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: Saturday 1 December 2012
“Here are just a few of the rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements that Alan Simpson has made about Social Security.”

 

There has been a lot of discussion about Congress enacting a “grand bargain” during the lame duck session of Congress.  Many members of Congress have talked about using the plan put forward by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as an outline for a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and what their plan would do.

As many of you know, Alan Simpson is a former conservative Republican Senator from Wyoming who has wanted to cut Social Security benefits for decades.

Here are just a few of the rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements that Alan Simpson has made about Social Security:

  • On August 24, 2010, Alan Simpson wrote in an e-mail to the head of the Older Women’s League: “And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!  Call when you get honest work!”
  • On Friday, May 6, 2011, Alan Simpson told the Investment Company Institute, that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme”, “not a retirement program.”  Simpson went on to say that Social Security “was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in ‘37 and ‘38 to take care of people who were in distress — ditch diggers, wage earners — it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That’s why they set retirement age at 65.”
  • On June 19, 2010, Alan Simpson said: “Social Security was never a retirement. It was set up to take care of ...
Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
“Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits.”

 

What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?

Everything.

Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seven out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains. That’s why the median wage keeps dropping, especially for the 80 percent of the workforce that’s paid by the hour.

It’s also part of the reason why the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has been increasing even as the economy has started to recover — from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2011. More than 46 million Americans now live below the poverty line.

Many of them have jobs. The problem is these jobs just don’t pay enough to lift their families out of poverty.

So, encouraged by the economic recovery and perhaps also by the election returns, low-wage workers have started to organize.  

Yesterday in New York hundreds of workers at dozens of fast-food chain stores went on strike, demanding a raise to $15-an-hour from their current pay of $8 to $10 an hour (the median hourly wage for food service and prep workers in New York is $8.90 an hour).

Last week, Walmart workers staged demonstrations and walkouts at thousands of Walmart stores, also demanding better pay. The average Walmart employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

These workers are not teenagers. Most have to support their families. According to the Bureau of Labor ...

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: Saturday 3 November 2012
“This week, Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan arrived in Ohio to accuse the Obama administration of cutting the pensions of the Delphi non-union pensioners.”

At the same time, taxpayer-subsidized Delphi expanded its workforce in China to 25,000. Today, Delphi supplies GM and Chrysler parts from Mexico and China.

This week, Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan arrived in Ohio to accuse the Obama administration of cutting the pensions of the Delphi non-union pensioners. In fact, says the UAW’s King, it was the Singer-Romney group that simply refused to pay any pensions whatsoever to union and non-union workers alike. The company’s $6.2 billion pension obligation, says King, “was dumped on the US government Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) which is limited by law — not by President Obama — in the sums it can pay retirees.”

None of this surprises observers of Paul Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, which partnered with Ann Romney. Elliott is notorious for what the finance industry calls “vulture” attacks, in which speculators seize old debts of bankrupt corporations — and even nations —  then demand payments of ten or a hundred times their investment, while making threats of economic ruin.

These vulture tactics are at the core of charges in the ethics complaint, which cites not just Elliott’s seizure of Delphi but the hedge fund’s infamous attacks on the treasuries of the Congo and Peru, which have caused an international diplomatic uproar.

Last April, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the extraordinary step of filing an action in a US federal court to stop the Singer fund’s vulture attacks on Argentina. The government argued that the actions of Singer (and thus also his partners, the Romneys) have a “significant, detrimental impact on our foreign relations.”

The Singer group responded to the U.S. State Department legal action by seizing the Argentine Navy’s training ...

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
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: 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: Thursday 18 October 2012
People lining up for food has become a common sight in many major U.S. cities.

 

Against the backdrop of a spreading global economic crisis, exacerbated by changing climate patterns, the global aim of guaranteeing food security for all by 2015 appears to be far from being achieved.

As delegates and activists are addressing the lingering issues of world hunger, malnutrition and poverty on the occasion of World Food Day Tuesday, homelessness and hunger are spreading fast and affecting millions of people across the globe, with far reaching implications in the United States.

In the world’s wealthiest nation, rising unemployment compounded by unprecedented high food prices are contributing to worsening living conditions. Persistent poverty and growing inequalities rather than scarcity of food is the main cause of hunger in the U.S., many analysts say.

According to the United States Census Bureau, since the global economic recession, the number of U.S. citizens who suffer from food insecurity nearly reached a staggering 50 million as of 2010, which represents the highest level ever recorded since the office began monitoring poverty rates more than 50 years ago.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

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.

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
“Romney’s personal wealth came up, but many issues were missing, including poverty, global warming, immigration, gun control and the country’s staggering incarceration rates.”

Our "Expanding the Debate" special series continues as we open the discussion to include two third-party vice-presidential candidates who were excluded from the "official" debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan: Cheri Honkala of the Green Party and Luis Rodriguez of the Justice Party. With the general election just weeks away, Biden and Ryan squared off in their only debate Thursday night, aggressively challenging each other on foreign and domestic policy issues asked by moderator Martha Raddatz of ABCNews. Raddatz pressed them with questions on the deaths of Americans at the U.S. embassy in Libya, taxes, Medicare, Social Security, the budget deficit, terrorism and Afghanistan. Raddatz also asked each of the candidates, both of whom are Catholic, about how their personal beliefs affect their views on abortion. Romney’s personal wealth came up, but many issues were missing, including poverty, global warming, immigration, gun control and the country’s staggering incarceration rates. Democracy Now! poses many of these same questions today to Honkala and Rodriquez in order to bring new voices into the discussion. Democracy Now! first broke the sound barrier during the presidential debate on Oct. 3 by pausing after answers offered by President Obama and Mitt Romney to get real-time responses from Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

Transcript:

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
“The fundamental question is whether we’re still all in it together – whether as American citizens we continue to have obligations to one another to assure equal opportunity and help for those who need it – or we’re on our own, without a common bond or a common good.”

TO: VPOTUS

FROM: Robert Reich

RE: Debate

Beware: Paul Ryan will appear affable. He’s less polished and aggressive than Romney, even soft-spoken. And he acts as if he’s saying reasonable things.

But under the surface he’s a rightwing zealot. And nothing he says or believes is reasonable – neither logical nor reflecting the values of the great majority of Americans.

Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan won’t be able to pull a Romney — pretending he’s a moderate — because the Ryan budget is out there, with specific numbers.

It’s an astounding document that Romney fully supports. And it fills in the details Romney has left out of his proposals. Mitt Romney is a robot who will say and do whatever he’s programmed to do. Ryan is the robot’s brain. The robot has no heart. It’s your job to enable America to see this.

I suggest you hold up a copy of the Ryan budget in front of the cameras. You might even read selected passages.

Emphasize these points: Ryan’s budget turns Medicare into vouchers. It includes the same $716 billion of savings Romney last week accused the President of cutting out of Medicare – but instead of getting it from providers he gets it from the elderly.

It turns Medicaid over to cash-starved states, with even less federal contribution. This will hurt the poor as well as middle-class elderly in nursing homes.

Over 60 percent of its savings come out of programs for lower-income Americans – like Pell grants and food stamps.

Yet it gives huge tax cuts to the top 1 percent – some $4.7 trillion over the next decade. (This is the same top 1 percent, you might add, who have reaped 93 percent of the gains from the recovery, ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
To paraphrase the Occupy movement chant, “This is NOT what democracy looks like.”

Mitt Romney helped design a debate environment that would accommodate dishonesty. He exploited it by escalating a campaign strategy of false accusations and outright lies, knowing he was unlikely to be caught. For those who see American politics as sports entertainment, Romney crafted the rules and called off the refs, before cheating. Romney “won” the debate like Lance Armstrong “won” seven Tour de France races or the Cincinnati Reds “won” the 1919 World Series. But more than a gilded trophy is at stake. Now it’s America’s future.

The presidential debates weren’t always a ridiculous spectacle of “mini-speeches” and zingers. For several debates prior to 1988, the League of Women Voters invited and grilled two or three candidates. Then the major party candidates presented the League with stifling new rules, prompting League President Nancy M. Neuman to refuse to “perpetrate a fraud on the American voter” by adding debates to the list of “campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions.” Thus the Commission on Presidential Debates was born. It uses secret rules to hamstring the moderator, making calling candidates on their lies more difficult, and the questions easier. Third party candidates could play an important role in fact-checking and promoting alternate strategies like relying more on taxes and debt. Yet these parties are banned unless they poll over 15 percent in five national polls.

Thus Romney was left with only one fully capable presidential candidate or moderator. So he predicted President Obama would lie, implying he himself would personify integrity and the two should take the moral high ...
Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“This is very bad news to the tens of millions of people who depend on Social Security now or expect to in the near future.”

President Obama definitely had a bad night when he faced Gov. Romney in Denver for the first presidential debate. However for many listeners the worst moment was not due to his atypical inarticulateness. Rather the worst moment was when he quite clearly told the country that there was not much difference between his position on Social Security and Gov. Romney’s. He also expressed his desire to “tweak” Social Security to improve its finances.

This is very bad news to the tens of millions of people who depend on Social Security now or expect to in the near future. It’s also bad news to the hundreds of millions of people who have been counting on the Social Security system to provide a degree of financial security to their retired or disabled family members.

After all Gov. Romney clearly does not seem to have warm feelings toward the program. His vice-presidential pick, Paul Ryan, has been the most ardent proponent of privatization in the House. If Romney is committed to Social Security, picking Rep. Ryan as his running mate would be a strange way of showing it.

When President Obama links arms with Romney on Social Security, it is not good news for supporters of the program. Nor was the situation made better by the desire to “tweak” the system.

In Washington, "tweak" is a code word used by people who want to cut Social Security but lack the courage to say it explicitly. For example, their favorite “tweak” is changing the cost-of-living adjustment formula in a way that reduces retirees’ benefits by 0.3 percentage points annually. This would add up to a 3 percent cut in benefits after 10 years, a 6 percent cut after 20 years and a 9 percent cut after 30 ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“Here’s the most premeditated, studied, nearly content- and personality-free campaign that money can buy imploding because Mitt’s an epic fail at retail politics, a crashing, burning, non-stop, unforced gaffe machine.”

Fans of gallows humor must delight in the mounting farce that is Mitt Romney's campaign. Could his cavalcade of confusion blunder on, even get worse? Common manners might restrain gleeful cries when derision is this easy -- but have we celebrated a more appealing, richer punching bag in years? Recall that GOP power brokers once dreaded calamity from Perry, Santorum, Bachmann or Gingrich -- yet Romney, with marvelous irony, turns out to be the rank amateur.   

  

Here's the most premeditated, studied, nearly content- and personality-free campaign that money can buy imploding because Mitt's an epic fail at retail politics, a crashing, burning, non-stop, unforced gaffe machine. Imagine, squandering ten years and billions of even richer folks' money only to shoot yourself in the foot, with jaw-dropping repetition. This qualifies as neither melodrama nor tragedy but high farce, and I await Mitt's latest attempt at redemption: ham-fisted debate "zingers." Besieged, this second least charming GOP politician (after Donald Trump) has decided to polish up his comic timing. Oh, lord of misrule, let it be.   

  

Second, inadvertent comic narrative: Mr. Obama remains the luckiest politician in our history, undeterred by his endless quest for higher office (and luckless in only one imprudent House run). This master of retail politics (however deficient in vision, leadership or governance) looks to cruise home, as if all is forgiven. So the president had awful tunnel vision about economic dilemmas; delivered neither hope nor change, nor redirected addictions to endless wars and shameless defense spending; so there's little reform (even worsening) to the civil-legal-judicial abuses inherited from neo-con, anti-constitutional overkill. Obama as Bush III is no joke, but let that bide. 

  

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“There are two disturbing problems with Axelrod’s statements.”

 

Many centuries ago, the Jewish scholar Hillel posed a question that is as prescient as any Nostradamus prophecy: "If not now," he asked, "when?" It's a rhetorical query many of us contemplate during the high holy days, which concluded last month. And after a revealing comment by President Obama's top political aide, it's a question that now haunts Social Security.

The remark in question came during last week's debate about fiscal issues on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." In an otherwise forgettable conversation, things became newsworthy when the conversation turned to Obama's position on Social Security reforms. At that point, the president's consigliere, David Axelrod, responded not with a clear position, but instead by trying to halt the conversation.

"I'll tell you what, when you get elected to the United States Senate and sit at that table, we'll have that discussion," he told the panel.

When pressed, Axelrod insisted that the election season meant no debate should proceed. "This is not the time, he said. "We're not going to have that discussion right now."

There are two disturbing problems with Axelrod's statements. First and foremost is his suggestion that a Social Security policy debate should only be conducted between White House officials and U.S. senators — not between all government officials and the general public. It's a fundamentally elitist idea that evokes notions of smoky back rooms and secret deals. Not only that, it both contradicts basic notions of civic engagement and confirms Americans' fears about a government that wholly disregards the citizenry.

Along the same lines is Axelrod's insistence that even if we were to have a public debate about Social Security, we somehow shouldn't "have that discussion right ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“How do we get to this bizarre point where DC elite, the corporate media, etc are all talking about cutting the safety net and the things we do for each other, when the obvious problem is jobs?”

We have millions unemployed with millions more underemployed or just gave up looking, our infrastructure is literally crumbling, our trade deficit is horrendous, our "safety net" has eroded below minimum acceptable standards, pensions are cut or gone, the climate is getting more and more unpredictable and dangerous, and how many other problems can you name? But the billionaires will tell you that our biggest problem is too much government -- the very entity that exists to fix those problems. Will we get the jobs that We, the People want or the cuts in government that the billionaires are pushing for?

Deficit Hysteria Is About Cutting Government

Keep this in mind in the coming months -- the deficit hysteria and the "fiscal cliff," are all about cutting government and the things We, the People do for each other, so that the billionaires can have more. Who benefits if we cut government - Medicare, Social Security, the "safety net" programs, education, health and safety regulation and ...

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: Tuesday 25 September 2012
Published: Monday 24 September 2012
“In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.”

 

Since this is my version of an election piece, I plan to get the usual stuff out of the way fast.

So yes, the smartest political odds-givers around believe President Obama has a distinct edge over Mitt Romney coming out of the conventions, the Senate is trending Democratic, and who knows about the House.  In fact, it almost seems as if the Republicans put forward the only man in America incapable of defeating an economically wounded and deeply vulnerable president (other than, of course, the roster of candidates he ran against for the nomination).

In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.  Take those conventions: in each of them, the presidential candidate was introduced by a well-known figure who went on stage and ad-libbed.  One was an 82-year-old guy talking to an empty chair (and I still thought he was the best thing the Republicans had to offer, including his shout-out about withdrawing all our troops from Afghanistan) and the other was... well, Bill Clinton.

It wasn’t even a contest.  As for the upcoming debates, if you think Romney can out duel Obama without wandering in among the thorns, I have a Nigerian prince I'd like to introduce you to.  In other words, it should really all be over except for the usual shouting and the gazillions of dollars of attack ads that will turn swing-state TV screens into a mind-numbing blur of lies. Even there, however, some Super PAC and dark-money types may evidently be starting to consider shifting funds from beating up on Obama to beating up on Democratic senatorial candidates.  It's a sign that the moneybags of the Republican ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“The media swallowed each spurious ingredient, helping push him forth as a tea party rock star and, now, a man who could be next in line for the presidency.”

 

To borrow from President Lyndon Johnson's colorful analysis of a Nixon speech, "I may not know much, but I know chicken [poop] from chicken salad."

Paul Ryan, the GOP's current vice-presidential nominee, has spent his career in government trying to blur the boundary between the two. Over the years, the ambitious right-wing politico has carefully assembled a stinking salad of positive adjectives to create his public persona: an earnest, straight-shooting, big thinker with integrity and deeply held conservative convictions.

The media swallowed each spurious ingredient, helping push him forth as a tea party rock star and, now, a man who could be next in line for the presidency.

But since hitting the national stage, the real Ryan has been revealed as a slippery, dissembling, fabricating, small-minded, political hack. His debut speech at the Republican National Convention was so filled with lies and chicken you-know-what that it even caused Fox TV's fawning commentators to gag. Since then, he has continued to stink up the campaign trail, establishing himself, in the words of one New York Times columnist, as "a veritable poster boy for hyperbole and hypocrisy."

Then, in a recent radio interview, Ryan really ripped it by demonstrating the dishonesty that resides in his innermost core. Bragging that he's a very fit fellow, the VP candidate claimed to have run a marathon in under three hours. Wow — that's championship stuff!

Only, it was just more chicken stuff. Runner's World magazine

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: Sunday 16 September 2012
“A smaller portion of American adults is now working than at any time in the last thirty years.”

With deficit hawks circling overhead, the responsibility for creating jobs has fallen by default to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. Last week the Fed said it expected to keep interest rates near zero through mid 2015 in order to stimulate employment.

Two cheers.

The problem is, low interest rates alone won’t do it. The Fed has held interest rates near zero for several years without that much to show for it. A smaller portion of American adults is now working than at any time in the last thirty years.

So far, the biggest beneficiaries of near-zero interest rates haven’t been average Americans. They’ve been too weighed down with debt to borrow more, and their wages keep dropping. And because they won’t and can’t borrow more, businesses haven’t had more customers. So there’s been no reason for businesses to borrow to expand and hire more people, even at low interest rates.

The biggest winners from the Fed’s near-zero rates have been the big banks, which are now assured of two or more years of almost free money. The big banks haven’t used  the money to refinance mortgages – why should they when they can squeeze more money out of homeowners by keeping them at higher rates? Instead, they’ve used the almost free money to make big bets on derivatives. If the bets continue to go well, the bankers will continue to make a bundle. If the bets sour, well, you know what happens then. Watch your wallets.

The truth is, low interest rates won’t boost the economy without an expansive fiscal policy that makes up for the timid spending of  consumers and businesses. Until more Americans have more money in their pockets, government spending has to fill the gap.

On this score, the big news isn’t the Fed’s renewed determination to keep interest rates low. The big news is global ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
“Earlier this year, the Medicare Board of Trustees estimated that the Medicare hospital trust fund would remain fully funded only until 2024.”

 

Medicare and Medicaid, which provide medical coverage for seniors, the poor and the disabled, together make up nearly a quarter of all federal spending. With total Medicare spending projected to cost $7.7 trillion over the next 10 years, there is consensus that changes are in order. But what those changes should entail has, of course, been one of the hot-button issues of the campaign.

With the candidates slinging charges, we thought we’d lay out the facts. Here’s a rundown of where the two candidates stand on Medicare and Medicaid:

THE CANDIDATES ON MEDICARE

Big Picture

Earlier this year, the Medicare Board of Trustees estimated that the Medicare hospital trust fund would remain fully funded only until 2024. Medicare would not go bankrupt or disappear, but it wouldn’t have enough money to cover all hospital costs.

Under traditional government-run Medicare, seniors 65 and over and people with disabilities are given health insurance for a fixed set of benefits, in what’s known as fee-for-service coverage. Medicare also offers a subset of private health plans known as Medicare Advantage, in which ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“Only a tiny percentage of voters in November will have read the article or will have any idea that the US military is so, um, active in so many places around the world some two decades after the end of the Cold War.”

 

 

 

A recent article in Nation of Change (Tom Engelhardt, "Monopolizing War", September 13, 2012) starts with a multiple choice question about Marines carrying out combat operations in a certain foreign country. The article goes on to list nine possible answers (that's right, boys and girls, not the usual four) – and one of the choices wasn't "all of the above.” It turns out it was a trick question.  In fact, the correct answer was all of the countries on the list, to include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Central Africa, Northern Mali, the Philippines, and Guatemala.

 

Only a tiny percentage of voters in November will have read the article or will have any idea that the US military is so, um, active in so many places around the world some two decades after the end of the Cold War.  Okay, okay.  Let's not forget that the shocking events of 9-11 changed the game 11 years ago (as we are all gravely reminded every year at this very time with a barrage of hair-raising, heart-breaking images, look-backs, documentaries, op-eds, flags, and bumper-stickers).

 

We're in a war.  On terror.  It's different from all other wars.  Even the Cold War.  Different from all the wars that have ever been fought.  Anywhere.  Anytime.  It's a war without end.  Against a fanatical, hate-filled enemy that is also invisible, amorphous, and relentless.   An enemy that has no state and no army, navy, or air force.  An enemy that cannot be defeated by conventional or unconventional military means.  Or nuclear weapons.  Ever.

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: Friday 7 September 2012
“Bush did support federal grant programs for community health centers during his presidency. But the specific grant requested by Ryan is funded through Obamacare, which provides $11 billion to expand community health centers.”

 

Earlier this week, the Nation uncovered the fact that Paul Ryan — who has voted with his party to repeal President Obama’s health care law over 30 times — requested Obamacare funds for his Wisconsin district in 2010. However, after the news broke that Ryan sought to fund a new community health center with federal money provided through health care reform, his campaign was quick to retort that grant program has nothing to do with supporting Obamacare because it was created under former President George W. Bush.

Bush did support federal grant programs for community health centers during his presidency. But the specific grant requested by Ryan is funded through Obamacare, which provides $11 billion to expand community health centers. When Ryan requested the funds in 2010, they represented money that Obama approved — under a law that Ryan has referred to as “Washington’s reckless spending spree.”

As the Huffington Post points out, it’s difficult to understand the distinction between Ryan’s support for Bush’s health care spending and his opposition to ...

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: Wednesday 5 September 2012
“Beware: Ryan is smoother, slicker and more treacherous than the Palin Ninny, the miscast starlet who never overcame (or realizes to this day) her appearance in the wrong movie.”

Fancy Liar's Poker? Why not Liar's Politics? This week, faint-hearted journalists crept from quasi-permanent stupor to broadcast Paul Ryan's astonishing duplicity. That spectacle raises this shocking question: is Romney's truth-averse mission to lie himself into the White House, or did corporate media draw a clear line separating consensual truth from compulsive fibbing? Wasn't it Oscar Wilde's jest that few journalists could distinguish a bicycle accident from the end of civilization? 

  

Can you recall an emptier, worse run, more cringe-worthy Convention, where fatuous speechifying simply interrupted low-class sniping, low-class even for Rethuglicans? Fortunately, neither nominee is better at lying than proposing improvements for 95% of domestic inhabitants. Instead of Mitt's bizarre PR "job tour" to stimulate growth, why not a small feint towards a "truth tour"? Who figured truthiness would outshine this nonsense?   

  

Beware: Ryan is smoother, slicker and more treacherous than the Palin Ninny, the miscast starlet who never overcame (or realizes to this day) her appearance in the wrong movie. Fortunately, V.P. candidates don't win elections, even when seemingly more genuine than his ticket mate (how could he seem less?). The mystery remains why an unpopular, distrusted campaign, with the base in tow and desperate to reach the information-averse undecideds, fired blank cartridges at party fanatics, not substance at decisive November voters. 

  

Countering counter-factoids

  

Having fleetingly redeemed themselves, will media worthies take on any national ticket whose arrogance (read: Romney team) openly scorns independent fact checking? Obama abuses civil and legal rights but not reportage, not yet ...

Published: Monday 3 September 2012
“This is a rare case of a lie that the campaign felt obliged to retract.”

 

On Wednesday, Jonathan Cohn asked if Paul Ryan's address was "The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?" Now that Mitt Romney had his turn, I decided to answer the question.

After reviewing presidential and vice-presidential nominee acceptance speeches throughout the era of the modern Republican Party, back to 1980, I present to you: the Top 13 Republican Convention Speech Lies.

To make this list, the candidate had to deliver a stone-cold, unequivocal, shameless brazen lie. Being misleading but technically true, or using disingenuous qualifiers wasn't good enough.

For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney does not make the cut for saying in 2004 that "we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein" shortly after saying "the president made clear that the terrorists would be dealt with". Sure, he's suggesting a false connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but he didn't explicitly state the lie--at least, not on the convention stage.

With that in mind, here we go.

13. Bush 2000: The Gore Invented The Internet Lie

George W. Bush wrapped the lie in a joke, but it's still a lie.

After riffing about all the inventions in history Gore would call a "risky scheme," -- a way to deflect criticism of his own conservative proposals -- Bush said, "if he'd been there when the Internet was invented ... well, I understand he actually was there for that."

It's about as good as a ...

Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
“You might not remember this, but there once was a woman named Sarah Palin who was nominated for vice-president.”

On Wednesday, Jonathan Cohn asked if Paul Ryan's address was "The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?" Now that Mitt Romney had his turn, I decided to answer the question.

After reviewing presidential and vice-presidential nominee acceptance speeches throughout the era of the modern Republican Party, back to 1980, I present to you: the Top 13 Republican Convention Speech Lies.

To make this list, the candidate had to deliver a stone-cold, unequivocal, shameless brazen lie. Being misleading but technically true, or using disingenuous qualifiers wasn't good enough.

For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney does not make the cut for saying in 2004"we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein" shortly after saying "the president made clear that the terrorists would be dealt with". Sure, he's suggesting a false connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but he didn't explicitly state the lie ... at least, not on the convention stage.

With that in mind, here we go.

13. Bush 2000: The Gore Invented The Internet Lie

George W. Bush wrapped the lie in a joke, but it's still a lie.

After riffing about all the inventions in history Gore would call a "risky scheme," -- a way to deflect criticism of his own conservative proposals -- Bush said, "if he'd been there when the Internet was invented ... well, I understand he actually was there for that."

It's about as good as a birth certificate joke. And just as much of a lie.

Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
“Admittedly, not all Republican hilarity is calculated, though it is predictable when they keep pushing buffoons forward to present policy babble.”

Will the unintended Republican comic opera play on? Enough surging tomfoolery, plus an anemic ticket, and President Obama may survive. Ah, the clandestine metric Romney dreams will carry him into the White House: entertainment verging on farce. Forget changing the status quo or new jobs or better times: that challenge needs going through the motions of proposing programs. Instead, why not amuse and divert: "Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh . . . They'll be standing in lines/ For those old honky-tonk monkeyshines"?

 

Admittedly, not all Republican hilarity is calculated, though it is predictable when they keep pushing buffoons forward to present policy babble. And I love the pre-convention chatter, spending millions to make the Etch-a-Sketch Changeling warmer, even a tad lovable. Fat chance. While Romney-Ryan curiosities come fast and furious, they aren't the only damaging blows to the New Extremism Party. There's Todd Akin, a crazed Lubbock county judge, and an oldie but goodie mortification from last summer reported this week. What! Sacrilege at a holy land-holy site by holier-than-thou House members, per this juicy Politico headline:

 

 Exclusive: FBI probed GOP trip with drinking, nudity in Israel
 

 

Ah hem, "The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff -- and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses."
 

 

Probed? What a ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“Like his buddy Todd, Ryan has sponsored many bills to deny abortion to victims of rape.”

While it's hard to fathom right-wing nuttiness, it's sure not hard to find these days.

We saw it bloom spectacularly recently, popping right out of the head of Todd Akin, the GOP's Senate candidate in Missouri. The learned congressman gave America a twisted tutorial on the imaginary science of "legitimate rape," including an astonishing assertion of his belief in medical mojo. Akin explained that raped women don't get pregnant because — according to his grasp of reproductive science — the female body has ways "to shut that whole thing down."

Whoa! Screamed Mitt Romney and the entire Republican hierarchy, as they rushed to declare Akin out-of-bounds, unacceptable and ... well, nutty.

But wait. Guess who's presently cosponsoring legislation with Akin to impose this theological witchcraft on America's women? Why it's Romney's choice to hold the second-highest office in our nation, VP nominee Paul Ryan. Like his buddy Todd, Ryan has sponsored many bills to deny abortion to victims of rape.

Now, guess which party has just fully embraced Akin's nuttiness by including his absolutist "no-abortion-even-in-the-case-of-rape" provision in its national platform? Yes, the Romney-Ryan Republicans. Yet, that same party's panicked Poobahs have pronounced Akin's views so extreme that he should withdraw from the Missouri Senate race. Excuse me, but — logically speaking — doesn't that mean Ryan should also withdraw from his race?

Of course, in the fantasy universe of the far right, logic is an alien intruder, barred from interfering with either approved doctrine or political expediency. Indeed, here's their idea of logic: Akin, a devout worshipper of junk science, is a member of the House Committee on Science. Go figure.

And if you find that surreal, let me add that his ...

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
The one place Republicans suggest real change is in Medicare.

The name of George W. Bush graces no chair at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The 43rd president left behind monumental deficits and an economy in tatters. Republicans hold him responsible for the party's straying from its alleged small-government ethic. They want the public to forget the man.

Thing is, the man wasn't the problem. His plan was the problem. And there is very little in the "new" Republican proposals that would change the plan. It's more tax cuts targeting the well-to-do, a bigger defense budget and less regulation. The one place Republicans suggest real change is in Medicare. Mitt Romney's pick for vice president, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, proposes a Medicare voucher system that would save money by making sure that taxpayer subsidies don't keep pace with projected health care costs.

There are less radical ways to curb soaring Medicare costs, but Ryan's idea does deserve half a credit for courage. It doesn't get a full credit for two reasons. One is it would not impose the voucher system on anyone 55 or older — that is, for those who are really paying attention. The second reason is that it privatizes the hard conversations on what Medicare should offer, discussions the public should be having with their government. What privatizing coverage does is move the tough calls to insurance company executive suites, where the profit motive strongly favors denying care.

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Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?

It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision – “out of sight, out of mind.”

And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans.  Tipping their hats to America’s impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.

Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough 

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
The Wisconsin congressman may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume.

 

Defending himself against the perception that he has no significant foreign policy experience, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has drawn fresh attention to one of the most controversial acts of the past decade: the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq before U.N. weapons inspections were completed. Ryan now points to his vote for war as a token of his readiness to serve in the White House, but he is on the wrong side of both history and public opinion.

The Wisconsin congressman may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume.

"I've been in Congress for a number of years," he said. "That's more experience than Barack Obama had when he came into office." Perhaps he should have stopped there, but instead blundered on, "I voted to send people to war."

Does Ryan believe that voting for war constitutes foreign policy experience? If so, it is a kind of experience that reflects very poorly on him. Even he must realize that the underlying premise of the war, Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, quickly proved to be nothing more than a Bush administration hoax, along with the secondary claim that ...

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
Ryan has pushed for earmarks around the same time he started complaining about the practice. He also lobbied for stimulus money while objecting to President Obama’s spending bill.

 

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan may be one of the House of Representative’s top fundraisers – and that’s at least partially thanks to his powerful position as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has the power to influence laws on banking and health care.

Today, the Huffington Post reports that while he criticized earmarks and wasteful federal spending (including in President Obama’s stimulus bill), he also engaged in securing earmarks and lobbying for stimulus cash:

Ryan has 

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
The film is a thinly veiled story about how the Koch Brothers—America’s fifth and sixth richest men, Charles and David, worth $25 billion each—are buying the nation’s political system through their purchase of Tea Party candidates (a certain Paul Ryan with mega-Koch donations springs to mind)

Don’t be fooled: what looks like Hollywood’s latest comedic romp with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis duking it out for a congressional seat in “The Campaign” isn’t just political satire but something much more daring. The film is a thinly veiled story about how the Koch Brothers—America’s fifth and sixth richest men, Charles and David, worth $25 billion each—are buying the nation’s political system through their purchase of Tea Party candidates (a certain Paul Ryan with mega-Koch donations springs to mind). Grossly funny, “The Campaign” delivers a craven, pussy-whipped, intellectually stunted landscape of U.S. politics that Americans will instantly recognize, but with a subversive subtext we’re not quite used to.

Credit that to the movie’s co-star and co-producer, Galifianakis, one of the most popular actor-comedians working today who can therefore pretty much do what he likes. Dowdy, with a pot belly and handle-bar moustache, Galifianakis plays a small-town family man named Marty Huggins who gets tapped by the powerful “Motch Brothers” (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) to unseat the four-term, unchallenged, sex-enthralled Democrat Cam Brady (Ferrell) in North Carolina’s 14th congressional district.

But there’s something Huggins doesn’t realize. The million dollars that the Motch Brothers dropped into his Super PAC is little more than a ...

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest.

 

We’re witnessing the capture by fanatics of what was once a great and important American political party. 

The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest. This is basically Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s position. (At least the GOP platform doesn’t assert that women’s bodies automatically reject “legitimate” rapists’ sperm.)

Paul Ryan, Romney’s selection for vice president, has co-sponsored 38 anti-abortion measures while in the House of Representatives, including several containing no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. 

But the GOP’s fanaticism goes far beyond the its growing absolutism about abortion.

Ryan’s proposed budget, approved by almost all House Republicans, is also an exercise in fanaticism. It replaces Medicare with vouchers that won’t possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs — thereby shifting costs directly on to the elderly. 

That budget also harms the poor and rewards the rich, but does little or nothing to reduce the federal budget deficit. Over 60 percent of its spending cuts come out of programs for lower-income Americans. Its tax cuts for the rich reduce revenues by $4.6 trillion over the decade while saving the typical millionaire hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The GOP’s looniness doesn’t even stop there. Republicans remain unwaivering in their support of state laws allowing or encouraging the profiling of Latinos. And unrelenting in their war against gay rights. 

It’s not just women, seniors, budget hawks, the poor, Latinos, and gays who are catching on to the Republicans’ extremism. Americans who don’t fall into one of these categories are becoming alarmed, too — as they should.

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“Koch is building the town on his ranch in Gunnison County, Colorado.  But he has proposed highly controversial land exchanges that would swap tracts of public lands for areas that he has the rights to in order to expand his ranch and provide more privacy for the old western town.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”  A story in yesterday’s Denver Post about fossil fuel magnate William (Bill) Koch’s construction of a private old western town in Colorado provides yet another example of this truism.

Koch has built for himself:

… an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse. Its full-size buildings come with polished brass and carved-mahogany details and are fronted with board sidewalks and underpinned by a water-treatment system. A locked gate with guards screens who comes and goes….

Koch’s project manager has told county officials that the enclave in the middle of the 6,400-acre Bear Ranch won’t ever be open to the public. It is simply for Koch’s amusement and for that of his family and friends.

Koch is building the town on his ranch in Gunnison County, Colorado.  But he has proposed highly controversial land exchanges that would swap tracts of public lands for areas that he has the rights to in order to expand his ranch and provide more privacy for the old western town.

The “Central Rockies Land Exchange” would give Koch control of 1,800 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in exchange for various other parcels that he owns in Colorado. Local ...

Published: Tuesday 21 August 2012
Let’s set the confusion aside for a moment and look at where the projected cuts would be made.

Paul Ryan has bold economic ideas. Or maybe he doesn't. It's really hard to know what Mitt Romney's VP pick thinks, since his budget plan includes Obamacare's $716 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years, but his election plan has him saying he would restore those spending cuts. Romney is accusing president Obama of "robbing" that money from today's beneficiaries.

Let's set the confusion aside for a moment and look at where the projected cuts would be made.

First off, none of the savings comes from changing eligibility or benefits. The president's health care reforms actually add benefits to Medicare. The savings come from reducing payments to hospitals, home-health services and other providers, though not doctors. And all the provider groups (except for insurers) have gone along with it because by covering 32 million currently uninsured Americans, the law brings them more paying customers.

The Ryan plan would affect only Americans now under age 55. It would replace guaranteed benefits with vouchers, whereby folks would be given a set number of dollars with which to buy private coverage or pay their Medicare premium. It would save money  by increasing that number of dollars over the years by less than expected rises ...

Published: Tuesday 21 August 2012
If they were honest with voters, their bumper sticker would read: “Ryan-Romney 2012.”

 

Poor Paul Ryan — he successfully rammed a budget bill through the U.S. House of Representatives that gutted Medicare, thus earning him the undying adulation of the far-right Republican fringe, whose unrestrained enthusiasm for him compelled Mitt Romney to name the Wisconsin Republican as his vice presidential nominee.

So far, so good — but, wham! — the Romney-Ryan ticket had barely debuted before Mitt started dumping on his newly anointed running mate's budget. Curiously, that's the exact same budget that Romney had gushed about during the Republican primary this spring, calling it a “bold and exciting effort” that is “very much needed.”

 

But that was when Mitt was trolling for votes in the shallow waters of the fringe. Now, however, Ryan's budget, the very bauble that got him to the GOP's No. 2 political slot, turns out to be so widely and wildly unpopular with voters in the deeper waters of the general election that it's already been trashed by the GOP's No. 1. "I have my own budget plan," Romney backpedaled the day after he knighted Sir Ryan, "and that's the budget plan we're going to run on."

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Published: Monday 20 August 2012
“Following this ideology, a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan presidency would most likely increase the pace of deregulation and destroy what is left of the country’s safety nets.”

Part I - The Good Old Bad Days

 

In the 132 years between 1797 and 1929, there was no effective regulation of U.S. economy. No federal agencies existed to control corruption, fraud and exploitation on the part of the business class. Even during the Civil War, economic management on a national level was minimal and war profiteering common. As a result the country experienced 33 major economic downturns which impacted roughly 60 of the years in question. These included 22 recessions, 4 depressions, and 7 economic “panics” (bank runs and failures).
 

Then came the Great Depression starting with the crash of the New York stock market in 1929. This soon became a worldwide affair which lasted until the onset of World War II. Millions were thrown out of work, agricultural production partially collapsed, and the fear of rebellion and revolution was palpable both in the U.S. and Europe.
 

It is to be noted that the way capitalism worked over these 132 years was a function of ideology. This was (and still is) the so-called free market ideology which taught that if the government was kept as small as possible (basically having responsibility for internal order, external defense, and the enforcement of contracts), the citizenry would have to pay very low taxes and be left alone to pursue their own prosperity. Thus, as the ideology goes, everyone would be free to maximize their own wealth and in doing so also maximize the wealth of the community as a whole.
 

The Great Depression was a real moment of truth for the capitalist West because it suggested to the open-minded that the free market ideology was seriously flawed. Free market practices had brought the economic system to the brink of collapse, and Russia’s newly triumphant communists represented serious competition. So the question that ...

Published: Monday 20 August 2012
The commission, which proved to be a bust, was headed by co-chairs named by the president. For the Republicans, who since its inception have wanted to destroy this last vestige of the New Deal, it was former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a cadaverous wretch of a man who promptly called the program a “milk cow with 300 million tits.”

 

If you want to know how moribund the Democratic Party is, how completely owned by Wall Street the president is, and how sick our national politics have become, just consider Social Security.

The president, earlier in his term, convened a “blue ribbon” panel, supposedly composed of a “broad spectrum” of opinions from liberal to conservative,” to come up with a plan to “reform” the system.

At issue: It is known that because of the huge number of Baby Boomers -- people born between 1946 and 1964 -- just starting to hit retirement age, and the general aging of the population, the Trust Fund composed of revenues paid into the system by working people will be depleted by about 2033. That would leave current worker taxes covering just 78% of the benefits promised to be paid out the same year, unless something is done sooner to increase revenues or decrease the rate of payouts of those benefits.

The commission, which proved to be a bust, was headed by co-chairs named by the president. For the Republicans, who since its inception have wanted to destroy this last vestige of the New Deal, it was former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a cadaverous wretch of a man who promptly called the program a “milk cow with 300 million tits.” ‘Nuff said there. Nice pick Barack.

As for his Democratic co-chair, the president named Erskine Bowles. If you wanted to know the views of this former congressman and Clinton advisor on Social Security, you need only learn that in 2011 at a public event, he praised Rep. Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney's choice for VP, who has said he wants to privatize Social Security, and condemned the president’s last budget proposal as a joke. Barack sure knows how to pick ‘em. Bowles ...

Published: Sunday 19 August 2012
So, Romney settled on a superficially controversial pick (though knee-jerk compared to Palin) because of this most uncontroversial tactic: GOP moderates go hard right with V.P.’s to lock up the (white, evangelical, older) base.

Whether you responded with shock, surprise or delight to his V.P. pick, Mitt Romney delivered no bombshell with Paul Ryan. Au contraire. The briefest survey confirms "going hard right V.P." typifies the modern era for the Gruesome Old Party. That Romney the Null and Void would pick an extreme partisan to shore up his skeptical base was inevitable: lock up the sheeple who trust super-rich Mitt even less than they did Dole, Dubya or that old guy enamored with the Palin. 

  

That doesn't mean Ryan is a smart, election-winning pick (still anathema to moderates), just the least compromised ideologue eager to join the wobbly Mitt ship. Plus, Ryan would be positioned to pick up the pieces for 2016. One current thesis, that the extreme right, business cartel is prepping Ryan as favorite for the incumbent-less 2016, depends on a long-shot assumption: that another four years of hard times  doesn't block Ryan primary wins, considering the failed like-minded clones this year (Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum). Aligned to the Koch Bros., Ryan won't lack for funds but more four years of gridlock may make severe Ryan austerity untenable.       

  

Let's debunk other momentary flashes: Ryan is less about transient polling or Romney desperation (too early), nor is this some weird, double-reversal because "power brokers" favor Obama (for Romney, winning is everything, until the dire end). Nor is Romney keen for "big, bold ideas" and many predict his ticket sticks doggedly to vacuous, bromide-coated blarney (until that flops). Finally, Ryan's leverage to overcome Obama's Wisconsin lead looks dubious, at best. 

 

Drive the base turnout

  

So, Romney settled on a superficially controversial pick (though ...

Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
Sounds good, but earlier this week – three days after being picked as Romney’s running-mate – Ryan went to Las Vegas to pay homage to Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who is the poster boy for using money to become “politically connected” in Washington, and getting the “breaks” that come with it.

 

On Friday, Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, made the most populist speech of this campaign season.

“It’s the people who are politically connected, it’s the people who have access to Washington that get the breaks,” he told an enthusiastic crowd of over 2,000 at a high school gym in Virginia.

“Well, no more. We don’t want to pick winners and losers in Washington… . Hardworking taxpayers should be treated fairly and it should be based on whether they’re good, whether they work hard and not who they know in Washington. That’s entrepreneurialism. That’s free enterprise.”

Sounds good, but earlier this week – three days after being picked as Romney’s running-mate – Ryan went to Las Vegas to pay homage to Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who is the poster boy for using money to become “politically connected” in Washington, and getting the “breaks” that come with it. Adelson has promised to donate up to $100 million to make sure Romney and Ryan are in the White House next year.

Much of Adelson’s fortune comes from his casino in Macau, in China, via his money-greased access to Washington.

When China’s pitch for the 2008 Olympics was endangered by a House resolution opposing the bid because of China’s “abominable human rights record,” Adelson phoned Tom DeLay, then House majority whip and recipient of Adelson’s political generosity — urging him to block the resolution, which DeLay promptly did. The next day, according to the New York Times, a Chinese vice premier promised Mr. Adelson an endless line of gamblers to the Macau casino.

The money Adelson has committed to putting Romney and Ryan into the White House is a business investment. Adelson has a lot ...

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: Friday 17 August 2012
Purporting to be a small-government budget hawk, Ryan publicly decries corporate welfare and says he wants “to get Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers.”

 

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan admires Ayn Rand, and if you believe Republican Party mythology, Ryan is a messianic John Galt who will save America from a secret socialist conspiracy. Thus, in Rand fashion, it's worth asking: Who Is Paul Ryan?

The answer is simple: the GOP's presumptive vice presidential nominee is the 21st century's flesh-and-blood embodiment of political deception and media obfuscation.

Purporting to be a small-government budget hawk, Ryan publicly decries corporate welfare and says he wants "to get Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers." This has generated press coverage promoting Ryan as a great fiscal conservative. Yet, written out of the story is the fact that Ryan is a Huge Government Republican who voted for — and in some cases, still defends — the biggest examples of corporate welfare in American history.

Ryan, you see, was the Huge Government Republican who backed this era's massive corporate bailouts — the one who picked politically connected companies as winners and taxpayers as losers. He was the Huge Government Republican who regularly voted for profligate war spending bills — the ones that blew a gaping hole in the federal budget. And he is the Huge Government Republican now using his committee chairmanship to oppose serious cuts to the deficit-exploding corporate welfare still embedded in the bloated Pentagon budget.

Similarly, Ryan claims to be, and is billed in the press as, a libertarian-inspired acolyte of Rand — a man who supposedly values freedom and limited government. But as a Huge Government Republican, he has consistently voted to expand the surveillance state, endorse warrantless wiretapping and permit indefinite detention. Oh, and in contradiction to Rand's writings, he ...

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
“What does it mean when those words come from the Vice President of an Administration that's been talking for years about a deal to cut Social Security? A lot.”

 

What Vice President Joe Biden said today was, to use his now-famous phrase, "a big effin' deal." No, we're not talking about his "chains" comment which, as usual, has fascinated a press corps obsessed with taking statements out of context and playing "gotcha" games. We're referring to the comments he made about Social Security in a Virginia coffee shop.

From a press corps pool report, as relayed by NBC News:

"Hey, by the way, let's talk about Social Security," Biden said after a diner at The Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart, VA expressed his relief that the Obama campaign wasn't talking about changing the popular entitlement program. "Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security," Biden said, per a pool report.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2012
Ryan’s version is updated slightly, claiming that if Congress removes enough loopholes and tax expenditures, the resulting spurt of growth will reach 5 percent, 10 percent or even more.

By naming Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has endorsed what used to be known as "voodoo economics" — and restored that special brand of Republican superstition to the center of national debate.

To take Ryan seriously, as all too many pundits and politicians insist we must, requires everyone to behave as if the plans he produced as House Budget Committee chairman represent a meaningful effort to improve the nation's fiscal future. Sooner or later, however, real analysts will scrutinize the Ryan budget using honest math instead of humbug and magic.

In fact, they already have done so — and that is where the myth of Ryan as a serious, scrupulous and bold reformer begins to disintegrate.

As close observers know, the Wisconsin congressman wants to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans even more sharply than George W. Bush, whose tax policies caused the bulk of the deficits that provoke so much righteous anger among Republicans like Ryan today. In Ryan's budget, his tax cuts leave an enormous revenue gap, even with the absurdly destructive spending cuts he also proposes.

But according to Ryan, we need not worry that his plan will increase fiscal deficits as well as the deficits it will assuredly worsen in infrastructure, education, health care, environmental quality, consumer protection and scientific research. He says that his tax cuts, which naturally favor the wealthiest Americans, will pay for themselves by creating a huge, rapid spurt of economic growth — which will result in higher tax revenues to cover the deficit.

Where have we heard this before? There was the original Reagan version, and then later the Bush version, which relied on a gimmick called "dynamic scoring" to create the same fake equation. Ryan's version is updated slightly, claiming that if Congress removes enough loopholes and ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“As the town tries to get back on its feet, Ryan has said Janesville has become a microcosm for the economic woes facing the nation.”

With Republican Rep. Paul Ryan joining the Republican ticket for the White House, his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, is now in the national spotlight. Thousands have struggled with unemployment in Janesville since General Motors shut down its century-old plant there in 2008, causing mass layoffs. As the town tries to get back on its feet, Ryan has said Janesville has become a microcosm for the economic woes facing the nation. But much of its economic recovery is in fact due, in part, to money from President Obama’s stimulus package and other federal grants. We speak to Brad Lichtenstein, director of the new documentary, "As Goes Janesville," which follows the lives of laid off GM workers who try to reinvent themselves through federally funded job training programs, or by moving to work at other GM factories that stayed open after the auto industry bailout. We also play excerpts and outtakes from the film, including interviews with Ryan that did not make the final cut.

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?”

Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?

Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.

The Gift Pile

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It's got:

Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.

The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we'll get to shortly), no program in U.S. history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It's a stand-alone program which isn't allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030s.

No other program can say that.

A great profile. There's no way to say this delicately, so we'll come right out with it: Social Security has the slimmest, sleekest look in Washington. We don't like to encourage our society's fixation on thinness as the ideal of beauty, but let's face it -- Social Security is so cost-effective in delivering its benefits that it's got the most streamlined chassis around.

The Social Security Administration beats every private benefits program in the country when it comes to low overhead and efficient administrative design. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that everybody who pays into the system receives its benefits at qualification time.

There's no "means testing," no gamesmanship, no trick—just trim, no-overhead service delivery.

Great polls. Time and time again, overwhelming majorities of Americans have made it clear that they don't want this program to be cut. That means a lot: Of all the gifts in the world, the best ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
The Ryan-backed GOP budet maintains these cuts, but rather than using them to improve the Medicare program, it applies the savings to pay for massive tax cuts.

 

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are turning the GOP’s greatest political liability — a proposal to drastically restructure Medicare for seniors — into a sharp attack against President Obama, despite Republican efforts to cut more than a trillion from the program.

“There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare,” Romney said during the ticket’s first interview together on CBS, honing in on a charge the pair has reiterated at every campaign stop since the two Republicans joined forces on Saturday:

What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, “We’re going to give you a bigger choice.” In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That’s how we make Medicare work down the road.”

Watch it:

 

 

The $716 billion figure comes from the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate of the Republican proposal to repeal the law, though the office doesn’t back up the charge that Obama stole the money from the current Medicare budget. Rather, the savings slow the growth of Medicare over the next decade: eliminate ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves.”

Paul Ryan is the reverse of Sarah Palin. She was all right-wing flash without much substance. He’s all right-wing substance without much flash.

Ryan is not a firebrand. He’s not smarmy. He doesn’t ooze contempt for opponents or ridicule those who disagree with him. In style and tone, he doesn’t even sound like an ideologue – until you listen to what he has to say.

It’s here — in Ryan’s views and policy judgments — we find the true ideologue. More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today’s Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.

Ryan’s views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation’s poor – forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan’s budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger – particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.

In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.

The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won’t possibly keep up with rising health-care costs – thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.

At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich – who are ...

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Nobody in Washington is telling people the truth: Focusing on deficits during a recession-cum-depression is wrongheaded, foolish, and destructive.”

On a recent Meet the Press face-off between Democrats and Republicans, a politician claimed we urgently need to cut government spending. He embraced a plan to slash vital government programs and gut retirement security, while actuallycutting taxes for the rich. The only tax hikes in his plan were targeted toward the already-devastated middle class.

Then it was time for the Republican to speak.

Who'd have thought it? Progressive stalwarts like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin are pushing the same radical austerity plan as Jamie Dimon, CEO of troubled megabank JPMorgan Chase, and Robert Rubin, the Clinton ...

Published: Saturday 26 May 2012
“But let’s not forget Romney’s budget proposal, which mimics Paul Ryan’s.”

Fine to nail Romney with Bain Capitalism. But let’s not forget Romney’s budget proposal, which mimics Paul Ryan’s. Take a moment to make yourself aware of both, because they’re eye-opening and scary. 


Both would restore the military budget, slash Medicare (turning it into vouchers that shift costs to the elderly) and Medicaid (turning it over to the states but without enough money to keep it going), cut programs for the poor (food stamps, Pell grants, etc), and yet at the same time cut even more taxes on the super rich. 
 


According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Romney’s plan would give a $250K tax cut, on average, to everyone now earning over a million dollars a year. 
 


Yet Romney’s plan would also — according to the ...

Published: Monday 7 May 2012
“Of all things, GOP lawmakers hacked $8 billion from next year’s food stamp funds — a well-run, widely popular, and effective program that helps millions of hard-hit American families stave off some of the pain of poverty.”

 

Maybe you thought the lowest possible point of Republican miserliness was reached when Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Agriculture proposed that ketchup be counted as a vegetable in the school lunch program. If so, you've not taken a peek at the GOP's astoundingly penurious budget proposal recently pasted together in a fit of ideological extremism by the party's budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Of all things, GOP lawmakers hacked $8 billion from next year's food stamp funds — a well-run, widely popular, and effective program that helps millions of hard-hit American families stave off some of the pain of poverty. Maybe so, concede Ryan & Company, but the program is out of control, having added some 13 million people in the last three years. Well, gosh, Paul, welcome to the real America — where joblessness is rampant, wages are down, and the middle class is tumbling into poverty. Food stamp use is supposed to increase in such times. It means the program is working.

Still, retorts a Ryan henchman, everyone must sacrifice to lower the deficit, so these cuts are merely "reflecting the budgetary times we're in." Really? Then why does your budget give an average of $265,000 a year in more tax benefits to millionaires? And why, in your demand for severe austerity in government, do you not cut a dime from the Pentagon's bloated budget — even handing it an increase?

Finally, Ryan asserts that his food stamp cuts are for poor people's own good. Citing his Catholic religion's doctrine of "social magisterium," Paul the Pious says he's preventing poor families from the moral horror of being "dependent on government."

Just imagine their gratitude! And imagine Ryan's embarrassment that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dared to contradict his divine rationalization, bluntly calling the cuts "unjustified and wrong."

 

Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Ryan proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy.”

In Washington all serious people routinely write columns in which they set themselves above the political fray and pronounce the Republicans and Democrats equally to blame for political gridlock and all that they see wrong with the world. Today, it is my turn.

Of course beating up on the Republicans is pretty easy these days; you mostly just have to repeat what they say. Their standard bearer, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, has proposed a budget that eliminates the national park system, the Justice Department and federal courts, the Food and Drug Administration and most other areas of the federal budget over the next four decades.

According to the analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan budget, which was endorsed by the Republican House and Governor Romney, shrinks non-Social Security and non-health care spending to 4.75 percent of GDP by 2040 and to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. With the military budget taking up 3-4 percent of GDP, everything else goes to zero somewhere in this period.

Ryan also proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy. He wants to reduce the top tax rate on high-income earners by more than one-third compared with its baseline level. He proposes to maintain revenue neutrality be eliminating tax deductions that benefit the middle class, like the mortgage interest tax deduction and the deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

How many people will feel good about a budget that eliminates most of the governmental functions that we take for granted – drug safety, courts, a State Department and passport office? How will people feel about paying higher taxes so that Mitt Romney can pay less? These are the questions raised by the Republican budget. Hopefully they will be presented clearly in the campaign so that the public can make an informed ...

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: Friday 20 April 2012
“With so much of the nation’s disposable income and wealth going to the top, the vast middle class doesn’t have the purchasing power it needs to fire up the economy.”

President Obama’s electoral strategy can best be summed up as: “We’re on the right track, my economic policies are working, we still have a long way to go but stick with me and you’ll be fine.”

That’s not good enough. This recovery is too anemic, and the chance of an economic stall between now and Election Day far too high.

Even now, Mitt Romney’s empty “I’ll to it better” refrain is attracting as many voters as Obama’s “we’re on the right track.” Each man is gathering 46 percent of voter support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll. Only 33 percent of the public thinks the economy is improving while 40 percent say they’re still falling behind financially — an 11 point increase from 2008. Nearly two-thirds are concerned about paying for housing, and one in five with mortgages say they’re underwater.

If the economy stalls, Romney’s empty promise will look even better. And I’d put the odds of a stall at 50-50. That puts the odds of a Romney presidency far too high for comfort. Need I remind you that Romney enthusiastically supports Paul Ryan’s wildly regressive budget, and as president would be able to make at least one or possibly two Supreme Court appointments, and control the EPA and every other federal agency and department?

The Obama White House should face it: “We’re on the right track” isn’t sufficient. The President has to offer the nation a clear, bold strategy for boosting the economy. It should be the economic mandate for his second term.

It should consist of four points:

First, Obama should demand that the nation’s banks modify mortgages of homeowners still struggling in the wake of Wall Street’s housing bubble — threatening that if the banks fail ...

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
“For workers struggling to raise children on poverty wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a vital lifeline.”

What the Republican budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan doesn't say is in many respects more ominous than what it says—and on taxes, perhaps more indicative of the truth. For while the Ryan slash-and-burn budget proposal doesn't come right out and say it, it could have some low-income and middle-class people paying higher taxes than they would under a more progressive proposal that is not tilted toward the wealthy.

There is practically no other way to make the numbers add up in a budget that would create or continue a total of $10 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations over 10 years while making cuts in government spending so deep that the economy would be slowed, resulting in 4.1 million fewer jobs created over 10 years.

The nice-sounding tax-cut sizzle in the Ryan Republican plan is a simplified tax structure on earned income, with 10 percent and 25 percent tax brackets, plus the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent. Ryan also promises the elimination of deductions and credits that he, in his "Road to Prosperity" budget manifesto, denounces because they direct "resources to politically favored uses, creating a drag on economic growth and job creation" and even "take taxes paid by hardworking Americans and issue government checks to individuals and corporations who do not owe any taxes at all"

But where one might expect to find the steak lurks a poisonous tax snake instead. A bulletin issued last week by the Coalition for Human Needs raised the relevant questions:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserts that the new tax cuts will be paid for by cuts to other tax expenditures—that is, the deductions and credits that make up so much of the tax code. But while the budget is fairly specific in recommending cuts to services, it is utterly silent on which ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“The House GOP budget would either cut millions of Americans off of food assistance or would substantially reduce the already-modest amount each family receives.”

Congressional Republicans have targeted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, for budget cuts, and have attempted to paint it as a program rife with fraud and abuse that is on an unsustainable path. While their argument ignores a host of facts, including that food stamp fraud is at an all-time low, it also ignores the economic benefits that the program brings to millions of low-income families.

According to a new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamps substantially reduced the poverty rate in 2009, the last year data is available, the New York Times reports:

The food stamp program…reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers. [...]

The study, which examined nine years of data, tried to measure the program’s effects on people whose incomes remained below the poverty threshold. The program lifted the average poor person’s income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.

The USDA study aligns closely with a similar one released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which found that food stamps reduced the number of Americans living in extreme poverty in 2011 from 1.46 million to just over 800,000. SNAP’s effects on children are even bigger — the program cut the number living in extreme poverty

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: Sunday 8 April 2012
“Instead of being enrolled in medicare when they turn 65, seniors to retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area.”

President Obama described the Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as “laughable” during a speech at the Associated Press Luncheon on Tuesday and said that Ryan’s Medicare “premium support” plan would “end Medicare as we know it.” In a preview of his general election pitch, Obama argued that the GOP blueprint cuts essential government programs that help lower and middle class Americans in order to pay for tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich, before laying out his opposition to the party’s Medicare and Medicaid reforms.

“We’re told that Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states,” Obama explained. “But here’s the deal the states would be getting. They’d have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed.” According to the Center on Budget and policy Priorities, the Ryan budget would reduce federal spending on Medicaid billion and would provide states with smaller “block grants” to run their health care programs. “A cut that according to one nonpartisan group would take away health care for about 19 million Americans,” Obama said, before turning to the GOP’s proposal to transform Medicare into a premium support structure:

OBAMA: Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors to retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area. If Medicare is more expensive than at private plan, they will have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher, as, by the way, they have been doing for decades, that’s too bad. Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher is not enough to buy private plan with bit specific doctors and carry need, that’s too bad. Most experts will tell you the way this ...

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: Tuesday 27 March 2012
“In Representative Ryan’s 2012 Roadmap there is no room for federal funding for all the services that even conservatives expect the government to provide.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

It is easy to see that Ryan himself could not possible be serious about the document he put out as “Path to Prosperity.” The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan, which was prepared under Representative Ryan’s direction, shows that all categories of government spending outside of health care and Social Security will shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

This 3.75 percent of GDP includes defense spending, which is currently close to 4.0 percent of GDP, not including the cost of the war in Afghanistan. Representative Ryan said that he wants to keep defense spending close to its current level. This means that we have no money left to pay for the Justice Department, the State Department, support for education, roads and other infrastructure, the Park Service, the National Institutes of Health and all the other things that we expect the federal government to do. Essentially Paul Ryan is an anarchist who is proposing to shut down the federal government.

This cannot be a misrepresentation of Representative Ryan’s agenda. He put out essentially the same budget last year at which point many people pointed out the fact that he shrank most categories of government spending to zero. If that was a mistake (albeit an incredibly foolish one) he has now had a full year to reflect on his error and redesign a budget to reflect his real priorities.

Instead, he doubled down. ...

Published: Thursday 22 March 2012
“The Ryan budget shows debilitating cuts to nearly every department of government today, from law enforcement and border patrols to scientific research, food safety, environmental protection, federal highways, national parks, weather monitoring, education and all the other essential functions of a great country.”

If the foreign adversaries and competitors of the United States imagined a future that would fulfill their most ambitious objectives, it might begin with a government crippled by the House Republican leadership's "Ryan budget" released on Tuesday. Followed to its absurd conclusion, this document would lead America toward a withered state, approaching the point where Marxian dreams and Randian ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“In his quest to remake the Senate Republican caucus in his own image, Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has thrown some serious cash at a conservative super PAC that has attacked a Republican House member and other GOP candidates for office.”

In his quest to remake the Senate Republican caucus in his own image, Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has thrown some serious cash at a conservative super PAC that has attacked a Republican House member and other GOP candidates for office.

 

Last month, DeMint’s campaign committee donated $500,000 to “Club for Growth Action,” a super PAC committed to electing pro-free market Republicans.  DeMint’s donation accounted for 28 percent of the $1.8 million that the super PAC collected in February, according to Federal Election Commission documents released Monday.


To date, Club for Growth Action has reported spending more than $560,000 on political advertisements, all of them negative.  The group has attacked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), as well as U.S. Senate candidates Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, the state’s former GOP governor, and Republican David Dewhurst in Texas, the Lone Star State’s current lieutenant governor.


DeMint’s leadership PAC has already endorsed Thompson’s opponent in Wisconsin, Mark Neumann of Wisconsin, and Dewhurst’s opponent in Texas, Ted Cruz.  It has also endorsed Don Stenberg of Nebraska and Josh Mandel of Ohio — both of whom have also been endorsed by the Club for Growth.


“  Senator DeMint strongly supports several of the candidates the Club for Growth is backing this year, and this contribution will help the Club push them on to victory,” DeMint spokesman Matt Hoskins told iWatch News.


Both DeMint and the Club for Growth favor Republican candidates who favor limited government, lower taxes and pro-growth economic policies.  Their staunch support for “the right kind of Republicans,” as Hoskins calls it, has frequently led to infighting with GOP party leaders.


During the 2010 midterm ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“If you want to see House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan sanctimoniously excuse himself and his friends for missing the most predictable economic crisis in the history of the world, you now have the opportunity: In a YouTube video”

If you want to see House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan sanctimoniously excuse himself and his friends for missing the most predictable economic crisis in the history of the world, you now have the opportunity: In a YouTube video produced by his staff, Ryan tells viewers that the crisis called by the collapse of the housing bubble caught “us” by surprise.

Well, it didn’t actually catch us by surprise.  Some of us had been warning about the potential damage caused by the collapse of the bubble since 2002.  We repeatedly tried to warn of the dangers of the housing bubble in whatever forum we had.

It was easy to see that the housing market was hugely over-valued and that at some point it would collapse, just as the stock bubble had collapsed in 2000-2002.  It was also easy to see that its collapse would have a devastating impact on the economy.

The bubble was driving the economy both directly by propelling a construction boom and indirectly through the impact of housing bubble wealth on consumption.  When the bubble burst, there would be nothing to replace this bubble driven-demand.  It would be necessary to run the sort of large government budget deficits that we have seen the last four years in order to sustain the economy and keep unemployment rate out of the double digits.

All of this was 100 percent predictable and predicted.  However Representative Ryan wants to give himself the blanket “who could have known” amnesty because he and his Wall Street friends chose to ignore the people who were giving the warnings.

Ryan should apply a variation on the sanctimonious lines in his video to ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.”

In announcing the Republicans’ new budget and tax plan Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said “We are sharpening the contrast between the path that we’re proposing and the path of debt and decline the president has placed us upon.”

Ryan is right about sharpening the contrast. But the plan doesn’t do much to reduce the debt. Even by its own estimate the deficit would drop to $166 billion in 2018 and then begin growing again.

The real contrast is over what the plan does for the rich and what it does to everyone else. It reduces the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent. This would give the wealthiest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year.

The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.

Seniors would get subsidies to buy private health insurance or Medicare – but the subsidies would be capped. So as medical costs increased, seniors would fall further and further behind.

Other cuts would come out of food stamps, Pell grants to offset the college tuition of kids from poor families, and scores of other programs that now help middle-income and the poor.

The plan also calls for repealing Obama’s health-care overhaul, thereby eliminating healthcare for 30 million Americans and allowing insurers to discriminate against (and drop from coverage) people with pre-existing conditions.

The plan would carve an additional $19 billion out of next year’s “discretionary” spending over and above what Democrats agreed to last year. Needless to say, discretionary spending includes most of programs for lower-income families.

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon would be spared.

So what’s the guiding principle here? Pure social Darwinism. Reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it.

Ryan says too many Americans rely on government benefits. “We ...

Published: Tuesday 20 March 2012
Published: Monday 19 March 2012
“The Republicans, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, have argued that Medicare threatens to bankrupt the country.”

There is an old story about two men in a retirement home. The first declares, “the food in this place is poison.” His friend agrees and adds, “and the portions are so small.” This exchange perfectly captures the Republican approach to Medicare.

The Republicans, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, have argued that Medicare threatens to bankrupt the country. They have pointed to cost projections showing the program more than doubling relative to the size of the economy over the next three decades. The Republicans say that the country cannot afford this expense and scream about huge debt burdens for our children.

The Republicans’ concern might lead people to believe that they would support measures to contain Medicare costs. But if you thought that was the case, you would be wrong.

The latest Republican crusade on Medicare is to eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was put in place as part of the health care reform bill passed two years ago. IPAB is empowered to impose a cap on Medicare spending if it grows too fast relative to the size of economy. The way it would reduce cost growth is by reducing or eliminating payments for medicines and procedures that have not been shown to be effective.

Published: Sunday 18 March 2012
“Romney’s ideological evolution towards becoming the Republican nominee includes a move to embrace Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.”

Mitt Romney is down South, trying to win votes in the Alabama and Mississippi Republican primaries.  So, I will respond as a Southerner to Romney's announcement that he won't be enrolling in Medicare, because he's worth $150-to-$200 million and doesn't need it: Well, bless his heart.

Once again, I reminded of Will Allen Dromgoole's poem, "The Bridge Builder," in which an old man crosses a river only to start building a bridge across it.  (A "bridge over troubled water," if you will.)  Asked by a traveler why he's building a bridge over a river he's already crossed, the old man speaks of one who will pass that way after him.  "I am building this bridge for him," he explains.

As I said of Romney's billionaire backer Ken Griffin, Romney sound like the kind of guy who would cross that bridge, and then either blow it up or build a toll booth on it.

Romney's ideological evolution towards becoming the Republican nominee includes a move to ...

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: Monday 26 December 2011
[Senator Paul] Ryan’s plan would change [the] health program by shifting risk to beneficiaries.

Let’s say you have a Ford and decide to replace everything under the hood with Hyundai parts, including the engine and transmission. Could you still honestly market your car as a Ford?

That question gets at the heart of the controversy over who is being more forthright about GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to “save” Medicare, Republicans or Democrats.

If you overhaul the Medicare system like you did your Ford and tell the public it’s still Medicare, are you doing so honestly?

As I noted last week, PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Time’s fact checker, decided that the Democrats’ claim that Ryan’s plan would mean the end of Medicare was so blatantly untrue it merited designation as the 2011 “Lie of the Year.” Republicans, whose erroneous claims about health care reform garnered “Lie of the Year” prizes in 2009 and 2010, cheered. Democrats, as you might imagine, jeered — as did some  journalists and pundits.

PolitiFact’s Washington-based editor defended the choice by contending that Ryan’s proposal to restructure Medicare by providing beneficiaries subsidies to buy private insurance would not “end” the program. It would still be Medicare, he reasoned.

READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011
“In short, Gingrich’s tax plan simply cannot be taken seriously.”

2012 GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich is outdoing his Republican rivals in promising enormous tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans. According to an independent analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Gingrich’s plan would violate basic notions of fairness by requiring middle-class families to pay higher tax rates than millionaires.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with it. Gingrich’s plan is by far the most fiscally reckless plan to be released by a major 2012 contender. The magnitude of the tax cuts he is proposing to the wealthy and corporations would drive the debt to unprecedented and dangerous levels even if federal spending is cut drastically.

Gingrich has not proposed specific levels for federal spending, so to analyze the effect of his plan on the debt, we assumed that he adopts all of the draconian spending cuts in House Budget Committee Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget. Gingrich originally dismissed the Ryan budget as “right-wing social engineering,” but later said  READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 25 November 2011
“The blame game is a dreary enterprise, but if we’re destined to play yet another round, let’s go back and at least take a more nuanced view of the ledger.”

Congress fails. The can is kicked. Cue the finger-pointing at President Obama for failing to lead.

Count me out, this time around.

 

The collapse of the supercommittee is not Obama’s fault. If he had pushed and prodded and cajoled and horse-traded, the result likely would have been the same. Perhaps even worse, in the sense that the partisan digging-in might have been even more entrenched.

For all the eleventh-hour, “where-was-Obama?” moaning, the bipartisan congressional directive to the White House as the supercommittee did its work was simple: Back off.

That’s right. The message from both Republican and Democratic members of the group was that presidential involvement could only be counterproductive. The more ...

Published: Saturday 29 October 2011
“Before [Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul] Ryan delivers another lecture on the ‘fatal conceit of liberalism,’ he ought to examine his own silly conceit: that he and others like him represent the hardworking majority, when he was merely born at the top.”

Lauded by the Washington press corps for his “courage” and “honesty” in confronting federal deficits and the national debt, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wrote a budget that almost sank the Republican Party — and may still damage its prospects — because he proposed to dismantle Medicare. Yet his party still relies upon Ryan to speak on behalf of its most important constituency, now known in America and across the world as “the 1 percent.”

Addressing the right-wing Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, Ryan sought to discredit Elizabeth Warren — the Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate, Harvard faculty member, creator of the Consumer Finance Protection Agency and enemy No. 1 of Wall Street cheaters — for daring to utter an obvious truth.

While praising the creativity and industriousness of entrepreneurs, Warren recently pointed out that business cannot thrive without functional government providing police and fire protection, safe and efficient transportation, educated workers and myriad other public services.

Paying for those services is a responsibility that must be broadly shared, she said, and the rich who have benefited most from government in so many ways should now pay their fair share of its budgets and debts.

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she explained in videotaped remarks that lit up the Internet not long ago. “But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.”

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or ...

Published: Sunday 16 October 2011
Listen carefully to today’s Republican right and you hear the same Social Darwinism Americans were fed more than a century ago to justify the brazen inequality of the Gilded Age: Survival of the fittest.

A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward. 

We are going to battle once again.

Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure. And we all do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business, and a truly progressive tax system. Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy. 

Regressives take the opposite positions.

Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the other tribunes of today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conservative what we have. It’s to take us backwards. 

They’d like to return to the 1920s — before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety laws, the Environmental Protection Act, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Act, and the Voting Rights Act. 

In the 1920s Wall Street was unfettered, the rich grew far richer and everyone else went deep into debt, and the nation closed its doors to immigrants.

Rather than conserve the economy, these regressives want to resurrect the classical economics of the 1920s — the view that economic downturns are best addressed by doing nothing until the “rot” is purged out of the system (as Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, so decorously put it). 

In truth, if they had their way we’d be back in the late nineteenth century — before the federal income tax, antitrust laws, the pure food and drug act, and the Federal Reserve. A time when robber barons — railroad, ...

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