cost of college. Rep. Virginia Foxx declared she had “very little tolerance” for students with major debt because there is “no reason” to take out big student loans.

Why? Because she worked her way through college 50 years ago … when the cost of college was ...

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens’ reproductive rights.”

What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest? Hispanics, women, and young people. Who are Republicans pissing off the most? Latinos, women, and young people.

It’s almost as if the GOP can’t help itself.

Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll.

The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 – which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any “suspected” illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year’s election, and California’s Republican Party has never recovered.)

The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court – sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others – would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It’s nativism disguised as law enforcement.

Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it’s not working. That may be because he dubbed it a “model law” during February’s Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he’s working closely with Romney advisers.

Hispanics are also reacting to ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“The 2012 cycle appears to mark a shift in partisan bent as a whopping 60 percent of defense industry campaign dollars went to Republican campaigns.”

The defense industry is known as a major lobbying power in Congress but the industry’s sharp uptick in campaign contributions, the majority of which are designated to Republicans, in the 2012 political cycle indicates that defense contractors are making a strong rightward shift in their political giving.

Defense industry contributions to individual candidates and PACs reached nearly $13 million earlier this month. That number, only $11 million short of the $24 million contributed in the 2008 political cycle, suggests that the defense industry will contribute more in this political cycle than in any previous election. And the increase in funds is matched by a dramatic partisan shift in the industry’s contributions.

In 2008, 51 percent of contributions went to Democrats while 49 percent were designated for Republicans. In 2010, that trend continued with 53 percent going to Democrats and 47 percent to Republicans. But the 2012 cycle appears to mark a shift in partisan bent as a whopping 60 percent of defense industry campaign dollars went to Republican campaigns.

When contacted by Politico, General Dynamic spokesman Kendell Pease explained that the Republican majority in Congress could explain the shift in campaign dollars toward the GOP:

Those are the folks that are here. Those are the folks that are making decisions now, today, and it’s very easy to figure out where they stand on issues that we feel are most important. We continue to support those folks, both House and Senate, who support those issues that we feel are most important.

Indeed, supporting Republicans has paid off. A

Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
“Only last month the same poll was showing Obama with a modest lead, as Romney slugged his way through the last round of primaries.”

A medium-sized thunderbolt has crashed down amid the somewhat torpid early stages of the presidential campaign. A New York Times/CBS poll of registered voters, released Wednesday, shows President Obama and the assured Republican nominee Mitt Romney running neck and neck, at 46 percent each.

Only last month the same poll was showing Obama with a modest lead, as Romney slugged his way through the last round of primaries. The dead-heat news demolishes the house wisdom of the political commentariat, which was that his battles with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich for the right-wing vote in the contest for the Republican nomination had damaged Romney's standing with the broad mass of independents who will actually decide the outcome of the election next November and that it would take him some months to restore his mainstream credibility.

The poll suggests that people were not too bothered by Romney's gyrations. Now that Romney is the assured nominee, awaiting only the formality of coronation at the party convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of the summer, they're viewing him in exactly the contours that so dismayed his right-wing foes: as a mainstream Republican candidate.

Indeed the poll shows that conservative Republicans — Tea Partiers and Evangelicals — still nourish deep suspicions of the Mormon millionaire. As the pollsters report: 33 percent say they will enthusiastically support Romney if he is the nominee, compared to 28 percent in January and 18 percent last October. Still, more have reservations about him (40 percent) than enthusiastically back him. If Evangelicals — ...

Published: Thursday 19 April 2012
“Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama — indicating how close this election may ultimately become — voters consistently appear to disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee.”

With the Republican primary contest over and the general election underway, Mitt Romney faces a voting public whose disdain for him has reached levels that pollsters describe as "historic." From his embittered opponents as well as from Romney and his campaign, Americans have learned that the former Massachusetts governor simply won't uphold any political position, issue or achievement he thinks might cost him votes. He doesn't seem to understand that his inconstancy forfeits more respect than any disagreeable opinion would.

No matter how carefully the former Massachusetts governor parses and prevaricates, many voters, including more than a few conservatives, evidently feel they've detected the inner Mitt: a man with utmost regard for himself and people like him — and a profound disregard for people like most of them. They've observed him straining to express concern for the unemployed, the poor and the powerless, while sounding sincerely resentful whenever the privileged are held accountable. They've perceived an attitude of entitlement, whether he is withholding tax returns, defending tax breaks for billionaires or spending vast amounts to defame opponents. And they don't like it, no matter what they may feel about Barack Obama.

Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama — indicating how close this election may ultimately become — voters consistently appear to disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee. As they have learned more about him over the past several years, his negative ratings have soared. Over the past five years, since he began to run for president, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that negative views of Romney have roughly doubled, from about 24 percent to 47 percent, while his positive ratings have lagged (only 12 percent express "strongly" positive feelings about him).

More important, Romney polls 21 points ...

Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012
“As an apologetic Rosen tried to explain, Ann Romney’s lot differed dramatically from that of women raising kids and clearing tables at Arby’s. Point taken.”

To quote "Adelaide's Lament" from "Guys and Dolls," "You can feed her all day with the vitamin A and the bromofizz/ But the medicine never gets anywhere near where the trouble is." That's the sense one gets from the recent tone-challenged courting of women voters.

On the Sunday talk shows, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called "ridiculous" Republican Mitt Romney's assertion that most of the jobs lost during the Obama years were women's. The statement may have been true, but it ignored the bloodletting of mostly male-held jobs in the gruesome last months of George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, Democrats were finishing the week trying to recover from an offensive remark by a high-profile adviser. Hilary Rosen said that Mitt's wife, Ann Romney, "never worked a day in her life." Ann raised five boys. Of course, her husband's fortune bought many a domestic service, freeing untold hours of housekeeping. But anyone who has actively overseen the care, education, and social development of children knows it's about much more than mopping the kitchen floor. Many stay-at-home wives are up to their triceps-bathing children when their "Mad Men" providers are on their second cocktails.

As an apologetic Rosen tried to explain, Ann Romney's lot differed dramatically from that of women raising kids and clearing tables at Arby's. Point taken. How most single mothers do it is beyond me. They have no time for civic participation, for normal cooking or doing their nails. At the end of the day, they collapse in front of a TV show exalting a surgically altered celebrity.

But Rosen is herself a top-paid lobbyist and can also hire others. For all the ...

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
“Like ugly on a hog, Romney just can’t hide the depth of his personal wealth.”

Not only is Mitt Romney the GOP's rich-man candidate for president, but his last name actually spells "money." Just drop the "R," move the "m" in front of the "o" — and there it is! In fact, put the "R" in parentheses and you've got "(Republican) Money."

But with Mitt, we really don't have to spell it out, because he keeps stumbling over his richness. With his money connections, his Super PAC quickly became the superest of them all. Not only has he spent more than every one of his rivals combined, but some of the cash has gone into ads portraying him as just a regular guy.

But, like ugly on a hog, he just can't hide the depth of his personal wealth. Most recently came news that he's doing a little "renovation" on his California home — a relatively modest place on the beach in La Jolla. It's one of three homes he owns, but he's decided that its 3,000 square feet of space is a bit cramped for him. So, he's having it bulldozed and replaced with a more Romneyesque $12-million, 8,600-square-foot McMansion-by-the-sea, complete with a basement larger than the existing house.

Aside from its size and cost, his re-do has a couple of features that "regular guys" couldn't even dream of having. First is a split-level, four-car garage with a special elevator to lift vehicles up and down, in and out. No word yet on whether the cars will have their own white-gloved elevator operator.

Second, the new digs come with an unusual built-in feature: a lobbyist. Romney has paid some $21,000 so far to hire one of San Diego's premier real estate lobbyists to wheel and deal at City Hall to get the permits and any exemptions needed to build Mr. Money's seaside castle.

It's hard to connect with average Joes when you've got a house with an attached lobbyist.

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
A perfect example of this political philosophy is the work of James E. O’Keefe III, a right wing, unsupervised, unaccountable, self-appointed and self-styled “investigative journalist” who has violated federal law, lied about his identity and deceitfully cut and pasted video to destroy what he perceives as liberal institutions.

A spring awash with Etch A Sketch conservatives, camera-wielding GOP con men and a bogus deficit reduction budget from House Republicans shows that for the right, wrong is justified when it achieves the desired results.

A perfect example of this political philosophy is the work of James E. O’Keefe III, a right wing, unsupervised, unaccountable, self-appointed and self-styled “investigative journalist” who has violated federal law, lied about his identity and deceitfully cut and pasted video to destroy what he perceives as liberal institutions.

Oddly for the party that claims conservative Christians as key constituents, O’Keefe’s misbehavior is celebrated by GOP talking heads — the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. That encourages copycats. The New York Times last week told the tale of one. John M. Howting, a bungling video scam man, sees himself as an O’Keefe apostle.

Honorable journalists abide by an ethics code forbidding lying to secure a story. For them, the end does not justify the means. By contrast, for O’Keefe and today’s Etch A Sketch conservatives, the end they want vindicates any scheme to secure it. Deliberate lying, cynical deceit, cut-and-paste deception – all of that is rationalized by conservatives to get their way. It’s a lovely escape clause they’ve written for themselves from that annoying Judeo-Christian thou-shalt-not-lie commandment.

O’Keefe wanna-be John M. Howting tried clumsily to trod in his disgraced mentor’s footsteps, lying about his name, who he represented and his intentions in a failed effort to discredit a couple of what he perceived to be liberal New York community groups.

O’Keefe had better luck. This right wing ...

Published: Friday 13 April 2012
Published: Friday 13 April 2012
“I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the “progressives” who dare not use the word “liberal” because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.”

Who will speak for the rights of the unborn now that Rick Santorum is gone from the race? Let me give it a whirl from the perspective of one whose own unwed mother had several abortions before yours truly was permitted to emerge.

My arrival came during the U.S. economy’s previous great crash, back in 1936. My father, who was already supporting an earlier family with two teenage children, had every intention of providing well for me, but he was laid off that very day and informed my mother of the unhappy fact within moments of setting eyes on me in a Bronx hospital. My father held on to part-time jobs in garment industry sweatshops (where my mother, too, worked), but it would be four years before he had a full-time paycheck again. He stood by both families during that dark period, seizing every opportunity to work, mostly in government-sponsored employment. And yes, we lived in part on government welfare—or home relief, as it was then called. All of which made President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the New Deal he fashioned to save tens of millions of impoverished folks just like us throughout the country, objects of veneration.

So why am I bringing all this ancient history up now? Because I was dumbfounded by a headline Saturday in The New York Times that reminded me of how far we have gone wrong: “Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit.” And by “we” I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the “progressives” who dare not use the word “liberal” because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.

The death of American liberalism as a significant moral force can be traced to the point in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation that effectively ended the main federal anti-poverty program and turned the fate of welfare recipients, 70 percent of whom were children, over to ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
Mitt and others like him won’t like any economic reforms because they’d eliminate the humongous profits they’ve enjoyed at the expense of the rest of us.

Now that Mitt Romney is the presumed Republican candidate, it’s fair to ask how he made so much money ($21 million in 2010 alone) and paid such a low rate of taxes (only 13.9 percent).

Not only fair to ask, but instructive to know. Because the magic of private equity reveals a lot about how and why our economic system has become so distorted and lopsided – why all the gains are going to the very top while the rest of us aren’t going anywhere.

The magic of private equity isn’t really magic at all. It’s a magic trick – and it’s played on you and me.

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
“Senate Democrats have scheduled a vote Monday on a minimum 30 percent overall federal tax rate for everyone earning more than $1 million a year.”

Next Monday most Americans will be filing their income taxes for tax year 2011. This year, though, tax day has special significance. If there’s one clear policy contrast between Democrats and Republicans in the 2012 election, it’s whether America’s richest citizens should be paying more.

Senate Democrats have scheduled a vote Monday on a minimum 30 percent overall federal tax rate for everyone earning more than $1 million a year. It’s nicknamed the “Buffett Rule” in honor of billionaire Warren Buffett who has publicly complained that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

No one in Washington believes the Buffett Rule has any hope of passage this year. It’s largely symbolic. The vote will mark a sharp contrast with Republican Paul Ryan’s plan (enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney) to cut the tax rate on the super rich from 35 percent to 25 percent – rewarding millionaires with a tax cut of at least $150,000 a year. The vote will also serve to highlight that Romney himself paid less than 14 percent on a 2010 income of $21.7 million because so much of his income was in capital gains, taxed at 15 percent. 

Hopefully in the weeks and months ahead the White House and the Democrats will emphasize three key realities:

1. The richest 1 percent of Americans is now taking in over 20 percent of total national income, and so far has raked in almost all the gains from this recovery. Thirty years ago, the richest 1 percent got 9 percent of total income. Income and wealth are now more concentrated at the top than they’ve been since the 1920s. 

2. The richest 1 percent is paying a lower tax rate than they’ve paid since 1980. For three decades after World War II, their tax rate never dropped below 70 percent. Even considering all deductions and tax credits, they paid close to 55 percent. Under Eisenhower, the top rate was 91 percent and the effective rate was 58 ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“Obamacare will, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), leave at least 23 million people without insurance.”

The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism.

Protesting outside the Supreme Court recently as it heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act were both conservatives from

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“The arithmetic in the Romney-Ryan budget says that they want to shut down the federal government outside of Social Security, health care and defense.”

There is a dangerously painful story line that is being propagated about a presidential race between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The line is that this will be contest over competing visions for the country. In this story the alternative visions are outlined in the competing budgets put forward by President Obama and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which Governor Romney has embraced.

The story of competing visions is a cute fairy tale for people who don’t know anything about Washington and American politics. For adults who have not newly arrived from some foreign country, this line is just silly.

President Obama and Governor Romney are politicians, not philosophers. They have not made it to the top of the political ladder because of their grand visions of the future. They got their positions by appealing to powerful political actors who were able to give them the money and/or votes needed to get ahead.

The absurdity of the competing visions story is apparent to anyone who has looked at the Ryan budget. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of Representative Ryan’s budget, which was prepared under his direction, the budget would shrink all non-Social Security and non-health care spending to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

To put this in perspective, the United States currently spends roughly 4 percent of GDP on the military, not including spending on the war in Afghanistan. Since the start of the Cold War it has never spent less than 3.0 percent of GDP on the military. Ryan does not want sharp cuts in defense; in fact he has already criticized the modest cuts President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal.

Let’s assume that Representative Ryan wants to keep defense spending somewhere between its 3.0 percent of GDP low and the 4.0 percent current level. That ...

Published: Monday 9 April 2012
“Obama specifically listed the programs the Ryan-Romney budget would cut back, including student loans, medical and scientific research grants.”

Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive.

They have long experience with attacking the evils of the left and the abuses of activist judges. They love to assail “tax-and-spend liberals” without ever discussing who should be taxed or what government money is actually spent on. They expect their progressive opponents to be wimpy and apologetic.

So imagine the shock when President Obama decided last week to speak plainly about what a Supreme Court decision throwing out the health-care law would mean, and then landed straight shots against the Mitt Romney-supported Paul Ryan budget as “a Trojan horse,” “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

Obama specifically listed the programs the Ryan-Romney budget would cut back, including student loans, medical and scientific research grants, Head Start, feeding programs for the poor, and possibly even the weather service.

Romney pronounced himself appalled, accusing Obama of having “railed against arguments no one is making” and “criticized policies no one is proposing.” Yet Romney could neither defend the cuts nor deny the president’s list of particulars, based as they were on reasonable assumptions. When it came to the Ryan budget, ...

Published: Friday 6 April 2012
“The right-wing media had launched an outrageous smear campaign against the GM Volt.”

Imagine that. Former Republican President George H.W. Bush recently bought his son Neil a Chevrolet Volt as a birthday present. This is the car that all right-thinking right-wingers demand we hate. In their political prism, the Volt has everything going against it: It's beloved by environmentalists for getting 61 miles to the gallon. It's assembled by unionized workers at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck plant. It enjoys government subsidies intended to encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars (started actually by H.W.'s oldest son, former President George W. Bush).

To many, this resembles progress. But to "conservatives" wanting government-bailed-out Detroit to go down in flames, especially if the United Auto Workers union goes with it, this plug-in hybrid is the car that has to die.

Lo and behold, U.S. car sales were hot last month, with General Motors selling over 100,000 vehicles that get at least 30 miles to a gallon. And sales of its Chevy Volt more than doubled from the month before.

The irony is that GM has temporarily stopped production of the Volt following earlier weak sales. And here's why the Volt wasn't flying out of the lots: The right-wing media had launched an outrageous smear campaign against it. As former GM executive Bob Lutz sarcastically put it, the Volt had become "the poster child for President Obama's socialist meddling in the free automotive market."

Lutz responded with special anger to a recent Bill O'Reilly Fox News show in which the host condemned the Volt as "an unmitigated disaster." Joshing over the disappointing Volt sales, O'Reilly's guest Lou Dobbs said, "It doesn't work." Also, "It catches fire."

None of this happens to be true. The European-market Volt worked well enough to be named the European Car of the Year. The "catching fire" claim is pure fiction, Lutz said, based on battery ...

Published: Wednesday 4 April 2012
“Social Darwinism encapsulated the idea of survival of the fittest as applied to societies as a whole.”

The returns aren’t all in yet on today’s Republican primaries but President Obama didn’t wait. He kicked off his 2012 campaign against Mitt Romney with a hard-hitting speech centered on the House Republicans’ budget plan – which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed.

That plan, by the way, is the most radical reverse-Robin Hood proposal propounded by any political party in modern America. It would save millionaires at least $150,000 a year in taxes while gutting Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, transportation, child nutrition, college aid, and almost everything else average and lower-income Americans depend on.

Here’s what the President had to say about it:

Disguised as a deficit reduction… it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.

We are likely to hear a lot more about social Darwinism in the months ahead. It was the conservative creed during the late 19th century – legitimizing a politics in which the lackeys of robber barons deposited sacks of money on legislators’ desks, and justifying an economy in which sweat shops were common, urban slums festered, and a significant portion of America was impoverished.

Social Darwinism encapsulated the idea of survival of the fittest (a phrase Charles Darwin never actually used) as applied to societies as a whole. Its chief apostle in America was Yale Professor William Graham Sumner.

Here’s what Sumner had to say in his social-Darwinian classic “What Social Classes Owe to Each Other” (1883):

Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative: Liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst ...

Published: Tuesday 3 April 2012
“Mitt Romney suggested that sicker Americans would use less care if they paid more for it and shopped around to different providers looking for the best possible deal.”

During a town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) on Monday, Mitt Romney proposed lowering health care spending by shifting more costs to the beneficiaries and working “with the principles that exist in the consumer market” to control spending. Responding to a question about health care costs, the former Massachusetts governor suggested that sicker Americans would use less care if they paid more for it and shopped around to different providers looking for the best possible deal:

ROMNEY: If you’re unfortunate enough to get a very serious condition and you have the insurance most people have. You pay the deductible and then it’s free! And so, you’ll go to a doctor and a hospital. You’d never think of asking about how much it’s going to cost because you don’t pay the bill — the insurance company does. In other countries like Switzerland, they have the patient pay 20 percent of the bill for elective surgeries and of course if it’s an emergency they don’t. But that gives you the chance to shop around….I’m also not naive enough to think that there would be a heck of a lot of problems that would be better run if we got the government out and turned back to the free market.

 

Republicans like to claim that exposing people to the true cost of health care — that is, putting more skin in the game — would discourage overtutilizaiton of care and force health care beneficiaries to act more like consumers, shop around, and select the best deal for a given service or treatment.

The theory sounds good, but there is very limited evidence that it actually works. After all, insurers have been shifting individuals into high-deductible plans for some time now, but ...

Published: Saturday 31 March 2012
Economic radical Paul Ryan has endorsed Mitt Romney, Romney’s embraced the Ryan budget, and the House Republicans have voted to enact the Romney/Ryan vision of the future into law.

Economic radical Paul Ryan has endorsed Mitt Romney, Romney's embraced the Ryan budget, and the House Republicans have voted to enact the Romney/Ryan vision of the future into law. Yet an eerie silence has settled over the vision itself: How would it affect our daily lives? What kind of country would we become?

The Romney/Ryan America of tomorrow is more like the science-fiction worlds of H.G. Wells' Time Machine or Fritz Lang's Metropolis than it is like the United States, as we know it. The privileged few would be even wealthier than they are today, while the rest of us struggle to survive in a dystonic world of disease, deprivation, and fear.

That's not lefty rhetoric, either. All you have to do is read the budget.

What did Romney say about Ryan's budget? "He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page." For his part, Paul Ryan expressed confidence that Romney will enact something very close to the budget he proposed and House Republicans passed this week.

And yet the real vision they're offering for the country is somehow off-limits in polite company. They're being treated like reasonable politicians, rather than as radicals whose social agenda is severely out of step with that their predecessors in both parties. That has to stop. We need to quit discussing the political horse race and start talking in real-life terms about the country they intend to create.

Here are five glimpses of the American future under Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans:

1. Diseased America

Forget what it means to be a ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
“Can they serve the American people if their experience of America is limited by their platinum surroundings?”

Mitt Romney has three houses. The former Massachusetts governor would like to do a $12 million "fix-up" on one of them, a beachfront property in La Jolla, Calif. The plan is to tear down the existing 3,000-square-foot structure and build an 8,100-square-foot replacement, plus a car elevator.

Within the top sliver of the richest 1 percent — in which Romney holds secure membership — such extravagant displays are not unusual. But Romney is also the likely Republican candidate for president. He seems unable to connect the two.

We've had great presidents who were rich and privileged, the two Roosevelts being examples. But Romney has crossed the border from rich to super-in-your-face rich. The idea of building a private Xanadu on the Pacific doesn't quite work with the one of winning over anxiety-ridden middle-class voters. You really have to question the guy's judgment.

Romney is certainly not the first politician whose grandiose lifestyle came under harsh scrutiny. ...

Published: Thursday 29 March 2012
“Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited funds, but they are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.”

For an example of the fluidity of campaign finance rules, as well as the tangled web of connections between candidates and super PACs, look no further than the digital consulting firm Targeted Victory.

So far, the firm’s hauled in $4.1 million working for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and American Crossroads, the super PAC launched by GOP strategist Karl Rove. Just down the hall, its neighbors in Arlington, Va., include an office housing four other companies working for Romney, American Crossroads or the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

With the rise of super PACs, the jet-fueled political action committees that can take unlimited contributions, many campaign finance watchdogs have focused on the hundreds of millions of dollars being raised this presidential election cycle. But after the most recent campaign filings came in last week, ProPublica decided to track the other side of the equation: Where the money goes.

Our analysis found that more than $306 million has been spent so far by major super PACs and the five leading presidential candidates. In some cases, payees serve both candidates and the super PACs aligned with them, raising the specter that groups may be working together in ways that violate the rules, campaign finance experts said. We also found instances in which ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
Adelson, whose fortune is pegged at almost $25 billion by Forbes, is a prime example of the new breed of super donor who in the wake of court rulings in early 2010, can give unlimited amounts to outside spending groups supporting a candidate.

Multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who have kept the flagging presidential candidacy of Newt Gingrich alive, seem poised to send millions to Republican-allied groups and possibly a super PAC backing frontrunner Mitt Romney, according to fundraisers with ties to the casino owner.

Adelson along with wife Miriam and other family members has garnered notice by donating a whopping $16.5 million to a super PAC backing Gingrich for president.

A private dinner Adelson hosted on March 22 at his home in Las Vegas drew Republican bigwigs from Washington, D.C., plus some of the GOP’s best-known fundraisers and donors. The diners were in Las Vegas early for a weekend summit of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), a nonprofit advocacy group that Adelson has backed heavily.

At the dinner, the Adelson family privately sent strong signals to some Romney allies that millions would flow from them to a ...

Published: Friday 23 March 2012
On average, Romney received only 23 percent from voters who said a candidate’s religious views mattered a “great deal” to them.

The Republican presidential primaries this year have turned into a religious census. There is little precedent in modern politics for the extent to which a state’s choice for a nominee has coincided so closely with how many of its ballots were cast by white evangelical voters.

 

Where evangelicals cast a minority of the ballots, Mitt Romney has won. Where evangelical voters predominated, Romney has lost, in most cases to Rick Santorum.

Romney’s victory Tuesday in Illinois fit snugly within this pattern. The result pointed to a continuing problem for Santorum: He has yet to break through in places where evangelicals were not the principal force.

While the exit polls did not question voters directly about their attitudes toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is indirect evidence that Romney’s faith may be holding down his vote among non-Mormons for whom a candidate’s religion matters.

But it’s also true that Romney’s Mormonism has had a positive electoral side. Solidarity among Mormon voters, eager to break a historical barrier, helped Romney win Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. Romney won 96 percent among self-identified Mormons in Arizona and 88 percent in Nevada. In Idaho, Romney carried counties in the southern part of this state where the bulk of its Mormon population resides, even as he lost most of the state’s northern counties to Santorum or Ron Paul.

But outside of Mormon strongholds, voters ...

Published: Thursday 22 March 2012
“Democrats have been painting the Republicans as having the ultimate cash advantage thanks to the free-spending super PACs, which Democrats have been hesitant to embrace at least until recently.”

A February increase in financial support for underdog Rick Santorum was too little and too late to slow the far-better financed Mitt Romney, who coasted to an easy victory in the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday.

Santorum’s campaign raised $9 million in February compared with $4.5 million in January. The “Red, White and Blue Fund,” a super PAC supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, raised $3 million, 41 percent more than what it raised in January.

Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, raised $12 million in February, nearly doubling its January total, while the super PAC supporting the ex-Massachusetts Gov., “Restore Our Future,” brought in $6.4 million, $3 million of which came from Texas homebuilder and Republican super donor Bob Perry of Texas.

Romney drew 47 percent of the vote in Illinois, former Pennsylvania senator Santorum garnered 35 percent, and Texas congressman Ron Paul of Texas drew 9.3 percent while Gingrich lagged in fourth at 8 percent.

Santorum’s recent financial surge has been aided by Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, who donated $600,000 to the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund in February, and retired Louisiana energy executive William Dore, who gave the group $500,000 last month.

The pro-Santorum PAC also received a $1 million contribution last month from Annette Simmons, wife of GOP mega-donor Harold Simmons, a billionaire investor who hails from Texas.

All told, the Simmons family donated to each of the top three GOP presidential candidates’ super PACs in February, with Harold giving $100,000 to Restore Our Future and another $100,000 to “Winning Our Future,” a super ...

Published: Saturday 17 March 2012
“Romney must know that his flip-flops on positions affecting the Hispanic community are disconcerting and unsympathetic to the feelings of the great majority of Hispanics throughout the country.”

Surely the Republican Party knows that it will be most difficult to occupy the White House without a significant percentage of Hispanic votes. Why then are two of the leading candidates seeking the nomination taking such anti Hispanic positions, particularly front runner Mitt Romney?  Romney must know that his flip-flops on positions affecting the Hispanic community are disconcerting and unsympathetic to the feelings of the great majority of Hispanics throughout the country.

 


Surely he must read and hear the multitude of angry opinions voiced by the Hispanic community condemning his positions. The former Governor of Massachusetts is not deaf or dumb, so then why?  Can it be that he is under the impression that once getting the nomination he can again reverse his position and win over the Hispanic vote?  That is about the only nonsense that makes some kind of sense.

 


He may be figuring that the nomination must first be obtained and since a great number of Republican members are of the far and extreme right unmoving on the issue of immigration reform for the undocumented, pushing to deny education to their children; and ...

Published: Thursday 15 March 2012
“The revolt of the right-wing masses means that Romney stands alone as the less than ideal representative of a relatively restrained brand of conservatism.”

Political revolutions leave chaos in their wake. Republicans cannot shut down their presidential nominating contest because the party is in the midst of an upheaval wrought by the growing dominance of its right wing, its unresolved attitudes toward George W. Bush’s presidency, and the terror that the GOP rank and file has stirred among the more moderately conservative politicians who once ran things.

When Pat Buchanan ran for president in the 1990s, the conservative commentator lovingly referred to his partisans as “peasants with pitchforks.” The pitchfork brigade now enjoys more power in Republican politics than even Buchanan thought possible.

Mitt Romney is still the Republican front-runner by virtue of the delegates he relentlessly piles up. But Romney keeps failing to bring this slugfest to a close. No matter how much he panders and grovels to the party’s right, its supporters will never see him as one of their own.

One senses that the conservative ultras are resigned to having to vote for Romney in November against President Obama. They are determined not to vote for him twice, using the primaries to give voice to their hearts and their guts. They will keep signaling their refusal to surrender to the Romney machine with its torrent of nasty advertisements and its continuing education courses in delegate math designed to prove that resistance is futile.

The more they are told this, the more they want to resist.

Rick Santorum is a superb vehicle for this cry of protest. He is articulate but

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.”

 

Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

No other conclusion can be drawn from parsing the candidates’ public remarks. Paul, of course, is basically an isolationist who believes it is none of our business if Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. He questions even the use of sanctions, such as those now in force. But Paul has about as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as I do.Mitt RomneyRick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all sought to portrayPresident Obama READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“There is mistrust of Wall Street-style finance that cuts across ideology, and Romney hasn’t done anything to overcome it.”

A pattern has emerged in the Republican primaries, Romney wins among Republican voters with six-figure incomes and loses among Republican voters with five-figure incomes.

We have a class war, and it's inside the Republican Party.

What has happened? What is it about Romney that has split Republicans along class lines? Does it mean Romney will struggle with working-class voters in November?

We can only conclude so much from exit polls and a few person-on-the-street quotes. Let's not forget that many pundits thought Barack Obama couldn't compete for working-class votes after his poor bowling outing preceded his drubbing in the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. Yet Obama won the Rust Belt in 2008, including Pennsylvania.

But there are two clear reasons why Romney is struggling now, and if those problems persisted, they not only portend trouble for Romney's candidacy, but for the future of conservatism.

1. Romney comes across like an out-of-touch Richie Rich.

You wouldn't think that being enormously wealthy, paying little in taxes and constantly saying insensitive things about his fortune and others' misfortune would be a problem in a Republican primary. But we are being reminded that not everyone Republican voter is in Romney's class.

Many conservatives recoiled when Newt Gingrich's Super PAC hammered Romney's track record running Bain Capital during the South Carolina primary. But those voters live 750 miles from Wall Street, and they voted for Newt.

There is mistrust of Wall Street-style finance that cuts across ideology, and Romney hasn't done anything to overcome it.

Obviously, working class people support wealthy politicians all the ...

Published: Tuesday 6 March 2012
Published: Monday 5 March 2012
“Gingrich is banking on Georgia, Tennessee and other Southern states to provide his campaign with the third comeback of this election season.”

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich dismissed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Sunday as a "not very convincing frontrunner" and challenged former Sen. Rick Santorum's conservative credentials ahead of Tuesday's 10-state Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary.

As Romney waged a quick campaign tour through Gingrich's Georgia backyard and Tennessee, Gingrich appeared on four Sunday news shows to proclaim that he's still a viable candidate and try to dispel the notion that the quest for the GOP nomination has boiled down to a race between Romney and Santorum.

"This is going to go on for a good while," Gingrich said on ABC's "This Week." "Gov. Romney, who's outspent all the rest of us by multitudes, is a front-runner, without question, but I think he's not a very convincing front-runner, and he's a long way from having closed out this race."

As for Santorum, Gingrich predicted that the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign will suffer once it moves beyond Ohio, another Super Tuesday state. Santorum and Romney are in a statistical dead heat in Ohio, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll.

"Santorum has been historically a labor union senator from Pennsylvania," Gingrich told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "... And when you get him out of the industrial states, I think it gets tougher for Rick to put together a majority, so we'll see how it goes after next Tuesday."

Santorum, appearing on "Fox News Sunday, said that he and Gingrich are vying for the same pool of conservative voters but stopped short of calling on Gingrich to drop out.

"We have the anti-Romney vote, if you will. Both Gingrich and I are slugging away," Santorum said. "As you know, it's always harder when you get two conservative candidates to go head-to-head. And if you look at all the races, it's ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
“Republicans win by stressing their superior ability in standing tall and defending the United States against its enemies. They don't win campaigns on social issues such as contraception or abortion.”

A week ago, Rick Santorum looked as though he might give Mitt Romney a thrashing in the Michigan primary, which would have unleashed a wave of grim assessments of the Mormon's prospects: his failure to lock up the race for the Republican nomination, his inability to connect with the common man or woman, the looming possibility of a brokered convention.

Romney's put such a fate behind him, at least till the next time he falters, which could be in the Washington state caucuses on March 3, Saturday, or in any of the 10 states having primaries or caucuses a week from today.

So Romney's a survivor. He recovered from a defeat at the hands of Newt Gingrich in South Carolina in time to win Florida; he routed Santorum last night. But each comeback has come with a huge price tag. Not just the millions Romney had to pour into negative ads against Santorum in Michigan but in the whole character of his battle with Santorum.

What nearly sank Romney in Michigan was his refusal to concede that he was totally wrong four years ago in opposing bailouts — initiated by Bush and carried through by Obama — for General Motors and Chrysler. Both companies were thrown life belts of government loans and are now doing well, giving jobs to thousands of autoworkers and suppliers in Michigan and Ohio. At the convention of the United Auto Workers last week, Obama had rare sport with Romney on this issue, eliciting howls of merriment and derision for Romney from his blue-collar audience. They could easily pull both Michigan and Ohio into the Democratic column next November. No Republican has ever won the White House without prevailing in Ohio.

If Romney is to have a decent chance of defeating Barack Obama in the fall, he has to make a strong general showing among Hispanics, women and middle-of-the-roaders. The growing Hispanic vote in states such as California and Texas is one of the core truths of politics in the coming era. In the early ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum flew to Washington state ahead of its Republican presidential caucuses Saturday, Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

Gingrich represented Atlanta suburbs in the House of Representatives for 20 years, ending in 1999. His business these days is trying to keep his presidential campaign alive in what's been shaping up lately as a two-man race for the Republican nomination that doesn't include him.

"I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race," Gingrich candidly told the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning. "But if I win Georgia, the following week we go to Alabama and Mississippi, and I think I'll win both of those and we have a good opportunity to win Kansas," which votes March 10.

Gingrich is pinning his hopes for a third comeback in this primary cycle on a Southern strategy. His only victory so far came in South Carolina. His camp thinks that winning Georgia on Tuesday could slingshot him to Southern victories the following Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama, and they in turn could serve as a springboard into later contests in delegate-rich Texas and elsewhere.

Gingrich leads in Georgia by 9 percentage points, according to an average of recent state polls compiled by the website ...

Published: Wednesday 29 February 2012
“Santorum’s brand of anti-elitism seems particularly personal: throbbing with resentment and directed squarely at Obama.”

Rick Santorum is engaging in class warfare.

Santorum accuses President Obama and Mitt Romney of that supposed transgression. Yet class warfare was at the heart of his “what a snob” attack on Obama for urging students to attend college, part of an angry broadside against “the elite in society who think that they can manage your life better than you can.”

Against an elite that believes in “climate science,” Santorum said, holding his fingers in ironic quotation marks and pronouncing “science” with a marked sneer.

Against an elite that dictates what health care you should have — the “ultimate top-down, I know better than you do” approach of Obama’s health reform — and, oh by the way, of Romney’s too.

Against an elite that looks down on you for not going to some fancy college. “There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to [the] test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them,” Santorum told an Americans for Prosperity forum Saturday in Troy, Mich.

And then, ominously and weirdly, against Obama and his elitist plot to educate more Americans: “Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image,” Santorum said. ...

Published: Monday 27 February 2012
“On the campaign trail, Romney’s car-related lines have a way of emphasizing just how distant he is from the average American car enthusiast.”

Conservatives have loved hitting the Obama family for their lifestyle, whether they’re criticizing the price of Michelle Obama’s or running with phony stories about her lingerie shopping. So there was something entertaining about seeing National Review criticize President Obama for an act of personal frugality—it turns out the President and his family haven’t owned or leased a car since 2007.

That’s an entirely sensible decision: when you’re famous enough to need Secret Service protection, you’re famous enough not to be driving yourself. And given the level of racist insanity Obama’s candidacy and presidency unleashed, Obama needs protection more than most candidates. If you’re not going to be driving yourself, and you don’t particularly like driving, there’s no particular reason to keep a car you’re not going to use. Obama’s decision is actually in line with a broad trend in America—car ownership fell for the first time ever in 2009, mostly because the economy encouraged people to cut down on redundant cars. But as conservatives look for ways to pin rising gas prices on Obama, it’s not particularly surprising that someone would make a weak attempt to paint Obama as out of touch because he’s following security protocol and making a reasonable financial decision.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has been emphasizing his bona fides as a car owner as a way of proving he’s something of a regular Joe—or at least committed to the American auto industry—particularly in advance of the Michigan primary. He attended the Daytona 500 on Sunday, where he was photographed with Lenny Kravitz.

On the campaign ...

Published: Monday 27 February 2012
“Republicans, now aware that they are on a losing track, may begin to engineer a series of course changes.”

If the election were held right now, President Obama would likely win by about the same margin that propelled him into office in 2008. But how fragile are his current advantages?

The biggest concern for the Democrats (and the best hope for the GOP) is that the president’s lead is far from overwhelming, even though Republicans — and particularly Mitt Romney — have been badly weakened by their nomination battle and Obama has been left largely unmolested by the conservative super PACs.

Democrats are certainly disappointed by the apparent fading of Rick Santorum in the final week before the Michigan primary and his surprisingly disjointed performance in last week’s debate. It’s not as clear to me as it is to others that Santorum would be less competitive than Romney as Obama’s opponent. What’s plain is that Democrats have an interest in the Republican contest going on indefinitely. Romney victories in Tuesday’s Michigan and Arizona primaries would likely shorten the process, and ending the nomination battle quickly is the precondition for a Republican counteroffensive.

They need one. Up to now, the Republican battle has played entirely into Democratic hands. The Democrats need upscale voters to cast ballots on the basis of social issues and a general revulsion over the Republicans’ lurch rightward. They need working-class whites to look past social issues and focus on economic inequality and the GOP’s continued insistence on cutting the taxes of rich people.

That’s exactly what’s happening. Obama won in 2008 even though he ran 18 points behind in the white working class. Until recently, he was drifting far lower than that, and Democrats were shellacked in House ...

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?”

When we talk about hypocrisy in politics, we usually highlight personal behavior. The serially-married politician who proclaims “family values” while also having affairs is now a rather dreary stock figure in our campaign narratives.

But the hypocrisy that matters far more is the gap between ideology and practice that has reached a crisis point in American conservatism. This Republican presidential campaign is demonstrating conclusively that there is an unbridgeable divide between the philosophical commitments conservative candidates make before they are elected and what they will have to do when faced with the day-to-day demands of practical governance. Conservatives in power have never been — and can never be — as anti-government as they are in a campaign.

Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they’re anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers. Also: Why do they bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?

Why do they criticize “entitlements” and “big government” while promising today’s senior citizens — an important part of the conservative base — never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security? Why do they claim that they want government out of the marketplace while not only rejecting cuts in defense but also lauding ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“The president’s proposal will require companies to pay a minimum corporate tax on all offshore profits, thus reducing the incentive for offshore production and parking profits in a tax haven.”

President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to reform the corporate tax code to make it simpler and fairer. The plan would reduce the top corporate tax rate substantially from 35 percent to 28 percent (25 percent for manufacturing) without increasing the deficit, a tall order indeed. Eliminating special interest tax breaks for business is an obvious quid pro quo for a lower tax rate and has the added benefits that it reduces the complexity and increases the fairness of the tax system. But this will not be sufficient.

To achieve a tax cut that is revenue neutral, the president has proposed eliminating three provisions in the tax code that create significant inequities and economic distortion. He proposes limiting the tax deductibility of interest, eliminating the special tax treatment of earnings of hedge fund and private equity managers, and reducing incentives for companies to offshore profits in tax havens.

Currently businesses can deduct interest payments on all of their debt no matter how highly leveraged they are. This leads companies to assume high debt-to-equity ratios not justified by business requirements. This makes companies vulnerable to financial distress in an economic downturn. A recent study of 2,156 highly leveraged companies found that a stunningly high 25 percent of them went bankrupt between 2007 and 2011. The tax deductibility of interest also encourages businesses to use complex financial instruments whose only purpose is to reduce the company's taxes. Finally, the disparate treatment of interest on debt and earnings retained by the corporation discriminates against ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“The billionaires backing the GOP’s super PAC’s may have placed their bets more wisely than anyone else knows.”

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop. That's the short version of my reaction to GOP primary debate #20. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe I need more time to recover from my two days at CPAC. (After the debate, I felt the same odd sensation that I swear I felt after finally fleeing CPAC — that tingling sensation one usually feels when an arm or leg that's "fallen asleep" wakes up. Except it was it was my brain coming back to life, after going numb.)

As a progressive, it really shouldn't bother me. After all, in many ways the biggest winner of the Republican debates is President Obama, while the biggest losers are (a) the candidates and (b) the Republican party. Plus, the debates have supplied an entertaining string of awkward momentsThis one had its moments, too. But it's getting painful to watch and listen to these guys. It's like ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“John Paulson of Paulson & Co and Paul Singer of Elliott International, known on Wall Street as ‘vulture’ investors, have each written checks for one million dollars to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy.”

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the federal government’s 2009 bail-out of the auto industry, “nothing more than crony capitalism, Obama style... a reward for his big donors to his campaign."  In fact, the biggest rewards ­­– a windfall of more than two billion dollars care of U.S. taxpayers ­­­–– went to Romney's two top contributors. 

 

John Paulson of Paulson & Co and Paul Singer of Elliott International, known on Wall Street as “vulture” investors, have each written checks for one million dollars to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy.

 

Gov. Romney last week asserted that the Obama Administration’s support for General Motors was a, “payoff for the auto workers union.” However, union workers in GM’s former auto parts division, Delphi, the unit taken over by Romney’s funders, did not fair so well.  The speculators eliminated every single union job from the parts factories once manned by 25,200 UAW members. 

 

The two hedge fund operators turned a breathtaking three-thousand percent profit on a relatively negligible investment by using hardball tactics against the U.S. Treasury and their own employees.

 

Under the control of the speculators, Delphi, which had 45 plants in the U.S. and Canada, is now reduced to just four factories with only 1,500 hourly workers, none of them UAW members, despite the union agreeing to cut contract wages by two thirds.

 

It wasn’t supposed to be quite so bad.  The Obama Administration and GM had arranged for a private equity investor to provide half a billion dollars in new capital for Delphi, but that would have cut the pay-out to Singer and Paulson.  The speculators blocked the Obama-GM plan, taking the entire government bail-out hostage.  Even ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“Upon unveiling the plan, Romney claimed that it would actually force the richest Americans to pay their fair share.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his latest tax reform plan today in Arizona and highlighted specifically the fact that it provided a 20-percent across-the-board cut in marginal tax rates for all Americans.

Upon unveiling the plan, Romney claimed that it would actually force the richest Americans to pay their fair share. Speaking of tax exemptions and deductions, Romney said, “For the high-income folks, we’re going to cut back on that, so that we make sure that the top 1 percent keeps paying the current share they’re paying or more.”

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Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“In a Where’s Waldo moment, it turned out that the dreaded nukes were not in Iraq, and the leading Republican presidential candidates are convinced that Iran now has such weapons and they need to be taken out.”

Here we go again. With the economy showing faint signs of life and their positions on the social issues alienating most moderates, the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have returned to the elixir of warmongering to once again sway the gullible masses. The race to the bottom has been set by Newt Gingrich, the most desperate of the lot, who on Tuesday charged that “The President wants to unilaterally weaken the United States,” because his administration has dared question the wisdom of Israel attacking Iran and proposes a slight reduction in the bloated defense budget. 

Let the good times roll with a beefed-up military budget justified by plans to invade yet another Muslim country. As Paul warned during the South Carolina primary debate as his presidential rivals threatened war with Iran: “I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.” Indeed, the shouting match over which of the other GOP candidates most wants a war with Iran is in sync with the last Republican president’s 2003 invasion.

It was an invasion that removed Saddam Hussein, once the U.S. ally in confronting Iran, from power and replaced him with a Shite leadership long beholden to the ayatollahs of Iran. Of course, as Bush lied, this was not about nation-building aimed at imposing a democracy in our image, but rather, as is the claim now, about preventing radical Muslims from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.”

Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel, or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave $1 million; Freis, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave $669,000 ...

Published: Sunday 19 February 2012
In the following charts, the left side, where it is red, shows how things were going before the stimulus, and the right side, where it is blue, shows the effect of President Obama's policies.

This is the 3rd anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as President Obama's "stimulus." Republicans say it made the economy worse. Let's see...

House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, "Today, there's no denying the fact that his 'stimulus' policies not only failed, they made things worse." Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney released an ad that says, "What did we get with all the spending?" text in the ad reads. "24 million Americans struggling for work. Record long term unemployment. 4th straight trillion dollar deficit."

So What Happened?

In the following charts, the left side, where it is red, shows how things were going before the stimulus, and the right side, where it is blue, shows the effect of President Obama's policies. Click any chart for a larger view.

Jobs: (the left side, with all the lines going down, down, down, is before the stimulus. The right side, with the dramatic reversal, with all the lines going up, up, up, is the stimulus taking effect.)

January 2012 Jobs Report

Private sector jobs: (the left side, with all the lines going down, down, down, is before the stimulus. The right side, with the dramatic reversal, with all the lines going up, up, up, is the stimulus taking effect.)

January 2012 Jobs Report - Private Sector

Economic growth: (the left side, with ...

Published: Saturday 18 February 2012
Total giving from billionaire and family would reach $21 million.

One fundraiser, who has spoken with Adelson in the last week, said that the wealthy supporter of Jewish causes indicated to him that he is still committed to keeping Gingrich in the race.

It is unclear whether the pro-Gingrich PAC’s ads will attack frontrunners former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or burnish Gingrich’s conservative image and record — or both.

Rick Tyler, a senior advisor to the super PAC, declined to comment about any further donations coming from Adelson. Tyler said that he was “optimistic” that the super PAC would be able to run an advertising campaign prior to super Tuesday, but “to be effective, we would need a significant infusion of cash.”

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Published: Friday 17 February 2012
“Speaker Boehner refuses to let it come to the floor for a vote, and even though the bill has 61 Republican co-sponsors no Republicans have signed the ‘discharge petition’ to force a vote.”

As China's Vice President Xi Jinping visits the US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasts President Obama for not being tough enough on China. Meanwhile Romney says nothing about House Republicans keeping the China Currency Bill from being brought to the floor for a vote. That includes 61 Republicans who co-sponsored the bill. So if Romney is serious, there is something he can do without waiting for the election: tell House Republicans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Reuters: Romney, Obama campaign spar over US-China policy READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Wednesday 15 February 2012
“So there you have it — American politics has developed into a game for the fun and profit of a few superrich narcissists.”

The rich are different from you and me, but the really, really, really rich are also different from the merely rich.

For example, the rich can buy caviar and Champagne, but the Triple-R Rich can buy entire presidential campaigns.

Take Sheldon Adelson, the moneybags who's pumped $11 million so far into Newt Gingrich's right-wing run. He has single-handedly kept Gingrich's White House ambitions alive. Without this one guy's money, The Newt would've been long gone. Thanks a lot, Sheldon.

But Adelson can easily afford to roll the dice on a far-out candidate. This global casino baron hauled in $3.3 million in pay last year. Not for a year — that's what his hourly take was. In other words, his $11-million bet on Newt, which altered the Republican presidential race, was nothing — less than three-and-a-half hours of one of Sheldon's workdays.

Even Rick Santorum, who's so far to the right that his left brain has entirely atrophied from lack of use, is actually in the running for the GOP nomination. He insists that people are flocking to him because of the power of his ideas. Sure, Rick — and the power of Foster Friess' money.

This little-known Wall Street multimillionaire has long been a partner in the Koch brothers' plutocratic cabal and a steady funder of right-wing Christian politics. Friess modestly claims that God is "the ...

Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“But to have both unlimited and undisclosed donations, Hoersting noted, activists can form a so-called 501(c)4, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code on social-welfare nonprofits.”

The big Republican names were all at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., last week: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.

The three-day conference, known as CPAC and hosted by the American Conservative Union, drew about 11,000 participants and 1,300 journalists, who crammed into the Marriott's ballroom for the big speeches.

While most attention focused on Republican presidential hopefuls and other party luminaries, we opted to take a spin around panels and events devoted to fundraising. They were a window into how money might be raised this election cycle, through new-fangled super PACs and their even more opaque nonprofit sidekicks, as well as through more old-fashioned tactics.

One conference panel -- "What's Up With Campaign Finance?" -- featured some of the lawyers who helped win the recent court decisions, such as Citizens United, that cleared the way for the new, more free-wheeling campaign-finance landscape.

At one point, moderator and lawyer Dan Backer predicted the eventual overhaul of the Federal Election Campaign Act of the 1970s, which he crowed "has been brutalized and made Swiss cheese by the courts, thanks to the folks on this panel."

At another point, panelist Benjamin Barr, a constitutional lawyer, joked about the hoopla over Citizens United and the worry that it would lead to a campaign-finance "apocalypse."

"If there's an apocalypse upon us, I suppose we have the four ...

Published: Sunday 12 February 2012
“Romney is passionate about the need, as he sees it, to defeat President Obama — but vague or self-contradictory as to why.”

Criticism of Mitt Romney for lacking a coherent message is grossly unfair. He has been forthright, consistent and even eloquent in pressing home his campaign’s central theme: Mitt Romney desperately wants to be president.

Everything else seems mushy or negotiable. Romney is passionate about the need, as he sees it, to defeat President Obama — but vague or self-contradictory as to why. The lyrics of “America the Beautiful,” which Romney has recited as part of his standard campaign speech, don’t solve the mystery; Obama, too, is on record as supporting spacious skies and fruited plains.

Beyond personal ambition, what does Romney stand for? Obviously, judging by Rick Santorum’s clean sweep Tuesday, I’m not the only one asking the question. I suspect an honest answer would be something like “situational competence” — Romney boasts of having rescued the 2002 Olympics, served as the Republican governor of one of the nation’s most Democratic states and made profitable choices about where to invest his money. But with the economy improving and the stock market soaring, Romney’s president-as-CEO argument loses whatever relevance it might have had.

To conservative groups, Romney can sound ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“The sweep by the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania exposed long-held voter qualms about Romney, and conservatives are likely to take a fresh look at Santorum.”

Mitt Romney's carefully plotted path to the Republican presidential nomination is now a long, unpredictable journey that could last months.

The next major tests are primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28, where Romney has been heavily favored. A week later, 10 states vote on March 6, Super Tuesday, when the former Massachusetts governor was hoping to all but clinch the nomination.

Not anymore.

With victories Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Rick Santorum became a threat. The sweep by the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania exposed long-held voter qualms about Romney, and conservatives are likely to take a fresh look at Santorum.

"I don't think this changes the title of front-runner (for Romney), but it underscores the fundamental problem he has with the party base," said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "They just don't trust him, and they don't connect to him personally. He has serious, serious problems."

Arizona and Michigan have strong conservative bases. Santorum's faith-and-family message could appeal to them.

"After yesterday, I think everything's in play," said Jim Haynes, the president of the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, a nonpartisan market research and polling firm.

Even in Michigan, where Romney's father was governor in the 1960s, the race could tighten. "There's an opportunity for Santorum to give Romney a black eye," said Douglas Koopman, a professor of government at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Super Tuesday's most closely watched race is likely to be Ohio, the kind of diverse swing state that a general-election candidate historically has to win. Romney faces the same conservative suspicion there that he does elsewhere.

As a result, "It's a volatile state," said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“Somehow from their different environments emerged two men shaped by a sense of outsiderness.”

 

The general election is shaping up as a contest between two remarkably similar men.

Not ideologically. Despite the Newt Gingrich-peddled notion that “there really is no difference” between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the gulf in political philosophy is enormous.

 

Both men, left to their own devices, would occupy a centrist place within their own parties. But Obama envisions a far more muscular role for government in general and the federal government in particular. Romney’s faith is primarily — excessively, in my view — in the free market.

Still, assuming that Romney becomes the Republican nominee, the two candidates will share surprisingly similar temperaments and habits of mind. They are different from the standard-issue politician — both are more aloof than gregarious, more cerebral than impassioned.

These similarities could not have been predicted from their entirely different backgrounds. Romney came from wealth; Obama’s mother was for a time on food ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“Mitt Romney has won three races (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) but he has now lost five (Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota).”

The big winner Tuesday? Anybody But Romney.

After eight states have held Republican primaries and caucuses, the ordained front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has lost the majority of contests. Mitt Romney has won three races (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) but he has now lost five (Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota).

Here’s the even more unsettling fact for those who would make Romney a nominee: Rick Santorum, who was supposed a footnote to the 2012 contest, has won more states than Mitt Romney. But let’s not succumb to Santorumania just yet.

Yes, yes, of course, the sweater vest had a good night. But the big deal is that Republicans rejected the empty suit.

Rick Santorum may have won beauty contests Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but he won’t even be on the ballot for delegate-rich contests in states such as Indiana and Virginia. He’s still running for vice president, or maybe a cabinet post.

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Published: Tuesday 7 February 2012
“The downward mobility of America’s middle class is the big news, but the GOP apparently hasn’t heard about it.”

January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class.

Most of the new jobs being created are in the lower-wage sectors of the economy – hospital orderlies and nursing aides, secretaries and temporary workers, retail and restaurant. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain working only because they’ve agreed to cuts in wages and benefits. Others are settling for jobs that pay less than the jobs they’ve lost. Entry-level manufacturing jobs are paying half what entry-level manufacturing jobs paid six years ago.

Other people are falling out of the middle class because they’ve lost their jobs, and many have also lost their homes. Almost one in three families with a mortgage is now underwater, holding their breath against imminent foreclosure.

The percent of Americans in poverty is its highest in two decades, and more of us are impoverished than at any time in the last fifty years. A recent analysis of federal data by the New York Times showed the number of children receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million in the last school year, up from 18 million in 2006-2007. Nearly a dozen states experienced increases of 25 percent or more. Under federal rules, children from famlies with incomes up to 130 percent of the poverty line, $29,055 for a family of four, are eligible.

Experts say the bad economy is the main factor driving the increase. According to an analysis of census data by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, 37 percent of young families with children were in poverty in 2010. It’s likely that rate has worsened.

Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
“The minimum wage reached its highest real value—$9.52 per hour (in 2012 real dollars) in February,1968 and has depreciated precipitously ever since.”

Ours is a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Over the past four decades fiscal policies that have been good for the rich have generally been bad for the poor and, well, ugly for the indigent.

 

Whereas the income of America’s wealthiest  1% has surged by 275% since 1979, it has scarcely risen at all for those inhabiting the bottom quintile.

 

But for those consigned to positions even lower, for those trapped at or around the minimum wage threshold, the story is far more nefarious. U.S. workers laboring under the inertia of federal minimum wage statutes have actually seen their incomes decrease by 19% since the late 1970’s. That is, the federal minimum wage in real dollars has decayed by $2.60/hour since 1979. And despite broad public support, Congress refuses time and again to index the federal minimum wage to real growth marked by inflation. Perhaps it’s finally time to “occupy” the minimum wage.

 

While signing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 President Franklin Roosevelt declared unequivocally that it was designed to place “a floor below wages and ceiling over hours worked” by establishing a federal minimum wage, fixing a 40-hour work week, and forbidding nearly all forms of child labor. Roosevelt’s foundational objective was to create labor standards necessary for the health and well-being of the nation’s some 30 million workers and to ensure “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Specially, the FLSA’s minimum wage provision was intended to stimulate employment (The unemployment rate sat at close to 20% in ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
For direct impact on voters, a Pew Research Center survey last month found 20 percent of likely Republican voters said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate, while 13 percent said it would make them more likely to support the candidate.

Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, a move with little likely impact on voting but rich with billionaire-meets-millionaire symbolism.

"Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp. He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country," Trump said at an event staged in his own Las Vegas hotel, with Romney and his wife, Ann, standing beside him.

"There are some things you just can't imagine happening in your life," said Romney. "This is one of them."

The sideshow — which included the hint of a double-cross to Newt Gingrich and Trump-size hype — dominated the campaign two days before the Nevada caucuses, where polls show Romney headed toward a Saturday win.

Yet Trump's backing may do more harm than good.

For direct impact on voters, a Pew Research Center survey last month found 20 percent of likely Republican voters said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate, while 13 percent said it would make them more likely to support the candidate.

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Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“Romney clearly has no idea what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about if he thinks that the tens of thousands protesting, often facing police violence and risking arrest, are there because of envy.”

Although Mitt Romney has yet to win a majority in a Republican primary, he won big in Florida. After he and the pro-Romney super PACs flooded the airwaves with millions of dollars’ worth of ads in a state where nearly half the homeowners are underwater, he talked about whom he wants to represent. “We will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor,” he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. “You could choose where to focus, you could focus on the rich, that’s not my focus. You could focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans.” Of the very rich, Romney assures us, “They’re doing just fine.” With an estimated personal wealth of $250 million, Romney should know.

Romney’s campaign itself is well-financed, but his success to date, especially against his current main rival, Newt Gingrich, is driven by massive cash infusions to a so-called super PAC, the new breed of political action committee that can take unlimited funds from individuals and corporations. Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign. Federal Election Commission filings made public Jan. 31 reveal that the principal super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future, raised close to $18 million in the second half of 2011, from just 199 donors. Among his supporters are Alice Walton, who, although listed in the report as a “rancher,” is better known as an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, and the famously caustic venture capitalist and billionaire Samuel Zell, the man credited with driving the Tribune media company into bankruptcy. William Koch, the third of the famous Koch brothers, also gave.

Juxtapose those 199 with the number of people living in poverty in the United ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“If anything, America’s safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes.”

One of the few things Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich agree on is that President Obama is turning America into “European-style welfare culture.”

In his standard stump speech Romney charges Obama with creating a nation of dependents. “Over the past three years Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an entitlement society.”

Gingrich calls Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

What’s their evidence? Both rely on federal budget data showing direct payments to individuals shot up by almost $600 billion, a 32 percent increase, since the start of 2009.

They also point to Census data showing that 49 percent of Americans now live in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit – Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, or subsidized housing. That’s up from 44 percent in 2008.

Finally, they trumpet Social Security Administration figures showing that the number of people on Social Security disability jumped 10 percent in Obama’s first two years in office.

They argue our economic problems stem from this sharp rise in “dependency.” Get rid of these benefits and people will work harder.

But they have cause and effect backwards. The reason for the rise in food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other safety-net programs is Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever helping hands they could get.

If anything, America’s safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes. That’s why the number and percentage of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically over the past three years. According to a study by Northeastern University,  a third of families with young children are now in poverty.

This is the ...

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
Romney does well in every part of the state. He has strong majorities in the crucial Hispanic community, where he has a 52 to 28 percent lead over Gingrich.

As Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich dueled across Florida four days before the state's pivotal Republican primary, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll showed Romney with a commanding double-digit lead.

"A lot of people may not be charged up about Romney, but they're coming to realize Gingrich is too big a risk to take in the general election," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll.

Romney leads Gingrich, 42 to 31 percent. The survey was taken Tuesday through Thursday and completed before Thursday night's GOP debate in Jacksonville.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, spent Saturday elaborating on their chief message at that often raucous debate: That the other guy is unfit to be president.

Romney released a scathing new ad reminding voters how the House overwhelmingly reprimanded Gingrich for ethical lapses while he was speaker of the House of Representatives.

The ad features Tom Brokaw, then the anchorman of "NBC Nightly News," delivering the news 15 years ago about the extraordinary House rebuke.

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Here’s a committed devotee of tooth-and-claw capitalism — replete with 8-year-olds working as janitors — campaigning with a pro-worker film of which Ken Loach would be proud, paid for by a rabidly anti-union billionaire who thinks Israel should bomb Iran and drive the Palestinians into the sea.”

Poor Romney. He's back in the Newt nightmare. Here comes the portly Georgian, brushing aside the guards outside Romney's hotel suite, kicking open the bedroom door, seizing Romney by the throat ... Aaaargh! And then Romney is awake, realizing that this is a cold-sweat nightmare that will last ... maybe until they close in Florida on Jan. 31; maybe until Super Tuesday on March 6, when nine states hold their primaries.

We left Romney amidst the flush of victory in New Hampshire, with polls in South Carolina showing him a solid 10 points ahead of Gingrich, who made a poor showing in New Hampshire on top of a fourth place finish in Iowa below the Catholic zealot Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Santorum's a faded force now. (The fact that he and his wife boast of having taken their dead baby home from the hospital and placed it between their two living children, telling them that "Gabriel's an angel now" may have sat ill with some voters.)

Gingrich burned for revenge for his rough treatment in New Hampshire by Romney's campaign commercials. But how, on a tight timeline, to acquaint South Carolina Republicans with Romney's infamies?

He needed money, lots of it, double-quick.

In the old days there were certain pettifogging constraints on how much a billionaire could lavish on his favored candidate. But then came the "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (split 5-4), issued in January 2010, ruling that the First Amendment, protecting free speech, prohibits the government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. As Ralph Nader correctly pointed out at the time, "With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars."

Enter 78-year-old Sheldon Adelson, the world's ...

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Predictably, both candidates’ main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.”

The two leading candidates in the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, came to Miami on Wednesday to win the support of tens of thousands of Cuban Republican voters by blasting the Castro brothers and outlining their plans for improving U.S-Latin American relations.

Predictably, both candidates' main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.

First up was Gingrich, who spoke before about 250 people at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center. A much more aggressive policy toward Cuba is needed to bring about a "Cuban spring" and usher in democracy, he said during a morning speech.

Romney chose a much more symbolic setting for his afternoon address on Latin American: The Freedom Tower where thousands of Cuban exiles were processed when they first entered the United States.

Romney and Gingrich agreed that they disagree with President Barack Obama on Cuba policy.

"This president does not understand that by helping Castro; he is not helping the people of Cuba; he is hurting them," Romney said to cheers inside the ornate downtown Miami building . "I want to be the American ...

Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012
“Casino mogul’s wife gives $5 million to pro-Gingrich group”

The Israeli-born wife of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is matching her husband and placing her own $5 million bet on a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich in the upcoming Florida primary.

The gift came from Miriam Adelson, according to sources familiar with husband Sheldon’s previous $5 million donation to the super PAC “Winning Our Future.” The funds, in the form of a wire transfer, are expected to be received by the PAC on Tuesday.

The second $5 million infusion the pro-Gingrich PAC from the physician-wife of the 78-year-old Adelson could be crucial to Gingrich’s chances of winning the Jan. 31 primary, where Mitt Romney’s campaign and supporting super PAC have an early and sizable head start in advertising spending.

In South Carolina, Sheldon Adelson’s $5 million donation to the PAC basically bankrolled its hard-hitting negative ad blitz, which totaled almost $3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The ads heavily targeted former Massachusetts Gov. Romney’s long career running the buyout firm Bain Capital. In some cases, Bain made tens of millions of dollars in its buyout deals but ...

Published: Monday 23 January 2012
“Gingrich skillfully set up his opponent to step on the landmine of class by transforming Romney from his self-cast role as a successful businessman into a heartless financier more interested in profits than in job creation.”

Conservatives may denounce class warfare, yet by shrewdly combining the politics of class with the politics of culture, Newt Gingrich won his first election in 14 years, humbled Mitt Romney and upended the Republican Party.

He also exposed profound frailties in Romney as a candidate, throwing him badly off-balance on questions related to his personal wealth, business career and income taxes. Unless Romney finds a comfortable and genuine way of talking about his money, he will present President Obama’s team a weakness that they’ll exploit mercilessly. The country is thinking more skeptically about wealth and privilege in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Romney has not adjusted.

Gingrich skillfully set up his opponent to step on the landmine of class by transforming Romney from his self-cast role as a successful businessman into a heartless financier more interested in profits than in job creation.

The conventional view is that Gingrich’s critique of Bain Capital, Romney’s old company, didn’t work because Republicans dislike assaults on “free enterprise,” a phrase Romney ...

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“What’s remarkable is that Romney seems to be closing in on a victory at the very moment when he is painting himself as the anti-populist and a tone-deaf economic elitist.”

Members of the Tea Party insisted they were turning the GOP into a populist, anti-establishment bastion. Social conservatives have long argued that values and morals matter more than money. Yet in the end, the corporate and economically conservative wing of the Republican Party always seems to win.

Thus was Mitt Romney so confident of victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary that he left the state briefly on Tuesday for a fundraiser in New York. And why not? The power of big money has been amplified in this campaign by the super PACs let loose by the Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision and lax regulation.

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012
“Romney made a suggestion that he will reveal only his 2011 return, which would allow him to control the narrative, of course, by paying a higher rate this year than in years past. Having admitted that he pays as little as 15 percent — or around the same effective rate as a family earning $60,000 a year.”

Mitt Romney's latest flip-flop is almost complete. Having vowed a month ago not to release his federal income tax returns, the Republican presidential front-runner conceded during Saturday night's debate that he would "probably" release his returns, and then on Tuesday afternoon finally said he will do so — in April, long after he is likely to have secured his party's nomination. With characteristic arrogance, he excused the delay by suggesting that April 15 is the traditional date when public officials supply this information, which is certainly true if you're already president.

Even more galling was Romney's suggestion that he will reveal only his 2011 return, which would allow him to control the narrative, of course, by paying a higher rate this year than in years past. Having admitted that he pays as little as 15 percent — or around the same effective rate as a family earning $60,000 a year.

Who does Romney think he is fooling with this charade? Republicans are rightly concerned that his sense of entitlement, symbolized by the tax question, will damage their party's chances next fall. Determined though he is now to withhold his tax history, Romney is likely to be forced to surrender all of the  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012
“While GOP leaders still try to dismiss the issue of income inequality, the mobility issue goes to the very core of America's identity — it’s too big to deny or ignore.”

What planet does presidential wannabe Rick Santorum live on? When it comes to grasping the situation of America's hard-hit workaday majority, this sweater-vested ultra-right-winger is further out than Pluto.

In a recent debate, Santorum assailed a tax plan proposed by front-runner Mitt Romney. It wasn't the plan's details that caused Rick to stamp his tiny feet, but Romney's expressed intent to help the "middle class."

Tut-tut, chided the ideologically-pure Santorum, Republicans mustn't use such language, for it creates an impression of class warfare. After all, he lectured: "There are no classes in America. We don't put people in classes."

Sure, Rick — today's jobless economy, a national epidemic of union busting and wage knockdowns, absurd tax giveaways to the super-rich, the ongoing Wall Street bailout, inexcusable corporate subsides, rising poverty, the slashing of anti-poverty programs and a decade of falling incomes for the vast majority, while the elite 1 percent makes off with triple-digit increases in its wealth — there's no class war happening. Just close your eyes, hum a happy tune ... and live on Pluto.

Meanwhile, in the same week that Santorum spoke, the Pew Research Center released a new survey showing how far removed he is from regular people's experience and concerns. Two-thirds of Americans see "strong conflicts" between the rich and poor in our country, a stark division between those few who have wealth, power and security, and the vast majority who don't. The few do not have the same objectives as the many, and the survey found that this class separation — yes, class — is the No. 1 source of social tension in America today.

Interestingly for the far-out Santorum, not only do 73 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents agree, but so do 55 percent of Republicans.

One of the hidebound myths in our culture ...

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
Calls for the GOP presidential candidate to release his tax returns are likely to increase.

Mitt Romney, who made millions buying and selling companies for a private equity firm, pays an effective tax rate that is lower than a family earning less than $70,000.

“It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” Romney told reporters in South Carolina Tuesday, when asked about his taxes.

The Bain Capital founder and current GOP presidential front-runner has been under pressure to release his tax returns. Romney is estimated to be worth as much as $264 million. If he had earned all that cash from salaried work, he would likely be in the top federal tax bracket of 35 percent.

But because private equity partners and hedge fund managers make most of their money from carried interest — a cut of profits off investments that are taxed at the lower 15 percent capital gains rate — the Romney household likely pays a lower overall tax rate than many middle class American families.

But not all of Romney's earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate. The $374,328 in speaker's fees that the former ...

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
“The real smoking gun is how Romney manages to pay only 15 percent on what’s been his money-gusher of compensation from Bain Capital.”

After refusing for weeks to release his taxes, Mitt Romney now says he’ll do so — by tax day, April 15. But the real news is what Romney has now admitted about his taxes.

It’s not how much Romney earns. Everyone knows he’s comfortably in the top one-tenth of one percent.

It’s how much he pays of it in taxes. Romney says he pays a tax rate of “about 15 percent.”

That’s lower than the tax rate most of America’s middle class face and far lower than the 35 percent top rate after the Bush tax cut. (To put this in perspective, recall that the top income tax rate under Dwight Eisenhower was 91 percent.)

Newt Gingrich immediately pounced on Mitt’s admission as evidence that Newt’s proposed flat 15 percent tax is ideal, and wants to call it the “Romney tax.” Newt’s flat tax is a fraud. It would dramatically lower the taxes of most of the top 1 percenters and increase the taxes of most of the rest of us.

The real smoking gun is how Romney manages to pay only 15 percent on what’s been his money-gusher of compensation from Bain Capital. Romney hasn’t released his tax returns yet, but the most obvious answer is he treats his Bain income as capital gains — subject to the current capital gains rate of only 15 percent.

A loophole in the tax laws allows private-equity managers like Romney to treat their compensation as capital gains. It’s legal but it’s a scandal. Income from employment is employment income, period.

Private-equity managers cling to the technicality that the money they take out of their companies comes from the appreciation of assets they own and sell. That may be true, but it’s still income they get from their jobs. Common sense would dictate it be treated as ordinary income.

Congress has vowed for years to close this loophole. But somehow it persists. Even when ...

Published: Tuesday 17 January 2012
“The 71-year-old Friess said he has sent a note to 5,000 “sportsmen” pledging that he will match whatever they donate to the super PAC, up to $500,000.”

A billionaire Wyoming investor has pledged to give up to a half-million dollars in matching funds to an outside spending group that supports Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum.

Foster Friess put up a good chunk of the $537,000 that the Santorum super PAC, the “Red White and Blue Fund,” spent on ads to help Santorum come in a close second to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses.

Now, the 71-year-old Friess said he has sent a note to 5,000 “sportsmen” pledging that he will match whatever they donate to the super PAC, up to $500,000, which is expected to be crucial to Santorum’s chances of halting Romney’s march to his party’s presidential nomination. He declined to be more specific.

“The Democrats will chew Romney up because of his patrician background,” Friess said in an interview with iWatch News, in explaining his support for Santorum over the Massachusetts Republican. “It’s not his fault. Who’s going to be more appealing to blue-collar workers?”

Romney is a member of a prominent political family and is a very wealthy former head of a private equity firm that has received hefty criticism lately from other Republicans. Friess noted that Santorum’s grandfather was a coal miner. 

Friess made his fortune running mutual funds and is a keen stock picker. He is a veteran supporter of conservative causes, a born-again Christian and ally of the much-richer Koch brothers. Friess said he’s called several wealthy friends urging them to back Santorum, a former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, by helping the super PAC.

Friess declined to identify any of the people he called.

Despite a big financial disadvantage for Santorum, and polls showing he is still lagging ...

Published: Monday 16 January 2012
“Romney’s views on immigration are radical even in a field of candidates who appear to be competing to take the most radical views on this subject.”

On a day set aside to honor civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitt Romney plans to tout his extreme immigration positions during a campaign stop in South Carolina today — with Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona’s and Alabama’s immigration laws, at his side. He will attack his competitors Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for their softer immigration stances, which could resonate with South Carolina voters who support that state’s harmful immigration law.

“Mitt Romney stands apart from the others. He’s the only one who’s taken a strong across-the-board position on immigration,” Kobach said, and he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Romney was much farther to the right on illegal immigration than his fellow presidential candidates.

 

Considering Kobach’s own opinions and associations, however, his endorsement may not be one Romney wants to tout.

Before he became Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach worked for Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal branch of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as a “nativist hate group.” One of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which “

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
The first order of business for the group is to rally donors to Santorum’s cause.

With this state's Republican presidential primary a week away, former Sen. Rick Santorum on Saturday received the endorsement of 150 influential Christian conservative leaders who are hoping to prevent former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from becoming the GOP nominee.

The group, suspicious that Romney's commitment to social conservative causes such as ending legalized abortion is weak, met at a ranch outside of Houston, Texas, in hopes of rallying around one candidate rather than split their votes among three — Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The endorsement came as the Republican presidential field converged on scenic Charleston, S.C., for a televised town hall meeting for undecided voters hosted by Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a telephone news conference after the meeting that the conservatives had begun their deliberations with "not a lot of hope that we could reach consensus around one candidate."

But in the end "there emerged a strong consensus around Rick Santorum," Perkins said, after three rounds of balloting.

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
“The issue of Bain Capital and Romney’s role there has exposed a degree of arrogance, as he tries to portray his company’s ruthless, single-minded and often destructive quest for super-profits as a noble effort to support American employment.”

For Mitt Romney, Tuesday night's triumph in the New Hampshire primary offered a tempting opportunity to gloat. Such unattractive conduct is no longer surprising from the Republican front-runner, who is enduring the gradual disclosure of his personality.

The hot Romney video of the moment displays him telling the Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce: "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," and went viral not because of its specific context, which wasn't particularly damning, but because the public perceives the remark as a distillation of elite heartlessness. Every decent person who has had to fire someone knows that doing so — under almost any circumstances — is unpleasant, difficult and frequently wrenching. To boast that you "like to fire people" after observing years of economic pain among the jobless suggests a deep defect that, to most Americans, may disqualify Romney from the presidency.

Of course, that quote could have been a peculiar gaffe or a meaningless slip, but it wasn't. There is no shortage of evidence, emanating mostly from his own mouth, that privilege, arrogance and entitlement are major features of Romney's character.

Sometimes the telltale comment has the additional frisson of weirdness, like his offer to bet "$10,000" that Rick Perry couldn't ...

Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney knows that he can’t talk to the people who run the notorious “super PAC” that may have won the Iowa caucuses for him.

“It's illegal, as you probably know. I'm not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” he said in December on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. “My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the Big House.”

Well, probably not. Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Since 1999, the FEC has conducted a total of three investigations into alleged coordination between a candidate committee and an individual or organization making “independent expenditures.” Two of those probes resulted in fines totaling $26,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-court ruling in 2010 allowed corporations, individuals and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to independent organizations that use the money to support or defeat a candidate. The ruling led to the creation of “super PACs.”

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 13 January 2012
“National polls support the notion of a more populist Republican base, and as the combined results of WSJ/NBC News polls over the last year show, blue-collar voters were slightly more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats.”

There is a full-blown debate going on in, of all places, the Republican Party about the failings of the governing, corporate-sponsored kleptocracy. Not so on the Democratic side. Spared a primary battle, the incumbent president need not defend his economic record, which is basically a redo of the save-Wall-Street-first stance initiated by his Republican predecessor.

That bipartisan establishment consensus, in which the enormous power of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve was harnessed to bail out the financial industry swindlers while ignoring the plight of their victims, has been challenged only on the Republican side, where the libertarian Ron Paul has tapped into the enormous populist rage among voters.

There is no comparable dissent among leading Democrats, who have been loath to take on Barack Obama’s embrace of crony capitalism—that fatal melding of Wall Street wealth with Washington political power—the way Paul and even Newt Gingrich have powerfully challenged Mitt Romney, the GOP’s Obama doppelgänger.

Yes, doppelgänger, and please don’t try to scare me with those hoary tales of how Romney is the second coming of the far right on social issues, when his entire tenure as Massachusetts governor proved quite the opposite. The issue in this campaign is the economy, and on that, by the time of the general election, there will be no serious substantive difference between the two major parties’ candidates. Both will squarely be on the side of the financiers who created this crisis.

The attacks on Romney’s association with the rapacious Bain Capital could apply with equal force to the Clinton administration veterans whom Obama has entrusted with managing the nation’s economy. The list begins with Lawrence Summers, who pocketed more than $8 million in Wall ...

Published: Thursday 12 January 2012
“According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 percent either filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors by end of eighth year after Bain’s investment.”

It’s one thing to criticize Mitt Romney for being a businessman with the wrong values. It’s quite another to accuse him and his former company, Bain Capital, of doing bad things. If what Bain Capital did under Romney was bad for society, the burden shifts to Romney’s critics to propose laws that would prevent Bain and other companies from doing such bad things in the future.

Don’t hold your breath.

Newt Gingrich says Bain under Romney carried out “clever legal ways to loot a company.” Gingrich calls it the “Wall Street model” where “you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers,” and charges that “if someone comes in, takes all the money out of your company and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism.”

Where has Newt been for the last thirty years? Leveraged buyouts became part of traditional capitalism in the 1980s when enterprising financiers began borrowing piles of money, often at high interest rates, to buy up the stock of ongoing companies they believe undervalued. They’d back the loans with the company assets, then typically sell off divisions and slim payrolls, and resell the company to the public at a higher share price – pocketing the gains.

It’s a good deal for the financiers (the $25 billion buyout of RJR-Nabisco in 1988 netted the partners of Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts around $70 million each – and most of Mitt Romney’s estimated $200 million fortune comes from the same maneuvers), but not always for the company or its workers.

Some workers lose their jobs when the company downsizes. Others, when the company, now laden with debt, can’t meet its payments to creditors and has to go into bankruptcy. According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 ...

Published: Tuesday 10 January 2012
“When Romney makes a comment about President Obama wanting to have equal outcomes regardless of individual effort and success, he is just speaking nonsense.”

Mitt Romney seems ready to wield his version of birtherism as a major weapon in the fall campaign against President Obama.  In his standard stump speech he tells audiences that President Obama wants "to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society." According to Romney, this means a European-style welfare state that redistributes wealth and creates equal outcomes regardless of individual effort and success.

That’s pretty strong stuff, but of course this doesn’t sound anything like the President Obama who many of us have come to know and criticize. After all, this is the guy who got the top Wall Street bankers and told them that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. And, according to Ron Suskind, he assured them that he would hold his ground.

The Wall Street boys have not seen much leveling in the Obama years, nor has anyone else in the top rungs of society. It seems the substance of Romney’s complaint involves President Obama’s occasional references to "fat cats," his plans to restore the Clinton-era tax rates, and his national health care plan.

Taking these in turn, it really is touching how sensitive the rich and powerful are to being called out in public. While the men and women at the top rungs of the corporate hierarchy give the impression of being tough streetfighters who clawed and kicked their way to the top, we now find that they are actually shrinking violets who get hurt when the president isn’t nice to them.

OK, so a President Romney will not say bad things about rich people. But there is a big difference between being somewhat impolite and doing anything that threatens the wealth of the rich.

On the latter front, the staple of the Romney argument is that President Obama wants to raise the tax rate ...

Published: Monday 9 January 2012
“In New Hampshire this week, Romney has repeatedly returned to the old talking point.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) launched his presidential campaign in May on the premise that he was a better alternative to President Obama on the economy, and in the ensuing months his attack on Obama was precise: Obama, Romney said, “made the recession worse.”

When multiple outlets, ThinkProgress included, pointed out that Romney’s claim was false, he walked it back. In July, NBC’s Sue Kroll asked Romney, “How can you continue to say things are worse when they really aren’t worse?” Romney responded: “I didn’t say that things are worse. What I said is that the economy hasn’t turned around.”

In New Hampshire this week, however, Romney has repeatedly returned to the old talking point, saying during both debates here that Obama made the economy worse and repeating it again at an event in Rochester this morning.

The attacks, despite their frequency, are still false by virtually any measure. The stock market is nearly 6,000 points higher than it was the day it bottomed out in March 2009. Though job loss continued early in the Obama administration after he inherited the worst of the recession, the private sector has seen job gains for 22 consecutive months. And across the economy, there are indicators — from GDP growth to retail sales — that the economic recovery is continuing.

In the spin room after Saturday night’s ABC News debate, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom stood by the talking point, telling ThinkProgress that the fact that the unemployment rate was above eight percent and that millions of workers remain unemployed ...

Published: Sunday 8 January 2012
“Romney, in other words, is the candidate Citizens United created, the creature given life by Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito all playing Dr. Frankenstein.”

First, a confession. If Mitt Romney becomes president I’m partly to blame.

Ten years ago I ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts — which would have given me the opportunity to whip Mitt Romney’s ass in the general election, 

I blew it. In the final week of the primary I was neck and neck with the state treasurer, but then my money ran out, which meant my TV ads stopped. Declining the suggestion of my campaign manager to take out a second mortgage on my home, I frantically phoned anyone I could find who hadn’t yet contributed $500, the maximum state ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
Occupy New Hampshire activist Mark Provost‘s question to Romney came as Occupy New Hampshire is preparing for a series of events leading up to the state’s Republican primary to highlight the disproportionate impact corporations and wealthy donors have on the political process.

Occupy New Hampshire activist Mark Provost made national headlines Wednesday when he attended a town-hall meeting hosted by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and asked about his past comment that "corporations are people." Provost’s question to Romney came as Occupy New Hampshire is preparing for a series of events leading up to the state’s Republican primary to highlight the disproportionate impact corporations and wealthy donors have on the political process. We play an excerpt of the town-hall exchange and get Provost’s response to Romney reply. "I think his response really, again, is this denial that there’s this class in the country and that there are some people within the corporation, specifically the workers, that are taking it on the chin so that the United States’ executive management can make massive bonuses, and serve their shareholders rather well, too, because the profits largely go to capital gains and dividends."

Rush Transcript:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Protesters aligned with Occupy New Hampshire are planning a series of events leading up to Tuesday’s Republican primary. On Wednesday, one member of the group made national headlines when he questioned Mitt Romney about his past remark that "corporations are people." Before we play ...

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
Romney sought alliance with embattled senator prior to presidential race.

Rick Santorum says Mitt Romney is a “bland, boring, career politician who will lose to Barack Obama” — talk about an ingrate.

Santorum’s criticism came despite his acceptance of a $10,000 contribution in 2006 from a political action committee controlled by Romney.

Romney’s “Commonwealth PAC” sent then-Sen. Santorum the donation in an attempt to gain support among leading conservatives ahead of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign. At the time, Santorum was locked in a tough re-election battle in Pennsylvania.

Santorum finished a mere eight votes behind the GOP frontrunner in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses Tuesday and is hoping to keep up his unexpected momentum. Santorum made the comment in a recent fundraising solicitation.

Santorum threw his support behind Romney in 2008 — an endorsement he has since tried to walk back, defending it as a move to stop the nomination of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the eventual GOP ...

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
How the Iowa results impact New Hampshire and the rest of the campaign started shaking out on several fronts, including sharp attacks on Romney and developments that could help consolidate conservative voters against him, or keep them divided as they were in Iowa.

The Republican presidential campaign shifted to New Hampshire on Wednesday with one key question hanging over it: Can Mitt Romney deliver the landslide win his polls and organization suggest is within reach, or will he fall to sharp new attacks and the state's history of turning on the winner of Iowa's caucuses?

The former governor of neighboring Massachusetts rolled into Manchester on Wednesday, looking for a big win next Tuesday in his New England backyard to make him the first non-incumbent Republican ever to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, which could propel him toward the presidential nomination.

"My goodness what a squeaker," he joked about his ever-so-narrow win in Iowa over former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, an eight-vote margin out of about 60,000 cast for the two men.

"Do you think we can have more than an eight-vote margin here in New Hampshire?" he added. "I'm gonna try."

Polls suggest he's in good shape here, holding a huge lead over his nearest competitors. A new Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire released Wednesday showed him with 43 percent, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 14 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 9 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 7 percent and Santorum with 6 percent. It was conducted Monday and Tuesday, before the Iowa results were known.

 

But in one sign that opinion could shift, Romney received only a tepid response at his rally in Manchester.

 

How the Iowa results impact New Hampshire and the rest of the campaign started shaking out on several fronts, including sharp attacks on Romney and developments that could help consolidate conservative voters against him, or keep them divided as they were in Iowa.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota dropped out of the race after a dismal sixth-place Iowa finish. She did not endorse another candidate.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped back ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“Before Romney takes the GOP mantle, here are 10 questions he should answer about his often nonsensical and contradictory policy proposals.”

Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night. Technically he tied for victory with Rick Santorum. But Romney is the one who comes out of Iowa in the lead for the nomination. He entered with a massive lead over Santorum in fundraising, organization and polling numbers in New Hampshire, which votes next. The most recent poll in New Hampshire, released Monday, shows Romney in first with 41 percent and Santorum in fifth with 3 percent. While Santorum held over 300 town halls in Iowa Romney largely avoided the state, skipping out of the state as recently as Friday to campaign in New Hampshire. Romney roughly equaled his last performance in Iowa without investing nearly as much campaign resources into it.

By devoting far more time to New Hampshire than Iowa, Romney managed the expectations game perfectly. It was also assumed in this cycle that Iowa would go to a socially conservative anti-Romney. After going through every other option Iowans settled on Santorum. The real test will come in South Carolina, which much more reliably picks the Republican nominee than Iowa. If Romney can build his momentum to win there after picking up New Hampshire, he is poised to turn the nomination battle into a swift coronation.

But before Romney takes the GOP mantle, here are 10 questions he should answer about his often nonsensical and contradictory policy proposals.

• In a Friday op-ed in The State, you declared your intention to “Rebuild our military with more ships, a modern air force, more troops and better care for our veterans.” Why exactly do you think we need more naval ships? What attack has there been on US soil or the US military that would have been prevented by more naval ships? Given that more ships and more troops will cost more money, and we already

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.”

It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

First, the split in the Republican Party is no longer between conservatives and moderates, but between members of the party who are very conservative and those who are only somewhat conservative. The days of Rockefeller Republicans are long gone. Close to half of Iowa caucus-goers thought of themselves as very conservative; a third said they were somewhat conservative. Fewer than a fifth were moderates, including a very tiny (and brave) group of self-described liberals.

Romney’s constituency is Republican Classic. He was the candidate of the “somewhat conservatives” and did well with the moderates, particularly moderate Republicans. (Moderate independents went strongly for Ron Paul — and thanks to Mike Dimock of the Pew Research center for sharing his insightful analysis for NPR of the difference between moderate independents and moderate Republicans.) Romney trailed badly with very conservative voters, running well behind Santorum in that group. Romneyites are much older: He was strongest among caucus-goers over 65 — which is presumably hopeful news for him in the Florida primary at the end of the month — and he also did well among voters between 45 and 64. But he did very poorly among voters under 45.

Rick Santorum, as he hoped to, won a lot of the same vote that Mike Huckabee carried four years ago. Santorum is clearly the right-to-life candidate: He carried voters who listed abortion as their deciding issue by a landslide. He was definitely the surge candidate: He handily won voters who said they decided in the last few days, though Romney did relatively well in this group, too, ...

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers.”

We bring you the 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers:

20/19/18: The percentages for the top three GOP contenders (Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum) in an Iowa survey released Sunday by Public Policy Polling.

49: The percentage of likely caucus-goers who said last week in a Des Moines Register poll that their mind was still not made up.

1: The percent of the American electorate that lives in Iowa, site of the nation's earliest presidential contest.

5: The percentage of Iowa voters who participated in the 2008 GOP caucuses.

24: The percentage of New Hampshire voters who participated in that state's 2008 GOP primary (New Hampshire is the next contest after Iowa).

0.06: The percentage of American voters who will be caucusing on Tuesday in Iowa if turnout is the same as it was in 2008.

0.015: The percentage of American voters who will be voting Tuesday for the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, if recent opinion polls are accurate.

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The latest public opinion polls show Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a narrow lead of 24 percent over Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.”

Iowa is awash in millions of dollars of negative campaign ads funded by so-called Super PACs as voters head to their caucuses in the first real test of the 2012 election. “If you want to see the future of politics in America, turn on the television in Iowa,” says John Nichols, correspondent for The Nation magazine. “If it is this kind of overwhelming flood of negative ads, literally flipping on a dime to take down any candidate who rises in opposition to the mainstream, or kind of core Republican contender with the most money — it’s a pretty scary picture. And it is one that suggests that if we don’t get serious about addressing Citizens United [v. Federal Election Commission], we’re going to end up with a much uglier, more destructive politics." Nichols estimates the candidates and their PACs spent “$200 per vote” in Iowa. The latest public opinion polls show Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a narrow lead of 24 percent over Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Nichols says Santorum’s comments over the weekend about not wanting to "make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” highlight how Republican candidates have failed to reach out to Iowa’s many minority communities. Meanwhile, the Occupy movement has tried to inject the voices of the 99 percent into the race by holding protests at events and both Republican and Democratic campaign headquarters throughout the state.

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Mitt Romney got a visit from Occupy Wall Street protesters at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa yesterday.”

For the first time since beginning his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney got a visit from Occupy Wall Street protesters at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa yesterday. Protesters shouted various messages, including condemnations of Romney’s ties to corporate America and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and slogans supporting the end of wars. They were quickly drowned out by the pro-Romney audience — one attendee countered “go to work!” — and Romney responded by saying, “Isn’t it great to live in a country where people can express their views?”

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.”

New outside spending groups, dubbed super PACs, that can accept unlimited donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, spent $12.9 million in Iowa and other early GOP battleground states through New Year’s Day, according to an analysis of federal data.

The top beneficiary was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. A total of $4.6 million was spent to help the nominal front-runner, the vast majority for ads torpedoing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Second was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who benefited from $3.7 million in outside spending.

According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data,12 outside super PACs spent money, mostly on advertising, with the intention of electing or defeating a GOP presidential candidate. Ten have not yet reported their donors. The two that have did so last summer.

The upshot is that voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.

The next reports on donors aren’t due until January 31, the day of the Florida primary.

Federal court decisions in 2010 made it possible for individuals, corporations and labor unions to give unlimited contributions to political organizations (super PACs) and certain types of nonprofits, which can then spend the money to elect or defeat candidates. The groups are prohibited from coordinating their activities with candidates.

The top super PAC spender was "Restore Our Future" — the ambiguously named group set up to help Romney. The group spent $4.1 million, all of it in opposition to Gingrich, who enjoyed a brief lead in Iowa polls last month before the shellacking.

Restore Our Future has moved on from Iowa and spent $622,000 in Florida, a likely harbinger of more to come in that high stakes contest. Almost $100,000 has been spent by ...

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Romney will need a right-winger to calm and woo the Republican right.”

Since my New Year’s prediction that Obama would select Hillary Clinton for his running mate in 2012 (and Joe Biden would become Secretary of State), I’ve been swamped by requests for my GOP prediction. Here goes.

You can forget the caucuses and early primaries. Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Republicans may be stupid but the GOP isn’t about to commit suicide. The other candidates are all weighed down by enough baggage to keep a 747 on the tarmac indefinitely.

For his running mate, Romney will choose Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida. Why do I say this?

First, Romney will need a right-winger to calm and woo the Republican right. Tea Partiers are attracted to Rubio – an evangelical Christian committed to reducing taxes and shrinking government. Rubio’s meteoric rise in the Florida House before coming to Congress was based on a string of conservative stances on state issues.

Rubio is also a proven campaigner, handily winning four House elections starting in 2002, and then beating popular incumbent Republican governor Charlie Crist in the 2010 Republican primary — with the help of Tea Partiers.

Moreover, he’s only 40, thereby giving the GOP ticket some youthful vigor.

And he’s Hispanic – a Cuban-American – at a time when the GOP needs to court the Hispanic vote.

Rubio’s only baggage is the “son of exiles” controversy – his suggestion that his parents were refugees forced out of Cuba by Castro when in fact they moved to the United States before the Cuban revolution.

But this isn’t the sort of slip that would keep him off the ticket. In fact, Romney has defended Rubio, saying “I think the world of Marco Rubio, support him entirely and think that the effort to try to smear him was unfortunate and bogus.”

Finally, and most critically, Florida is a crucial swing state. Rubio would help deliver ...

Published: Monday 2 January 2012
Just since Thanksgiving, polls have shown momentum for Gingrich, former House Speaker; Paul, a Texas congressman; Romney, former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator.

Shifts happen in the 48 hours before Iowa caucuses, and on Sunday it was clear that the outcome of the nation's first presidential voting Tuesday depends on a huge army of undecided, wavering Iowa caucusgoers.

Forty-one percent said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate, while 51 percent say their minds are made up, according to a Des Moines Register Iowa poll taken Tuesday through Friday.

McClatchy interviews with voters statewide found that they tend to like something about all six major GOP candidates but there's also usually something that makes them uneasy.

It could be Mitt Romney's changes in positions, Ron Paul's foreign policy, Rick Perry's gaffes, Newt Gingrich's history of controversy or a sense that Rick Santorum can't beat President Barack Obama.

Many voters were deciding by spending the holiday ...

Published: Sunday 1 January 2012
“The key to wrapping up a nomination quickly has always been an Iowa-New Hampshire one-two punch, and the Granite State, which votes Jan. 10, seems to be a Romney fortress.”

No matter what happens in Iowa, Mitt Romney has a safety net in New Hampshire.

And that could rank as the year’s most perilous sentence. Why shouldn’t Romney be surprised in the state that temporarily derailed Barack Obama’s supposedly rapid march toward nomination four years ago? Hillary Clinton humbled many a pundit here in 2008, reason enough to challenge the rapidly jelling conventional wisdom about the Republican presidential campaign.

In just a few weeks, Romney has been transformed from an embattled and weak front-runner into the real thing. He has a chance of winning the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday as his dazed opponents scratch at each other trying to emerge as the leading non-Romney.

Libertarian Ron Paul, who will never be nominated, now looks to be Romney’s main competition in Iowa. Paul is doing a fine job as Romney’s blocking back, preventing anyone else from emerging early enough to give Romney a stiff race.

The key to wrapping up a nomination quickly has always been an Iowa-New Hampshire one-two punch, and the Granite State, which votes Jan. 10, seems to be a Romney fortress. Romney’s headquarters here on ...

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
“Never mind that Ryan’s plan has no chance of being adopted—even by a President Mitt Romney, who distinguished himself in 2011 by pointedly rejecting Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Social Security–bashing.”

Paul Ryan’s ideas reached their sell-by date in 2011, as tens of millions of Americans recognized that his proposals would permanently damage and ultimate destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But as the year came to a close and his rancid schemes were starting to putrefy, Ryan suddenly found a new buyer: Mitt Romney.

The Republican presidential contender is so desperate to sell himself as the “conservative leader” he never was that Romney’s “closing argument” appeal to Iowa caucus goers features quotes from columnist Ann Coulter.

Those Romney radio ads, which are more ubiquitous in Iowa than Geico gecko insurance commercials, tout the former governor of Massachusetts as a “conservative ...

Published: Friday 30 December 2011
“Romney’s long history of acrobatic flip-flopping and the palpable dishonesty of his pandering to the Tea Party actually help him in this context, because his wealthy supporters don’t think he actually means the nonsense he spouts.”

Throughout the 2012 election cycle Republican candidate Mitt Romney has made ham-handed efforts at playing a populist. His standard applause line on the stump is an appeal to nationalism, that he will “never apologize for America.” He criticizes President Obama for “taking advice from the Harvard faculty lounge,” even though Romney himself holds law and business degrees from Harvard and counts Harvard professors among his economic and foreign policy advisers.

But from a funding standpoint, Romney’s campaign looks more like a third world oligarchy than a populist insurgency. Jetting to fundraisers in Manhattan and London, Romney has raked in donation from the most elite of financial institutions. His support from Wall Street has allowed him to build a sizable cash advantage, which pays for the expansive field organizing and advertising that should enable him to outgun his opponents through the primaries.

With the exception of Texas Governor Rick Perry, no other candidate has comparable corporate support. Through the second quarter of 2011, before Perry entered the race, Romney raised $17.6 million, more than all his GOP opponents combined. In the third quarter, ending on September 30, Romney piled on an additional $13.9 million. In December he  READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 29 December 2011
“The real story of the last week in Iowa may be not of Gingrich’s campaigning but of where the anti-Romney sentiment that briefly rested with his candidacy will shift next.”

Newt Gingrich has chartered a bus to carry the former House Speaker and third wife Callista across Iowa in a final push for first-in-the-nation caucus votes.

But his campaign is not going anywhere. The new Public Policy Polling survey shows Congressman Ron Paul, the maverick libertarian from Texas whose disciplined campaign is the polar opposite of Gingrich’s, extending his lead, with 24 percent support. The Republican Republicans love to hate, Mitt Romney, is at 20 percent. Gingrich, formerly the leader in the race, has collapsed to 13 percent. Gingrich is just two points ahead of Congressman Michele Bachmann, who is at 11; and just three points ahead of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry, both of whom are at 10. The prospects that Santorum, Bachmann or Perry will finish ahead of Gingrich are real—and rising.

Indeed, the real story of the last week in Iowa may be not of Gingrich’s campaigning but of where the anti-Romney sentiment that briefly rested with his candidacy will shift next. If it goes, for instance, toward Santorum, this race could yet see another twist. And Gingrich will be watching from the sidelines, as the structure of the caucuses favors better-organized candidates with wild-eyed cadres. While Gingrich was an explosion waiting to happen, his collapse creates a whole new set of challenges for the Republican Party faithful that ...

Published: Wednesday 28 December 2011
Romney poked fun at Gingrich for failing to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia and for likening the setback to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

With Christmas out of the way, the battle for the Republican presidential nomination resumed with gusto Tuesday, a still-wide-open race meaning a frantic dash in the final week before Iowa kicks off the voting Jan. 3.

Candidates poured back into Iowa, with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich all launching statewide bus tours, joining Rick Santorum, who'd returned Monday. Ron Paul is scheduled to arrive Wednesday. The candidates, all Christians, had suspended campaigning over the Christmas weekend.

Ads also retuned to Iowa TV channels, restarting an air war that's cost an estimated $10 million, much of it spent on attacking onetime front-runner Gingrich as a flip-flopper who once backed liberal causes and a Washington insider who cashed in after leaving public office.

As they raced toward the voting, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney signaled confidence that he'll eventually win the nomination even if he doesn't win Iowa. Gingrich awoke to another challenge, with a report that he'd praised Romney's Massachusetts health care law, which is deeply unpopular with conservatives.

Before arriving in Iowa on Tuesday evening, Romney swung through his stronghold of New Hampshire, which holds its primary a week after ...

Published: Monday 26 December 2011
“This may sound a bit harsh, but, really, these two candidates deserve each other.”

To use the adverbs of which he is so fond, it is magnificently, fundamentally, literally ironic that Newt Gingrich, the master of slasher political rhetoric, is busy mewling over those meanie attack ads being run against him.

And to employ Mitt Romney’s favorite piece of management-consultant speak, with regards to those terrible, horrible nasty outside groups, it’s a bit rich for the former Massachusetts governor to bemoan their existence and assert that there’s absolutely, positively nothing he could do to get them to stop.

How dumb do they think we are?

Gingrich has long been a leading advocate and practitioner of the full-throated political attack. His current ads may be all warm and Christmas cozy, with syrupy music in the background, but his lifelong modus operandi has been to demonize opponents, not simply differ with them.

In “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” a guide produced by Gingrich’s GOPAC political action committee, fellow Republicans are advised, “Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. . . . Remember that creating a difference helps you.” Among the Gingrich-suggested words: “radical,” ...

Published: Sunday 25 December 2011
“Thus, it appears that if Gingrich heads to the polls in his home state’s primaries on March 6, he would have to vote for someone else.”

There won’t be any homefield advantage for Newt Gingrich come Super Tuesday, when Virginia holds its presidential primary. Gingrich, who actually lives in McLean, Virginia, will not be listed on the ballot in his home state because his campaign did not collect the minimum signatures to be a contender.

The Republican Party of Virginia announced late last night that only former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) qualified to be listed. But Gingrich’s notoriously troubled campaign did not collect enough valid signatures to put him over the 10,000 signature mark required by state law, although Gingrich ...

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
“Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising.”

Is Rick Santorum the next non-Romney to emerge from the pack? Could he conceivably win Iowa?

That these are plausible questions tells you all you need to know about the unsettled nature of the Republican presidential contest — particularly here, the state whose caucuses on Jan. 3 have become a bookie’s nightmare. At the moment, anyone among the six major candidates has a reasonable chance of coming in first or second, and the contest is becoming less settled as the brief Christmas interlude in campaigning approaches.

For example: If libertarian Ron Paul has a chance of triumphing anywhere, it’s in Iowa, where all his competitors acknowledge the energy of his organization. Establishment pick Mitt Romney’s opposition is so badly split that he could conceivably come in first and begin locking up the nomination — or he could emerge deeply scarred by finishing in the bottom tier. The line between success and failure is that thin.

Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising. He still hopes to use jujitsu to turn all those negative ads in his favor, and at a factory here ...

Published: Friday 23 December 2011
“The only question is whether the evangelicals will coalesce around a candidate—arguably Santorum or Michele Bachmann—in sufficient numbers to push Gingrich into fourth or fifth place by the time the caucus count is done.”

Dubuque: Newt Gingrich was riding high there, for a week or so. His poll numbers were great nationally, and in battleground states such as New Hampshire and Florida, he elbowed more credible contenders—and also Mitt Romney—aside.

There really was a week there when Gingrich was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

But that’s all over now.

In the 2012 Republican race, everyone gets to be the front-runner for a week, and Gingrich has had his week.

It’s done.

Now, Gingrich is tumbling. Fast. The attacks ads paid for by Super PACS associated with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have surely played a part in the former speaker’s steep slide in the polls—he’s now running third, behind Ron Paul and Romney, in the Real Clear Politics survey of surveys from the past week. And is several polls he has fallen to 

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
“The extremist wing of the GOP has been saying crazy things about climate for a while, but the anti-science wing is now in charge.”

Sure, the extremist wing of the GOP has been saying crazy things about climate for a while (see Rep. Shimkus: “Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood”).

But the anti-science wing is now in charge (see John Boehner says on ABC: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”).  And it has been able to make climate craziness a litmus test for the Presidency.

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Published: Tuesday 20 December 2011
Adelson could be a huge help, but a federal criminal probe of his Las Vegas Sands casino empire may prove to be a liability for the Gingrich campaign.

When Newt Gingrich and