Roy Blunt, False Witness

The Old Testament tells us that the Lord hates “a false witness that speaketh lies.”

Uh-oh.

Without much of a pushback from Candy Crowley, Roy Blunt appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to speaketh lies about Mitt Romney’s once-prominent promise of tax cuts for all. After playing a clip of Romney saying “don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes,” Crowley asked,

What do you make of that? Sounds like people aren’t going to get a tax cut.

BLUNT: Well, I — actually I think that’s what the governor’s been saying all the time, and it’s what most Republicans have been saying all the time. Get the rate down, eliminate the — a lot of the intricacies of the tax code…

CROWLEY: But hasn’t he been — I’m sorry. Hasn’t he been campaigning on cutting taxes?

BLUNT: No, no, no, he has always said we’re going to lower the rate and we’re going to eliminate the complexity of the tax code. That’s what he’s said consistently. It doesn’t mean revenue would go down. That would mean that people would have some sense that everybody’s paying the same thing based on the same rules, both at the corporate structure and the individual structure and I think that’s very consistent…

No, no, no,” he said. “It doesn’t mean revenue would go down.” Well, I am used to Blunt telling unchallenged lies to Missourians, but one would think when he tells lies to the nation that Candy Crowley would at least press him on it. But nope, she didn’t.

If you go to Mitt Romney’s website—in light of his “47%” comments laughingly subtitled, “Believe in America” —you will find this:

Reduce taxes,” it says, “through…tax reform.” Nothing could be clearer than that. It doesn’t say “reduce tax rates,” but “reduce taxes,” with “reduce” being commonly defined as “to bring down.” Romney promised to bring down taxes, despite Blunt’s claim that  it was really “rates” he meant. A false witness, indeed.

But that wasn’t Blunt’s biggest sin on Sunday:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the state of the race in Missouri. This is where you had Congressman Akin, who made a very controversial remark, which you condemned, which others condemned. You, in fact, said at the time, “We do not believe it serves the national interests for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in the race for Senate. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.” 

As we all know, Todd Akin did not step aside. He is running as the Republican. And you are looking as though — the Republicans are looking as though they’re going to lose that race because Akin stayed in it. 

BLUNT: I think at the end of the day, that race does largely become a debate about the majority in the Senate. Harry Reid is majority leader. What happens there? I think that becomes really big in that race. Frankly, I think that anybody else would have been a candidate that clearly would have won, and Todd very well may win. He is on a ticket at a time when people are looking at a Senate that’s not doing its work, and the only way to change the Senate is to change the majority in the Senate. 

CROWLEY: So you are going to sell it as a party race as opposed to the individual of Congressman Akin? 

BLUNT: I think it becomes a party race in our state and lots of other places as well, as people look at these Senate races. And I’m not — I think they look at them to a great extent independently of whatever has happened in the presidential race, but I think the presidential race is going to be decided by the economy, and the economy is not where people want it to be.

Get that? Blunt believes, or says he believes, that Missourians will overlook Akin’s stupidity because otherwise Harry Reid will remain Majority Leader. Forget “legitimate rape” people, we’ve got to make Mitch McConnell, the chief Republican obstructionist in Congress, Majority Leader!

In other words, Blunt, who sacrificed what principles he had left on the altar of political power, hopes Missourians will do the same thing. He said a bit later:

It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Todd does.

Yeah, let’s see how Todd does.

My question would be this: Is there nothing a Republican candidate could say or do that would earn Roy Blunt’s permanent disapproval? If Charles Manson were a Republican and could give the party a majority in the senate, would Roy Blunt say, “It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Charlie does“?

Huh?

Sadly, the reason Blunt has recanted his disapproval of Akin is because, believe it or not, the man with a cave dweller’s understanding of the female reproductive system and “ladylike” behavior and who wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, actually has a chance of winning in cave-rich Missouri.

If he had no chance, Roy Blunt wouldn’t come within a Jack Abramoff scandal of him.

For his part, Akin, with a zeal befitting an evangelical zealot, has said that there is “an amazing correlation” at work here:

When you do the right thing, you end up winning anyway.

Well, there is one thing we know: no matter who wins, neither Akin nor the principleless Roy Blunt will have done the right thing.

And if Akin ends up in the U.S. Senate, those Missourians who put him there will be just as principleless as Blunt and will have brought shame to not only their state, but to the whole country.

A “Post-Truth” World

In an excellent blog post at Media Matters, Jeremy Holden reviews the incessant lies and disregard for fact-checking by the Romney-Ryan campaign, especially the lies about Obama’s so-called “apology tour” and Obama’s alleged elimination of the welfare work requirement.

Holden offered a tweet from a political reporter for the Boston Phoenix, which pretty much sums up the dilemma facing journalists:

Now what, indeed.

But Holden points out that The Washington Post—which employs Glenn Kessler as its fact checker, a fact checker who has given RomneyFour Pinocchios for months” but “Romney keeps saying this” —has its own problems with the truth, mainly because it continues publishing lies that have been fact checked by, uh, Glenn Kessler!

Among the culprits are Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who started that whole false meme about Obama and the security briefing (which caused John Sununu to call the President “lazy”).  Kessler gave Thiessen three Pinocchios for that one.

But prominent among offenders at the Post, offenders who practice what David Roberts of Grist has called “post-truth politics,” is Charles Krauthammer.

The Post publishes many questionable assertions written by Krauthammer, but perhaps most perplexing is why it continues to publish his columns that include references to that non-existent “apology tour.” Just today Krauthammer wrote:

Four years later, mid-September 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi went up in flames, as did Obama’s entire Middle East policy of apology and accommodation.

I don’t know how a reputable newspaper can employ a fact-checker and at the same time publish columns with claims that the fact-checker has repeatedly shot down as false.

But then The Washington Post is not what it used to be.

Meanwhile, another “news” organization, Fox, has been pushing an “Obama lied about Benghazi” meme night and day. And I mean night and day.

With only the flimsiest of evidence (that’s enough for Fox, when it comes to Obama) Fox has featured folks like Rudy Giuliani, who said yesterday on Fox’s Three Stooges and Friends:

I think there is no question that the administration was covering up from day one.

No question. None.

Mike Huckabee compared the whole thing to Watergate today on “America’s News(!)room”:

Let’s just get blunt. No way to sugar coat this — We’ve been lied to. We have flat-out been lied to. They know they’ve lied…Richard Nixon was forced out of office because he lied and because he covered some stuff up. I’m going to be blunt and tell you this — nobody died in Watergate. We have some people who are dead because of this. There are some questions to be answered and Americans ought to demand to get answers and it doesn’t matter what the politics are.

Yeah, it doesn’t matter what the politics are to right-wingers on Fox, right?

This afternoon I heard Fox’s Megyn Kelly ask Andy Card, George Bush’s chief of staff, this breathtaking question:

If George W. Bush had been the president and had sent Ambassador Bolton out to tell the world that these were spontaneous attacks, not pre-planned [sic], all over a video, and then it became clear that the intel community knew something very different all the while, what do you think the reaction would have been by the press?

CARD: I think the press would have been up in arms about President Bush.

Up in arms my ass. After the 9/11 attacks, the press fell into the arms of the Bush administration, as did all Americans. It wasn’t a time to throw rocks at the president (that would come later when it was revealed that a month before the attacks Bush had received a “presidential daily brief” titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” a story that did not get wall-to-wall coverage on Fox of course).

Neither was it the time, immediately after the murders in Benghazi, to do what Mitt Romney did—with the aid of Fox “News”and before the bodies were cold—when he began criticizing Mr. Obama shamelessly. There would be plenty of time to see what, if anything, the Administration did wrong in Libya, but shouldn’t we have an investigation and get the facts first? Huh?

It may well be that someone in the Administration purposely mislead reporters about the nature of the attacks, but what is more likely is that there was, and appears to remain, much confusion about them. Let’s see before we call this a Watergate or an October Surprise.

Meanwhile, a real scandal, but one involving Republicans and voter fraud (isn’t that ironic?) has been revealed and Fox, which pushed night and day the phony story in 2008 about ACORN and voter fraud, is, uh, busy with other things.

From Media Matters today:

In fact this morning, Brian Kilmeade hosted a Fox & Friends panel discussion about voter fraud. In 2008, the allegation that ACORN submitted questionable registration forms was routinely referred to and condemned as “voter fraud” on Fox. (To this day, Fox treats misaddressed voter registration forms as “fraud.”) But this morning, Kilmeade and his guests made no mention of the fact that the Republican Party was just forced to fire a consulting firm for submitting potentially bogus voter registration forms; forms being reviewed by local law enforcement.

Nothing is a scandal on Fox unless it is a Democratic scandal, real or imagined. And that is why Republicans spend much time bashing mainstream journalism and don’t give a damn about fact checkers.

The McCain Counterfactual

Thomas Frank was on MSNBC this morning promoting his new book, Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Resurgence of the American Right:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: After the collapse of the markets in 2008, you would expect a huge populist revival, a revival of the left, but actually two years later the biggest Republican landslide nationally in U.S. history. Why?

THOMAS FRANK: Exactly opposite of what you would expect. You know, if your model is the 1930s, everything went in the opposite direction…The populist feeling was really captured by the other side, by the conservative movement. You know, they got out there in the parks with the rallies—the Tea Party movement. And they were the ones denouncing the banks, denouncing Wall Street. They really captured that sensibility…

It is amazing when you think about it. The Republican Party, especially given the failure of the economic philosophy that governed it and governed the country, itself seemed on the edge of collapse after Republicans oversaw the near-collapse of the financial system.

As Frank said, one would expect a populist revolt from the left, like what happened much later with the Occupy movement. Wikipedia has a nice summary of the motivation of the “different local groups” that constitute what we know as the Occupy movement:

among the prime concerns is the claim that large corporations and the global financial system control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy and is unstable.

It’s not that hard to hear an echo of Tea Party resentment in those concerns. There is something of an overlapping outrage between populists left and right, when it comes to big banks and corporations and their inordinate influence.

But where were the Occupiers in the fall of 2008?

Well, oddly, the election of Barack Obama short-circuited that leftist revolt. Folks on the left were disposed to give him a chance to change things. I don’t think there is any doubt that if McCain had won in 2008, instead of witnessing the rise of the angry, ultra-conservative Tea Party, railing against bank bailouts and big government and that black man in the White’s House, we would have had a revival of left-leaning populism, one modeled very much on the Occupy movement, attacking the system from a different angle, an attack in support of the “99%” and most definitely an attack on the influence of money in politics.

Indeed, how different would our politics look today, in 2012, if there had been no Tea Party, no hysteria about the Scary Negro and his “socialist” policies? Certainly a President McCain would have had to bail out the banks in 2009, as Obama did, following George Bush’s tentative rescue. And certainly there would have been a 2010 mid-term resurgence by Democrats based on that bailout.

But would a populism from the left have been as fierce as what we saw, and continue to see to some extent, as that coming from the right? Would that populism have been as anxious to embrace every weird conspiracy dreamed up by liberal radio and television personalities? Would Democrats have regrouped after McCain’s election and secretly plotted to destroy his presidency on inauguration night, as Republicans did?

No. Why? Because there just aren’t that many liberal radio and television personalities to begin with. And those who do exist tend not to be Rush Limbaugh-size conspiracy fools.

More important, though, is that Democrats, the party of government, would have had no initial interest in sabotaging a McCain presidency, especially since McCain had periodically demonstrated in his career that he was willing to work with them to get things done. Because of their fondness for good government, it just isn’t in their nature to gum up the works (something that will have to change if Romney-Ryan, after a campaign of utter dishonesty built on Republican congressional obstruction, “takes back” the White’s House).

Left out of this analysis so far is the influence, which has come to be a dominating influence, of evangelicals on the Tea Party movement. The so-called teavangelicals have to a large degree muddled a movement that was energized by a libertarian antipathy to big government, debt and deficits, high taxes, and other “unconstitutional” intrusions.

Today the movement has been focused more on social issues, like contraception, abortion and homosexuality, because the movement is whiter, wealthier, manlier, and, most important, more evangelical than the population as a whole.

It’s entertaining to speculate about what might have happened if the country had chosen John McCain four years ago. But it is not that entertaining to observe what has happened to the country, particularly what has happened to the Republican Party, since America elected its first African-American in the midst of the worst economic turmoil in 80 years.

In fact, it is downright depressing.

McCaskill Sends A Warning To Republicans

As Todd Akin, that brilliant medieval scientist, continues his “Give ‘Em The Finger Tour” around Missouri (he essentially kicked it off here in Joplin), and as he attempts to make Missouri the butt of all political jokes, Claire McCaskill appeared on MSNBC this morning and offered this rather unladylike warning to the honchos in the GOP:

Watch the national Republicans. You know, they’ve all said it was unacceptable what he did, and I think Scott Brown and Linda McMahon and a lot of candidates out there are really going to be in trouble if the national Republicans now go back on their word and come in here and try to fund Todd Akin.

McCaskill’s senate counterpart, Roy Blunt, has already decided to put political power ahead of principle and support Akin. But he has his own personal reasons for doing so. If Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s congressional liaison, can help Republicans gain control of the senate by helping to engineer an Akin victory, he will be able to move up the leadership ladder—he is now the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

McCaskill is counting on national Republicans, who don’t share Blunt’s narrower interests because they have to look out for other candidates in bluish states, to keep to their word and not flirt with Akin and his goofy gynecological godliness imported from the Middle Ages.

So far, Texas Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, claims he has “no plans” to put money in Akin’s campaign, but we are talking about the Republican Party here. If the race is close in a couple of weeks, I’m betting the money will flow.

As for that other money-man, Karl Rove—who famously said of Akin that, “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts” —he probably won’t sink any money into Akin’s race, just as he didn’t offer any dough to GOP senate candidates and wingnuts Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, or Christine O’Donnell in 2010.

But again, these are Republicans. If it appears that an Akin victory is possible, and a Republican-controlled Senate is still in play, then even the murder-minded Rove may make a cash dump in Missouri.

In the mean time, the fact that Todd Akin still has his political legs, after all he has said and done, says a lot about how far Missouri politics has been corrupted by a corrosive brand of conservatism.

“The Hounds Of Racism” Are Howling

As right-wingers begin to think the unthinkable, that Barack Hussein Obama just might serve another four years, we can expect the nastiness to escalate.

From The Washington Post:

RICHMOND — Virginia Republican Party officials on Tuesday ordered their Mecklenburg County affiliate to remove photos portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, a caveman and a thug from its Facebook page.

No racism there, right? The local GOP chairman initially refused to take down the photos, but I noticed today the Facebook page is dead. Defiant racists aren’t what they used to be, I suppose.

We’ve all seen the witch doctor photo, and here are the other two mentioned:

Classy stuff. But that’s just some rednecks in rural Virgina, so Republicans don’t want us to worry about it. It doesn’t reflect the party’s views about Mr. Obama, they say.

Okay. But maybe this does, from the lips of Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich:

He happens to be a partial, part-time president. He really is a lot like the substitute referees in the sense that he’s not a real president. I mean, he doesn’t do any of the things president do; he doesn’t worry about any of the things president’s do…he’s a false president…

Hmm. Not only is that disrespectful, but it sort of sounds like the old Georgian is calling our first African-American president a loafer. But that was on Tuesday. On Wednesday John Sununu, another Romney surrogate, clarified it for us, which I present from Fox “News”:

There. That’s better. The scary socialist Negro is lazy to boot!

As I always do in these cases, I will highlight with a box Romney’s response to such less-than-subtle racially-charged remarks uttered by his surrogates:

Oh, I forgot Romney fashions himself as a “No Apology” kind of guy.

In any case, I offer you an excellent observation by Geoffrey Dunn about how a lot of this dark stuff started with Sarah Palin:

when Palin accused then-candidate Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and of not being “a man who sees America as you see America,” she unleashed the hounds of racism in this country and in the Republican Party. She became the first serious candidate for national office since George Wallace to give both body and voice to the vulgarities of American right-wing talk radio and the pernicious racism that fuels it.

The “hounds of racism” are running quite free these days, and apparently Mitt Romney, who has had problems with dogs in the past, either can’t or doesn’t want to put them back in the kennel of shame where they belong.

In fact, Romney has often sounded like a hound himself, talking about “free stuff,” as in if you want free stuff “vote for the other guy.” And along those lines, I noticed today that Rush Limbaugh was playing a tape over and over—and over—of some hysterically sounding black woman yelling something about a phone. Immediately, I knew where to turn, since Matt Drudge is the source for a lot of Limbaugh’s material. Sure enough:

As I followed the link, I found a YouTube video recorded at a “Romney Event” near Cleveland, which had only 317 views when I watched:

Now, Limbaugh, who is one of those white-angst howling hounds unleashed by Sarah Palin, started talking about “Obama phones” and a website dedicated to telling folks like the woman above how to get their “free phones.”  Of course this plays into all the themes advanced by Republicans against our pigmented president: socialist, giver-of-free-stuff, all-around champion of the “permanent under class,” in Limbaugh’s phrase.

And that permanent under class, in the minds of a lot of Republican voters, looks like the woman above. That’s the point of those photos on that Virginia GOP website; that’s the point of Gingrich’s and Sununu’s comments; that’s the point of Drudge and Limbaugh promoting heavily that weird video.

In order to win, Romney has to get as many nervous whites to vote for him as he can, since he has lost any hope of getting much support from folks of color. That’s why he doesn’t say anything to shut down the obvious appeals to white angst by his official and unofficial surrogates.

That woman and her free “Obama phone” is just one more example for worried whites to consider in November, as conservatives see it. It turns out, though, that Obama had nothing to do with the free phones provided to low-income folks. The earliest version of the program was signed into law by, uh, Ronald Reagan!

But that fact won’t stop folks like Limbaugh, who said today that the phenomenon of people voting for Obama “is not about hard work.”

Go talk to the cell phone lady,” he said.

Incoherence

in·co·her·ent:

  • (of spoken or written language) Expressed in an incomprehensible or confusing way; unclear
  • (of a person) Unable to speak intelligibly
  • (of an ideology, policy, or system) Internally inconsistent; illogical

n Wednesday, Mitt Romney released a new campaign ad that featured these words:

President Obama and I both care about poor and middle class families.

Piggybacking on an increasingly popular Obama is a good move, but those words were quickly followed with this lie:

The difference is, my policies will make things better for them.

The Romney-Ryan budget ideas will, of course, not make things better for the poor, and the jury is still out and confused on what those policies will do to the middle class. Heck, the Romney-Ryan campaign itself is confused about that:

Romney To Middle Class Ohioans: Don’t Expect Too Much Tax Relief From Me

From that article:

“We have got to reform our tax system,” Romney said at a morning event here. “Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

If there has been one thing that has been consistent about the Romney-run campaign, it has been its incoherence.

All along, Romney has touted across-the-board tax rate cuts of 20%, which a voter might rightly decide meant an actual tax cut of 20%. Of course, as most economists who have looked at Romney’s tax plan have pointed out, Romney can’t cut tax rates by 20% without raising the deficit, unless he closes popular middle-class loopholes. But as Ezra Klein pointed out:

Since Romney doesn’t want to touch tax breaks for savings and investment like the capital gains cut…there just isn’t enough money in the remaining tax breaks for people making over $250,000 to pay for their tax cuts.

Howard Gleckman, who writes the economic policy blog for the Tax Policy Center, put it this way:

The Tax Policy Center has found that a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut along with repeal of the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax would disproportionately benefit high-income households. As a result, it would be effectively impossible for Romney to cut rates as he has promised without raising taxes on middle-income households, increasing the deficit, or raising taxes on investment income (which he has vowed not to do).

Something has to give, as mathematics tends not to be all that flexible. And Romney, sensing that folks are starting to get the message that his brand of arithmetic is not of this world, has tried to muddle their minds even more by his warning, “don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes.”

But the incoherence in Romney’s latest statement in Ohio goes even further than that. Let’s look at it again, in terms of its logic regarding small businesses:

1. He wants to reform individual tax rates by bringing “the rates down.”

2. Small businesses “most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate.”

3. But to those small businesses he says not to expect “a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions.”

Got it so far? No big cut in taxes for small businesses. But he then finishes with this:

4. “But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

How can that be? If there isn’t much to expect in the way of tax cuts, how can, a) small businesses “keep more of their money” and b) “hire more people” because of it?

More doodoo economics, I suppose. But as I said, Romney’s campaign has been consistent when it comes to its breathtaking incoherence.

Leading From Behind Todd al-Akin

How many times have you heard Republicans criticize President Obama for “leading from behind”? A bunch. Here is an example of what right-wingers mean by their criticism:

To sum it up, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is based on the belief that we have surrendered or had taken from us our leadership role in the world. He’s operating intentionally as a failure.

Yeah, that’s our president, alright. He’s not only a failure, he’s means to be one!

Yesterday I heard Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and a man ass-deep in Bush’s decision to not lead from behind and start a foolish war in Iraq, criticize President Obama on TV  for failing to get Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to “step down.

My, my, my. I wonder why al-Assad won’t listen to the President of the United States and do what he is told? Maybe it is because Mr. Obama is a defective leader? A failure? Yeah, that’s it. I mean, if a leader asks a bad actor to get off the stage and that actor chooses to remain in the spotlight, it’s the leader’s fault, right? He has failed to lead, right? He’s a wimp, right?

Well, okay. Here’s what Dan Senor’s boss said about Todd Akin, Missouri’s torturously Talibanic Republican candidate for senate—and part-time gynecologist—after Akin’s ignorance and/or stupidity was revealed to the world:

As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.

That was on August 21. Naturally, being a leader of epic proportions, Romney’s declaration that Akin should “step aside” immediately caused Akin to, well, step aside, right?

Not exactly:

Todd Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race

Despite calls from Republican Party leaders to step down, Rep. Todd Akin announced he will remain in the Missouri Senate race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Dammit! What’s wrong with Mittens’ leadership? If President Obama is expected to snap his fingers and have a miscreant like Bashar al-Assad disappear, then making a little twerp like Todd Akin go away ought to be easy pickin’s.

But nope, Akin remains with us, which, of course, means Mittens has failed as a leader. And not only did Akin defy him, but others have kicked sand in Romney’s face.

Among the sand-kickers are Akin’s reactionary friends who are coming to his aid, folks like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, and, no surprise, the author of the infamous “Blunt amendment“—a blatant and reactionary attack on women’s health choices—Roy Blunt:

Blunt backs Akin’s Senate bid after deadline to exit race passes

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced his support for Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) Senate bid after the deadline passed for Akin to exit the race.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Blunt, a venerable figure in Missouri politics and the GOP establishment in Washington, flipped on his earlier call for Akin to exit the race.

“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change. From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I’ll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin,” he said in the statement.

Not too long ago Blunt said in a joint statement with other Missouri Republican “leaders” the following:

We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

Dammit! There’s that pesky phrase “step aside” again. Blunt tried and failed to get Akin to quit and that means Blunt is also a wimpy leader. Shoot, when it comes to Akin, there are wimpy Republican leaders all over the place. In terms of revealing leadership qualities, little old Todd Akin is the Bashar al-Assad of the GOP!

But in Blunt’s case, instead of moaning and groaning about Akin’s tin ear, instead of telling Akin to go straight to hell, Blunt, being a resourceful, if wimpy, leader, has chosen to follow Akin and help him get elected.

Now that’s what I call leading from behind!

Godspeed, Todd al-Akin!

What Makes Mitt Holler?

“What makes Bob holler? Bet your bottom dollar,

It’s just because he feels that way…”

—Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, “What Makes Bob Holler

ow!

Until tonight, I had never seen the following clip. It is, uh, fantastically revealing:

Republican Admits “Do Away With Medicare” Is The Goal

If you have paid close attention to the debate over Medicare vis-à-vis Paul Ryan’s budget plan—a plan endorsed by Mitt Romney as well as nearly every Republican in Congress—you will often hear fact-checkers and Republicans say a version of the following, as expressed in a Fox “News” headline in August of this year:

Fact Check: Obama running against outdated version of Ryan Medicare plan

Here is the argument, as presented in the article:

The Obama campaign would like voters to believe that Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan would “end Medicare as we know it” — privatizing the whole system and costing seniors more than $6,000 extra a year.

But the campaign, even before Ryan was selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate, has effectively been running against the wrong Ryan plan.

The president’s accusations largely refer to Ryan’s 2011 plan, ignoring the fact that the House Budget Committee chairman rolled out a different version in 2012 — taking into account Democratic critiques. Though the 2012 plan is more moderate, Obama and his surrogates have all but ignored the newer version as they amp up their accusations against the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Most glaringly, the campaign has omitted a key point.

While Ryan’s 2011 plan proposes to give seniors a government payment to buy private insurance, his 2012 plan offers seniors a choice.

Under the blueprint, seniors could use the payment to buy private insurance or stay in traditional Medicare.

Forget that phrase, “taking into account Democratic critiques,” which, the biased article alleges, compelled Ryan to change his plan. The point here is that the newest version of Ryan’s extremist plan gives seniors a “choice” between private insurance and Medicare as we know it, and that revised plan, despite what conservatives claim, still endangers traditional Medicare.

Democrats have argued that the choice, even under Ryan’s “more moderate” plan (!), would result in much higher costs for seniors, particularly sicker seniors, and would result in the end of Medicare as we know it because there is no requirement that private insurers “provide a standard set of benefits—allowing them to design benefits that attract healthier beneficiaries,” according to policy analysts at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Those analysts say:

Since the mid-1980s, private Medicare plans have attracted the healthiest, lowest-cost enrollees from the Medicare population—a phenomenon known as “adverse selection.” This trend would accelerate under the Romney-Ryan plan. If less healthy, more costly beneficiaries are left behind in traditional Medicare, then premiums for traditional Medicare would rise. In turn, more beneficiaries would leave traditional Medicare, causing premiums to rise further, and so on—creating a so-called “death spiral.”

Now, thanks to Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin, former Secretary of Health and Human Services under George Bush (“under his watch” the government was prohibited from negotiating drug prices on behalf of seniors), and currently the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, we can confirm the Democrats’ argument.

I hadn’t seen it until Monday night, but a video created in May of this year has Thompson saying:

… be able to take away the litigation that the trial lawyers are doing, so that doctors don’t have to keep doing extra things to protect themselves from getting sued, which drives up our costs.

Change Medicare and Medicaid like I did welfare — and who better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare? 

Let’s block-grant what the state has, and allow the states to determine what’s going to go into Medicaid. And Medicare, let’s wait until everybody that’s right now that’s under 55—that reaches 55 by age [sic] 2020—and give them a choice whether or not they want to purchase health insurance with a subsidy from the federal government, or stay on Medicare. I’m here to tell you, when you look at the situation nobody’s going to accept it, because Medicare’s going broke by the year 2022.

That’s the plan, folks. That’s what even the revised Ryan plan, or a similar one Tommy Thompson has in mind, is designed to accomplish. From the lips of a seasoned, “American conservative legend“:

Do away with…Medicare.”

 

Doodoo Economics

Republicans never tire of telling us that the economic problems we have can mostly be fixed if we just let rich folks keep more of their money. Cut their taxes and these apparently fair-weather patriots will invest their excess dough in America and, voilà, all boats will rise in the resulting swell of economic goodness. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it a gazillion times, including from the lips of Mitt Romney.

Given that, I found Romney’s recent exchange with Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes (the Romney interview wasn’t Pelley’s finest hour of journalism, to be sure) interesting, when Pelley asked him about taxes:

PELLEY: What would the individual federal income tax rates be? 

ROMNEY:  Well, they would be the current rates less twenty percent. So the top rate, for instance, would go from thirty-five to twenty-eight. Middle rates would come down by twenty percent as well. All the rates come down. But unless people think there’s going to be a huge reduction in the taxes they owe, that’s really not the case because we’re also going to limit deductions and exemptions, particularly for people at the high end. Because I want to keep the current progressivity in the code. There should be no tax reduction for high income people. What I would like to do is to get a tax reduction for middle-income families by eliminating the tax for middle-income families on interest, dividends, and capital gains. 

PELLEY:  The tax rate for everyone in your plan would go down. 

ROMNEY:  That’s right. 

PELLEY:  But because you’re going to limit exemptions and deductions, everybody’s going to essentially be paying the same taxes. 

ROMNEY:  That’s right. Middle-income people will probably see a little break, because there’ll be no tax on their savings.

[…]

PELLEY:  And corporate tax rates? 

ROMNEY:  Corporate tax rates, also, I’d bring down and with the same idea let’s get rid of some of the loopholes, deductions, special deals, such that we’re able to pay for the reduction. I don’t want a reduction in revenue coming into the government. 

Let’s forget for a moment about Romney’s vagueness on just which loopholes he will close. When compared with the philosophical presumption of conservatives, that giving wealthy people more money incentivizes them to create jobs, Romney’s comments are incoherent:

I want to keep the current progressivity in the code. There should be no tax reduction for high income people.

And,

Corporate tax rates, also…I don’t want a reduction in revenue coming into the government. 

One is compelled to ask: If high-income people don’t get a tax reduction, then how does Romney’s voodoo magic work? If corporations will still be forking over the same amount of revenue, how will that inspire them to salute the flag and spew forth their hoarded cash? Huh?

It would be one thing to argue (albeit falsely, as the CBO just figured out) that giving rich folks and corporations big fat tax breaks would make the economy grow—the old Reagan, supply-side voodoo—but it’s quite another to argue that simply rearranging the tax rules but still collecting the same amount of revenue will cause the economy to grow.

That brand of voodoo is distinctly Romney’s, as far as I can tell. It makes no sense to me. Heck, it makes much less sense than the old voodoo. So, let’s call Romney’s economic thinking “doodoo economics,” the idea that you can get rid of unspecified loopholes, lower rates, and still have the same amount of revenue coming in, which will both create economic growth and not increase the deficit. Pee-yew!

But the truth is, as almost always with Romney, he is lying.  For one thing, he said he wants to “keep the current progressivity in the code.” Except that less than a week ago he said the following, which earned him a Pants on Fire!:

I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America. 

Obviously, a progressive tax code is redistributive. So, Romney himself believes in redistribution, if what he told Scott Pelley about keeping the tax code progressive is true. But then he says it’s not American. Between the two, what he said last week versus this week (always a choice with Mittens), which does Romney really believe? My money is on what he said last week, as it better reflects the feelings of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck, who, when it comes down to it, run the Republican Party.

The main lie, though, the one that could have practical effects should Romney win, was advanced when Romney told Scott Pelley that his tax plan, at least as he has tried to sell it, would be revenue neutral. This particular lie is being funded by millions of dollars of Rovian money, via Crossroads GPS. Apparently, Republicans believe money can triumph over math.

But even one of the most respected conservative economists in the country, Martin Feldstein, who tried like hell to make Romney’s doodoo economics add up and smell good, could only essentially confirm what other, less conservative, economists have discovered. Feldstein’s study, as TPM pointed out, found,

that there isn’t enough money in tax loopholes for people in top tax brackets to offset the trillions of dollars Romney’s promised rate cuts would cost. Perks that benefit middle income earners like the mortgage interest deduction, and deductability of employer-based health insurance, charitable giving and state and local taxes would need to be limited or eliminated.

As Bill Clinton told us at the Democratic convention, past Republican economic policies have “defied arithmetic” and have led to much deficit spending. He argued,

We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down.

And in Romney’s case, his version of trickle-down is even weirder and more arithmetically challenged than ever.

Rule Or Ruin In The NFL

I have a lot of good friends, the owners of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets – both owners are friends of mine.”

—Mitt Romney

hat happened this weekend in the NFL, particularly what happened last night, is what the gazillionaire owners in the NFL deserve.

Those wealthy but stupid owners have been trying to bust the referees’ union and in the process they are busting the integrity of their lucrative game.

The New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens contest on Sunday—which ended with Patriot coach Bill Belichick trying to grab the arm of a fleeing scab ref— was stained by bad and weird calls, including a refusal to even review the game-ending field goal, which was ruled good but may not have been.

Monday night’s game ended on a blown call in the end zone, with confused referees ruling both a touchdown and an interception. At least this time the scab refs took the time—a bleeping ten minutes—to review the play and they still got the damn thing wrong. The Seattle Seahawks were awarded a victory they didn’t deserve over the Green Bay Packers.

NFL players around the league have expressed outrage, finally, over what happened, but the truth is that they turned their backs on the referees too. They could have supported the referees’ union by refusing to play until the NFL settled its dispute with the union. That would have settled matters fairly quickly, and in the referees’ favor.

As for that dispute, most of it comes down to bullying owners who locked out the referees because those fabulously wealthy owners in a fabulously wealthy game want to strip the referees of their defined pensions and replace them with owner-friendly 401 (k) plans, a trend that has hurt working folks all over the country.

As HuffPo reported:

In facing a pension freeze, the NFL refs have plenty of company. Corporations across the country have been trying to switch their employees from traditional defined benefit pension plans to cheaper, less reliable defined contribution plans. Just one example is Con-Ed, which recently locked out workers as it tried to phase out employees’ traditional pensions and move them to 401(k)s.

A lockout, it should be noted, is different from a strike. The workers do not elect to stop working — they are forced to do so by management, putting them on the defensive. (Writing at The Nation, Dave Zirin and Mike Elk compared locking out 119 referees to “using an Uzi on a field mouse.”) The prevalence of lockouts during labor disputes has soared in the weak economy.

I know, I know. For those of us who have been a part of a union, it isn’t that hard to believe that those wonderful job creators would take advantage of bad times to squash their workers, but it has been happening, and what the NFL is doing to those 119 refs—think about that: the NFL versus 119 guys with whistles—is a perfect example of how nasty these folks can be.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t pretend that the NFL can’t afford to pay for the referees’ pensions. The league is drowning in money—the average NFL team is worth $1.1 billion, with the Dallas Cowboys worth $2.1 billion—and it is clear that owners just want to break the union.

Goodell said this:

From the owners’ standpoint, right now they’re funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program. About ten percent of the country has that. Yours truly doesn’t have that. It’s something that doesn’t really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily.

What we agreed to do and offer as ownership is that they would have a defined contribution plan, in the form of 401(k), so they’ll still have a pension plan but the risk, like [for] most of us, would be on individuals.

Yeah, put the risk on the workers, those who actually perform the work, and let the owners off the hook because, well, they are the owners! And the owners rule. That is the NFL way, the Romney way, and the Republican way.

In the mean time, the game, the workers, the country, suffers.

[Joshua Trujillo, AP photo]

Food And Republican Logic

While watching “Up with Chris Hayes” Sunday morning on MSNBC, a Republican guest’s comment inspired me to present the following premises and conclusion, which taken together represent the twisted logic of the right-wing and its ongoing and ridiculous, if not partly racist, claim that Mr. Obama is the Food Stamp President:

♦ The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was formerly known as and still is popularly called the Food Stamp Program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

♦ A significant change in SNAP occurred in 2002, including expanding it to “make more legal immigrants eligible for benefits,” according to the Agriculture Department. And according to a right-wing opponent of the increase in food stamp benefits, the 2002 bill, “increased benefits for families with more children, adjusted benefits for inflation and made it easier to enroll.”

♦ George Bush was president in 2002 and signed the expansion into law (as part of the big 2002 farm bill), saying at the time:

This bill is also a compassionate bill. This law means that legal immigrants can now receive help and food stamps after being here for five years. It means that you can have an elderly farm worker, somebody here legally in America who’s worked hard to make a living and who falls on hard times, that person can receive help from a compassionate government.

And as for Bush’s entire tenure as president, CNN reported earlier this year:

Food stamp enrollment has been rising for more than a decade. President Bush launched a recruitment campaign, which pushed average participation up by 63% during his eight years in office.

♦ Teapartiers Paul Ryan (whose famous budget cuts SNAP by $134 billion) and Jim DeMint (who now abhors increased spending on food stamps!), along with my former congressman and now senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, voted for the 2002 food stamp expansion. So did then-senator and Missouri Republican Kit Bond.

♦ The 2008 version of the farm bill also expanded the food stamp program, and although Mr. Bush vetoed the bill (but not because of the food stamp expansion), Republicans provided the necessary margin to override his veto. That bill, again according to that same right-wing opponent of food stamp increases,

contained more than 30 provisions relating to food stamps, including higher minimum benefits. 

Again, Roy Blunt voted for the 2008 bill that expanded the program and voted in the House to override Bush’s veto.  In the Senate, the override vote saw 35 Republican senators—including Mitch McConnell—vote to override the veto. Missouri’s Kit Bond, along with both Kansas Republican senators, voted to override, thus expanding the food stamp program.

♦ The Great Recession, which cost millions of Americans their jobs and caused many people to seek help from the food stamp program, began while George Bush was president.

♦ Just before Mr. Obama came into office in January of 2009, the GDP shrank at an annualized rate of almost 9%. Yes, you read that right: “More than any other recession since the Great Depression.”

♦ The Democrats’ 2009 stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), did increase eligibility and funds for SNAP because:

In light of the increased demand for services and strained State budgets, the increased ARRA funding to State agencies that administer the SNAP program enables State governments to avoid reductions in services and to meet the increasing demand from low-income families and individuals resulting from the recession.

REPUBLICAN CONCLUSION: The fact that more folks needed and continue to need food stamps because of the Great Recession is all Barack Obama’s fault and he is, therefore, the Food Stamp President.

Besides admiring the audacity of the faulty logic of Republicans, it may interest you to know that for all the talk about food stamps and the number of Americans who need them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average monthly benefit—I kid you not—is a whopping $133.84 (in Missouri it is $127.05).

Again, I kid you not. That tiny amount, most of it going to families with kids, is what generates all the divisive demagoguery—including Romney’s 47% nonsense—and what causes Republicans to bend the principles of logic in service to their Obama-hating agenda.

Statewide Madness In Kansas

In a blog post more than a month ago, I waved goodbye to my old home state, Kansas, after GOP primary voters decided to,

officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.

Voters did that by tossing out relatively—and I do mean relatively—moderate Republicans in favor of right-wing zealots.

Those zealots now dominate the state completely.

Well, since I wrote that piece what has happened? Let me see:

♦ Kansas Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder took his love truncheon for a short dip in the Sea of Galilee.

♦ The all-Republican Kansas Objections Board finally bowed to reality and admitted, sort of, that Barack Obama belongs on the Kansas ballot in November. The board had previously dithered on the issue, with members saying they needed more information from Hawaii and indicating they were pissed that Obama did not take their delusional deliberations seriously enough to send a representative to their ridiculous meeting.

♦ Orly Taitz, that crazy-mad woman who commands much Tea Party respect over her insistence that Mr. Obama is a Kenyan by birth, has managed to convince a silly Kansas judge to give her yet another hearing on whether the decision by the all-Republican Kansas Objections Board should be overturned.

♦If that ain’t enough Kansas craziness for ya, in today’s Joplin Globe we had a story on the draconian Kansas voter ID law that began:

There were 251 votes statewide in Kansas in the Aug. 6 primary that weren’t counted because the voters didn’t present the proper photo identification under the new voter ID law.

The father of that voter ID law, and a man well known to right-wing extremists everywhere, is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who called the new law an “outstanding success“—no, even better, he added that it was an “extraordinary success.” At least I think extraordinary is better than outstanding.

In any case, he really liked it, despite the fact that it disenfranchised 251 Kansans who went to the trouble of going to the polls.

Kobach, of course, doesn’t see it as disenfranchisement, but merely that folks who were challenged simply didn’t bother to come back with the proper papers:

Most of them had a photo ID and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. They weren’t disenfranchised.

Hmm. That’s amazing, if you really think about it. And you should really think about it.

But the most amazing comment Kobach made is found in this excerpt from Roger McKinney’s story in the Globe:

An American Civil Liberties Union analysis of a report produced by Kobach’s office related to alleged voter fraud incidents between 1997 and 2010, finding no cases of voter impersonation fraud, which the voter ID law is designed to prevent.

Kobach disputes that, saying there was one report during that 13-year period.

If this weren’t so serious, Kobach’s response would be side-splittingly funny. He disputed the ACLU’s contention of zero cases in 13 years by citing, uh, ONE! Uno! Or, well, in his case, maybe: Eins!

That is the goings-on in my birth state, a place I once called home, a place that has its priorities straight, by God. I know that because on Friday night, two teeny-weeny southeast Kansas high school football teams, Frontenac (302 kids) and St. Mary’s Colgan (231 kids in grades 7-12), played each other.

The game was broadcast statewide—state-bleeping-wide—on cable TV.

The Romney Tax Return: Turning A Lie Into A Truth And A Truth Into A Lie

Romney finally released his 2011 tax returns—ain’t no more comin’ folks—and it’s more good news for the Romneys:

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney earned $13.69 million in 2011, mostly income from his investments, and paid $1.9 million in taxes for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, his campaign announced Friday.

Romney earned $6.8 million from capital gains and another $3.6 million in interest, according to his tax return. None of his income came from wages, the primary source of income for most Americans. Capital gains are taxed at a substantially lower rate than wages and salaries for high-earners.

The man actually earned $260,390—think of that!—for “sitting on the board of Marriott International,” the Washington Post reports. Since he was running for president in 2011, what the hell could he have done to earn that much mulla?

Sitting on the board of Marriott for a cool quarter-mill? Damn.

There is much speculation about that should Mittens lose in November, he will go back and revise this return to recover some taxes paid that—believe it or not—he didn’t have to pay. The Post explains:

The Romneys only claimed a tax deduction for $2.25 million of those charitable contributions to engineer a higher tax rate than they otherwise would have paid. This move was to “conform” to the candidate’s statement in August that he paid a federal income tax rate of at least 13 percent of his income in each of the last 10 years, R. Bradford Malt, Romney’s trustee, said in a statement released by the campaign.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Michele Davis defend this bit of tax magic, and the fact that Mittens previously said he would not pay “a dollar more” than he owed, saying that Romney,

has been clear that no American need pay more than he or she owes under the law. At the same time, he was in the unique position of having made a commitment to the public that his tax rate would be above 13 percent. In order to be consistent with that statement, the Romneys limited their deduction of charitable contributions.

What does it say about the man and his riches that he has the power to turn a lie he told earlier in the campaign into a truth, at least for now? Money can’t buy love but it can turn a lie into the truth just like that!

The problem is that turning one lie into the truth made him a liar on something else he said, unless, of course, he does go back and re-engineers his return so as not to pay a dollar more than he has to.

And by the way, Romney released his estimated effective tax rate for the past 20 years and guess what? He says his effective rate was 20.2%, still mighty damn low for a man making bank.

Of course he won’t be releasing any of those returns so we can see for ourselves. Thus, despite the fact there is no reason to do so, we will just have to take his word for it because, dammit, there’s somethin’ in them there returns he doesn’t want us peons to see.

Pessimism Isn’t Catching On

I heard Romney surrogate John Sununu—one of the grumpiest, most unpleasant human beings now breathing—say this morning that the American economy was appallingly and terrifyingly awful and, of course, it’s Barack Obama’s fault.

Then I picked up the paper and I read these these two ledes from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A jump in the stock market and rising home prices are bringing Americans closer to regaining the wealth they lost in the recession.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is showing signs of finally bottoming out: Americans are on the move again after record numbers had stayed put, more young adults are leaving their parents’ homes to take a chance with college or the job market, once-sharp declines in births are leveling off and poverty is slowing.

This ain’t exactly Happy Days Are Here Again news, but it is good news and may indicate why it is that the Party of Pessimism is not attracting a majority of voters.

Bias

Liberal media bias? My ass.

Donny Deutsch—a regular guest on MSNBC’s non-liberal morning show, a guest who adds exactly nothing of substance to any discussion—said this morning that Romney’s “47% blunder” can be turned into a winner, if Romney will only “draw the harsh line” and say,

“You know what…maybe I didnt’ say it eloquently. The sentiment is right; this is an entitle [sic] country; it’s a weak country, and things have gotta change.” You take up the rage factor. I think there’s something there, I really do.

Yeah, Donny. That’s what Romney needs is more rage. That’ll get him those few undecided votes left.

But it wasn’t Deutsch’s stupidity that appalled me this morning. It was Joe Scarborough’s reply to it:

I really do, too. And Ronald Reagan, if he were around right now…Margaret Thatcher, other conservatives, would use this—and be optimistic about it; he’s been pessimistic about it—but would use this to say, “Listen, we’re getting to a point where one out of two Americans don’t pay income taxes, don’t contribute to the federal government, don’t contribute to schools, don’t contribute…”

Not one person on the weak panel, including Mika Brzezinski, who spends most of the show in silence in the face of such outrageous claims made by right-wingers, bothered to remind Morning Joe that he was an ignorant fool, that almost all Americans, and certainly all working Americans, do contribute to the national well-being, and most of them contribute a higher percentage of their resources than Mitt Romney, and, dare I say it, Joe Bleeping Scarborough.

As I said, liberal media bias my ass.

For the gazillionth time, here are the facts:

It’s true that some Americans don’t pay federal income tax. But virtually all Americans pay some form of tax, whether it’s sales, payroll, state income, or property tax.

Over 60% of those who don’t pay income tax are working; they pay payroll tax, which goes to support Social Security and Medicare. Another 22% of those who don’t pay income tax are the elderly; most of them don’t work.

In fact, only about 8% of Americans pay neither federal income tax nor payroll tax, because they are unemployed, are students, or are disabled.

What is missing from all this talk about tax is the fact that although the rich pay higher taxes than the poor, middle-class people actually pay a higher percentage of their income in total taxes. True, federal income tax rates are progressive, with rates going to 35% for the top earners. But deductions and special treatment of capital gains reduce actual tax rates for the top earners. So what we end up with is upper-middle-class taxpayers paying the highest actual percentage of their income, over 31%, according to a 2010 study by the group Citizens for Tax Justice.*

And finally, from the same article:

Digging deeper into why 47% don’t pay federal income tax, what we find are many former taxpayers: Twenty-two percent are the elderly, living mostly on Social Security, a benefit they got by working and paying payroll taxes. Others are unemployed or are paid close to the minimum wage, so they don’t have enough income to file any taxes.

What about Romney’s claim that these people believe they have a right to government assistance? Our research shows that over 50% of older people looking for work (but who are too young to collect Social Security) do not receive unemployment insurance or any other government assistance. They are living close to the poverty line with no help other than family.

Far fewer poor Americans get government assistance for low incomes. For the last 30 years, less than 4% of the U.S. population has received a full year’s worth of payments, like food stamps, which are based on level of income.

Romney can choose whom he cares about, but he can’t be allowed to choose his own facts and distort reality in service of divisive politics. Focusing exclusively on federal income taxes hides the fact that most Americans pay plenty of other taxes.

Finally, Romney says that the 47% can’t be convinced to take “personal responsibility.” Tell that to the single mother working the night shift to put her kids through school, or the 78-year-old widow living on Social Security, or the handicapped Iraqi war veteran who relies on government health care for his service to his country. Along with millions of working Americans, they are paragons of personal responsibility, not Romney’s caricature of self-pitying victims seeking to live off government benefits.

__________________________________________

* I add the following, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

When all federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account, the bottom fifth of households pays about 16 percent of their incomes in taxes, on average.  The second-poorest fifth pays about 21 percent.[8]

Local Democrat Makes The Daily Show Cut

I was watching The Daily Show last night and I was shocked to see my friend and frequent commenter on this blog, Jim Hight, on the second segment:

I texted Jim immediately and he said he didn’t think they would use his interview, done at the Democratic National Convention (Jim is chairman of the Newton County Democratic Central Committee).  But there he was, representing defiant Democrats in Southwest Missouri very well by saying about the right-wing media:

I don’t like Rush Limp Balls, Fox Noise, anything…

That’s my Jimmy!

El Abuelo

Mittens has criticized President Obama off-and-on for his alleged fondness for wealth redistribution, and lately Romney has been exploiting an out-of-context statement Obama made regarding the concept of wealth redistribution.

Of Romney’s latest dishonest attacks on Mr. Obama, Ezra Klein wrote:

It’s one thing to wildly misrepresent your opponent’s positions. But to wildly misrepresent your own? Mitt Romney, like pretty much every other American politician, believes in redistribution.

Specifically, the ‘issues’ section of his Web site says he believes in a progressive tax code, the Medicare program, the Medicaid program, the food stamp program, the Social Security program and pretty much every other feature of the federal government that’s involved in redistributing income. Romney might believe in slightly less redistribution than President Obama does, but the idea that he doesn’t believe in redistribution is belied by every single thing he has ever said he will do as president.

Speaking of what he will do as president, Romney appeared in a forum sponsored by Spanish-language television Univision. He was asked if he would repeal or change ObamaCare and he replied:

Well, first of all, I would repeal all of ObamaCare and replace it with, I think, the kind of reforms we really need. And I have experience in health care reform. Now and then the president says I’m the grandfather of ObamaCare. I don’t think he meant that as a compliment, but I’ll take it..during my primary we thought it might not be helpful.

There you have a man who admits that he lied in the Republican primary a year ago when he said:

I’d be careful about trusting what President Obama says as to what the source was of his plan, number one. But number two, if you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, boy, take a closer look…What the president did was simply wrong. It is the wrong course for America. It is not what we did in Massachusetts.

And we now know that Romney admits to siring redistributive health care reform in Massachusetts and, contrary to what he told Republicans in 2011, admits he is el abuelo of Obama’s version of health care reform for America.

But he also pledges, to the voters he has left, that Grandfather Romney will beat the living hell out of his redistributive grandchild should Americans give him a big enough stick on November 6.

What a dishonest, incoherent, uninspiring, and abusive grandfather he is.

One Dumb Socialist

That old 1998 Obama clip, the one where he says, “I actually believe in redistribution,” was pushed into the spotlight by Romney friend and media ally Matt Drudge, then endlessly promoted by Romney friend and media ally Fox “News,” and then, of course, exploited by Romney and Ryan on the stump.

Romney said on Wednesday that what Obama is proposing is unlike anything Americans have seen:

He really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others, then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America. … I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others, but to create wealth for all of us.

Now, obviously Romney is wrong about America in this case (and in nearly every case). Income redistribution is theoretically present in our federal tax code, in which higher income folks are supposed to be required to pay at higher rates than the middle class and poor (this is not the place to argue why that mostly isn’t true, however).

And our system of entitlements, our hole-ridden safety net, is also an example of how we as a people—except for Tea Party extremists—have agreed that it is better for all of us if we means-test benefits like food stamps and health care—paid for by all taxpayers—and give them only to folks who need them.

But a larger point needs to be made—again and again—about the dishonesty of right-wingers, including right-wing media like Fox, whose “fair and balanced” brand is the butt of many jokes, but whose dishonesty is quite lucrative and thus quite resistant to criticism.

That dishonesty is manifest in the fact that today I finally saw on television—MSNBC, this morning, for instance—the entire context of Obama’s remark. And no surprise, far from sounding like a European socialist, Obama comes off sounding like a, well, like a moderate Republican of old, the kind teapartiers have hunted into extinction:

I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.  How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.

“Marketplace”? “Innovation at the local level”? “Tailored to particular communities”? Wow! Obama may be one of the dumbest socialists who ever lived.

Romney’s Runes

The once-secret Romney tapes are a treasure of insight into Romney’s psyche and one needs to step back and look at what they have revealed so far:

♦ Romney has what should be an intolerably low opinion of half of America (no surprise there).

♦ Like his recent shameless exploitation of the murder of Americans in Libya, Romney seems willing to exploit a Jimmy Carter-like hostage crisis for political gain (no surprise there). And by the way: Jimmy Carter got those hostages released, not Ronald Reagan.

♦ He is resigned to doing virtually nothing to help bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, saying, “the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.” Gee, thanks for that uplifting breath of American exceptionalism.

♦ His sarcasm regarding the immigration issue reveals his lack of empathy for and understanding of folks who come here and how hard most of them work:

I’d like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, “Come to America, we want you here.” Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you’re welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. [Audience laughs.] It’s very strange.

No, he’s very strange.

♦ Romney, who hasn’t hidden his disdain for labor unions, fielded a suggestion from a big-shot guest (Mittens called them “dignitaries”) at that big-money fundraiser that went like this:

…my recommendation would be clean house, immediately. The SEC, the CFEC are disaster areas.

ROMNEY: I wish they weren’t unionized, so we could go a lot deeper than you’re actually allowed to go. Yeah.

Yeah. All the union voters out there who can’t wait to pull the lever for Romney—and there are plenty of them—should rejoice at that sentiment.

♦ All that stuff we found out about Romney’s view of America and the world is bad enough, but other than the comments about the 47%, the most telling, and perhaps in terms of the country’s economic health, the most outrageous thing Romney said at that gathering of plump partisans, was the following, which I will set in its entire context:

Audience member: When the [unintelligible] in September, the markets are going to be looking—marginal tax rates going up, overheads going, fine, but sequestration under the debt ceiling deal—what do they call it?

Romney: Taxageddon?

Audience member: Yeah, they call it that. The Obamacare, taxes on dividends and capital gains—I mean, the markets are going to be speaking very wildly in October on all of those issues.

Romney: They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends, of course, which markets you’re talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is, if we win on November 6th there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets reelected, I don’t know what will happen. I can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected. But my own view is that if we get the—the “Taxageddon,” as they call it, January 1st, with this president, and with a Congress that can’t work together, it really is frightening, really frightening in my view.

The idea that the markets could respond any better if Romney gets elected than they have under Obama—they have been up, up, and away since March of 2009—is preposterous. But what is more preposterous is this claim Romney made:

…my own view is, if we win on November 6th there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.

Now, that comment, if it happens to be true, is pregnant with irony. Romney’s whole case against Obama is that he is in over his head, that his policies have failed. Yet here Romney is saying that the simple act of a Romney victory will be enough to “see capital come back” and provide “a boost in the economy.” All “without actually doing anything.”

Without actually doing anything“! Since economies aren’t sustained by sorcery—notwithstanding Republicans’ insistence on the magic of supply-side economics—all that “capital” sitting on the sidelines* must actually be partisan capital, with a big fat “R” stamped on it. Which tells us that those holding onto that capital, who are refusing to invest it in American jobs and increased wages, are Republicans before they are Americans.

At least that is what Romney must believe.

_______________________________

* David Cay Johnson wrote in July:

IRS data suggests that, globally, U.S. nonfinancial companies hold at least three times more cash and other liquid assets than the Federal Reserve reports, idle money that could be creating jobs, funding dividends or even paying a stiff federal penalty tax for hoarding corporate cash.

The Fed’s latest Flow of Funds report showed that U.S. nonfinancial companies held $1.7 trillion in liquid assets at the end of March. But newly released IRS figures show that in 2009 these companies held $4.8 trillion in liquid assets, which equals $5.1 trillion in today’s dollars, triple the Fed figure.

Republicans Helped Create Romney’s “Taker Class”

There is much talk about the 47%  46%—those on the take in Romney’s formulation—who don’t pay taxes and will, the GOP candidate falsely told his rich bankrollers, all vote for Barack Obama.

Fortunately, we have people like Ezra Klein to open our eyes. He reminds us that:

Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. 

And he says:

Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable. 

And finally:

Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing “taker” class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves…

So notice what happened here: Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.

That’s why Romney’s theory here is more than merely impolitic. It’s actually core to his economic agenda.

From FDL:

And we must keep reminding ourselves that the reason so many folks don’t have jobs, and good paying jobs, such that they can pay income taxes, is partly because of the Great Recession that Mr. Bush handed President Obama.

And to exploit that situation and write off so many folks is, well, so Romneyan.

Urgent Care

When Mittens gets hurt, he can always go to Fox “News” for some first aid.

Today, nurse Neil Cavuto tended to his wounds, giving him some aid and comfort and whispering at least one sweet thought in his ear, in the form of this amazing suggestion he made to him during the interview:

CAVUTO: …when you and your running mate, Paul Ryan, talked about reforming Medicare and trying to contain its growth, uh, oddly enough when you were on that theme, it was helping you in Florida, a state rich in Medicare beneficiaries and Social Security beneficiaries, so talking tough on these issues doesn’t necessarily hurt you with the group that benefits from them. So, maybe you presuppose, prematurely, that this group is gonna say no.

Does it matter what Romney said in response to that?

I wish Cavuto had asked Romney why it is that a large number of folks he suggests are freeloaders living off the government do so in the comfort of red states:

The bottom line of the urgent care interview was the following, which Romney said at the end, a declaration meant to assure conservatives that he stands by what he said to those fat cats in Florida:

This is a message I’m carrying day in and day out. And will carry over the coming months…

Cavuto did ask a question that reveals something about Mittens’ judgement:

CAVUTO: Donald Trump had said that you have nothing to apologize for. In an interview on the Today show he said, “They have to get tougher,” referring to your campaign, “or they’re gonna lose this campaign.” What do you think of that?

ROMNEY: I always appreciate his counsel, and, uh, you know I think, uh, this focuses, uh, a great deal of attention on whether or not we’re gonna have a government that becomes larger…

Only a Fox broadcaster would bring up the buffoon Donald Trump as a source of campaign advice, and only a really strange, and unserious, presidential candidate would say he “always” appreciates the buffoon’s advice.

No, He’s Not Pretending

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”

—Jesus

bout Mitt Romney and his recently uncovered attack on the poor, the elderly, and working folks, conservative columnist David Brooks—one of only a handful of conservatives left who understand Burkean conservatism—made many good points in his column in today’s New York Times.

However, this wasn’t one of those good points:

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. 

The first problem with that assessment of Romney is that it is difficult to conceive how a man can be “a kind, decent man” while “pretending to be something he is not” in order to obtain political power. Brooks is better than that, as a thinker.

But the real problem with that rather generous assertion is that it simply isn’t true. Romney is not pretending. That much is obvious to anyone paying attention to his campaign, even David Brooks, who earlier in his column wrote:

Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers.

I don’t know how Brooks can assert that Romney is only “pretending” to be a “government hater” and yet suggest Romney “has shifted over toward a much more “hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view,” a reactionary and radical view that now represents almost two-thirds of the Republican Party.

At one time, I also thought Romney was a pretender, attempting to trick conservatives into thinking he bought into all their extremist nonsense. But unlike some folks in the mainstream press, who keep on insisting that Romney will soon abandon his extremist rhetoric and “move toward the center,” I am convinced by the evidence that Romney is who he has been telling us he is.

No one opportunistically becomes and remains “hyperindividualistic and atomistic” unless it resonates in his soul, and finds a welcome home in his thoughts.

The problem for Romney is that he perfectly embodies, and enthusiastically embraces, what it is that ails the Republican Party. Anyone watching that video clip of Romney speaking before wealthy donors—at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser—immediately notices how fluidly he writes off half the American people, not struggling to find the words to express himself, like he did, say, at that press conference called to defend his disgraceful response to the murder of Americans in Libya.

Romney is at home with those wealthy folks, and at home with people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Erick Erickson, who tweeted yesterday:

And Romney is at home with one of the most angry, repulsive right-wing commentators working today, Michelle Malkin, who chimed in this morning:

NEVER be defensive or apologetic,” she shouts at Romney, because extremists like her don’t quite trust him, can’t quite go all-in on his candidacy because they are not yet convinced he is as hard-bitten as they are.

And while conservatives may not completely trust Romney, he most definitely trusts them. He trusts that the hard-ass philosophy they champion is a winning philosophy, and he sticks with it, even as he slips in the polls, because he fundamentally believes it. He really is one of them, despite the fact that he has had a hard time winning them over.

This headline from NBC News tells us what we need to know:

No, he doesn’t back down. He doesn’t back down when it is obvious he should, when it is obvious he got his facts wrong, when it is obvious he has offended so many, including so many Republicans who fall into that “47%” he casually, oh-so-casually, wrote off.

At his press conference hastily called to explain his remarks, Romney—who has refused to release relevant tax returns—defended his remarks by repeating the tax lie constantly broadcast by conservatives on Fox and elsewhere:

It’s a message which I’m gonna carry and continue to carry that says, “Look, the President’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes…”

He keeps telling the lies. He isn’t backing down. And it is not just because he doesn’t want to offend Michelle Malkin or Erick Erickson, or not just because Rush Limbaugh will call him Elmer Fudd again on the radio. He doesn’t back down because he doesn’t want to back down. He really does believe what he told those rich donors. He really does hold utter contempt for people he perceives as “dependent upon government,” who, he claims, refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Many of us have characterized Romney as “soulless,” a man who would say or do anything to become president. And it has been the case that he would say or do anything, including changing his positions on a daily basis, to achieve that high office and the power that goes with it. But now, curiously on this issue, he has finally drawn a clear line.

With that line he has split the American people into the “makers” and the “takers,” and he has made a decision to defend that divisiveness, to defend that view of the people.

And in the process he has, at last, shown us he does have a soul, one with a very dark and cynical vision of America.

Romney Knows His Peeps

Just when the Romney campaign was all giddy about “reintroducing” the candidate to voters—perhaps they should first reintroduce the candidate to himself—along comes The Truth:

My job is not to worry about those people,” said Mittens, speaking of all those lazy, selfish freeloaders out there who depend on the wealthy—his audience for this revealing look into his soul—for their sustenance.

Romney is so far out of touch that he has no idea how many of those “victims” live in places like Southwest Missouri and have every intention of voting against their interests and for his sorry behind.

And make no mistake about it, most of those Obama-hating folks, after taking their government money for the month, will still run not walk to the polls to give Romney their vote on November 6.

Thanks to Mother Jones for this gem.

Boomerang!

If you have ever watched the IQ-killers on morning Fox TV, you will appreciate the following, which was a promising anti-Obama “boomerang generation” segment that turned, well, just watch:

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