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.

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