Saturday, July 14, 2012

So Mitt, what are you hiding in those tax returns?

You want to see Mitt Romney's tax returns? Well, Mitt Romney won't let you see them -- not more than two years' worth anyway:

Mitt Romney on Friday said he will release only two years of tax returns.

"We've complied with the law," Romney told CNN. "The law requires us to put out a full financial disclosure. That I've done. I know there will always be calls for more, people always want to get more, and, you know, we're putting out what is required plus more that is not required, and those are the two years that people are going to have."

"That's all that's necessary for people to understand something about my finances," Romney added.

Well, no, that's not all that's necessary. He may be complying with the law, but he's obviously hiding something, likely lots of somethings. And even if he isn't, there's the perception that he is, and that fits in with the general view of Mitt Romney that he's hiding things from public view, that he has a lot to hide, and that he's being rather less than forthcoming with the truth.

Add this to his secretive tax shelters in the Caymans and his Swiss bank accounts, his rather less than forthcoming account of what he did while running Bain Capital, how he made his fortune doing things like outsourcing jobs, his ridiculous claim that he left Bain in 1999, his even more ridiculous claim that had nothing to do with it thereafter, refuted by SEC filings among other evidence, his various flips and flops on any number of issues, his shameless pandering and apparent lack of principle, his reputation for being a privileged rich douchebag, and so much else besides -- add all this together and you get a picture of a man whom Americans should trust about as far as each voter individually can throw his wife's two Cadillacs.

Two years of tax returns? Sorry, that's not going to cut it. Not even close.

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Mary Chapin Carpenter: "This Shirt"

By Richard K. Barry

I hadn't thought about Mary Chapin Carpenter in a while and then a friend mentioned in passing that he picked up a recent album. I first came across Carpenter at the Philadelphia Folk Festival around 1987 or '88. She was flogging a few cuts on a 45 rpm-size disk as a promotion that, I think, would later appear on her Hometown Girl album, which was her first. I'm not sure about the timing of all that.

I've always loved her stuff, even the more country-influenced material that got a fair bit of airplay in the late 80's and 90's. I know she signed with Columbia in the late 80's and had a pretty good run. Great songwriter, fabulous sensibility, great voice. What more do you want?

She has a number of songs I really like. "This Shirt" stands out.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Mitt Romney: Trying to have it both ways on Bain Capital

Hey, stop reporting the things I say.

Here's a funny thought. Mitt Romney did the rounds at media outlets this past week to argue unequivocally that he had nothing to do with Bain Capital after February of 1999.

CNN listed the ways in which he said it:

"I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999."
"I left in February of 1999 to go out and run the Olympics."

"I went out and did that full-time, relinquished all management authority and role in Bain Capital after February of 1999."

"But the truth is that I left any role at Bain Capital in February of '99."

"And I had no role whatsoever in managing Bain Capital after February of 1999."

And then, when pressed abut the discrepancy between his own words and government documents that list him as head of the company between 1999 and 2002 and the extent to which that would be a distraction for the campaign, he offered a blanket defence of Bain's work.

"Well, there's nothing wrong with being associated with Bain Capital, of course."

But Mitt, apparently you do think there is something wrong with being associated with Bain Capital and you've been screaming it from the rooftops for quite a while.

Mitt Romney co-founded Bain in 1984 and ran it for years. He no doubt helped define its corporate identity, its ethos, how it does business.

Even aside from the absurdity of claiming to have no knowledge of the companies dealings after 1999 even as he was legally tied to it in government documents, are we to believe that deals that happened after 1999 don't reflect at all on the kind of businessman he was?

Either there is nothing wrong with the decisions made at Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002 or Mitt Romney should stop claiming at every turn that he had nothing to do with them. After all, there's nothing wrong with being associated with Bain Capital, right Mitt?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Behind the Ad: Mitt Romney's bad timing on Bain

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: The Romney campaign.

Where: Romney's website.

What's going on: In a colossal case of bad timing, the Romney campaign has released an ad calling President Obama a liar for claiming Romney was the head of Bain Capital when it did a lot of bad stuff on the very day The Boston Globe ran a big story that Romney was the head of Bain Capital when it did a lot of bad stuff.

(I wrote about this earlier today.)

Here's Romney's voice-of-doom ad. Better luck next time on the whole timing thing, Mitt.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mind your manners: How Republicans disrespect President Obama

Booman elaborates on a point I made yesterday.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census (.pdf, p.24), there are 8.1 million blacks in this country who have no health insurance. That's 20.8% of the black population, or slightly more than one out of every five American blacks. The first black president signed a law to change that situation dramatically. That's because the law required states to put people on Medicaid up to the 133% poverty rate level and then offered a sliding scale of subsidies for anyone else who might struggle to afford health insurance. The bill also created high-risk pools for people with preexisting conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and sickle-cell anemia. These reforms have the potential to almost completely wipe out the medical crisis in the black community.

But that's not the only reason that Mitt Romney was lustily booed [Wednesday] at the NAACP when he promised to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. He chose to use the word "ObamaCare" to refer to the bill. In my experience, blacks are extremely sensitive about people showing the proper respect for the Office of the Presidency now that it is occupied by a black man. They don't like it when people fail to refer to him as "President" or "Mr. President." And they don't like to see his name used in a derisive and demeaning way. Mitt Romney was booed primarily because of this lack of respect, which the audience experienced as a lack of respect for them.

And in my experience, it's not an accident that a lot of people who disagree with President Obama for whatever reason do it in a way that they wouldn't have done it if he was white. Aside from the overt stuff we've been seeing over the last four years from the fringes -- birtherism, the "secret Muslim" talk, the conspiracy theories -- and the coy claims of "Gee, I didn't know depicting the president as a witch doctor was considered racist," the lack of respect that Mr. Obama earns just by holding the office is blatant. (Context matters; calling George W. Bush a "chimp" was childish, too, but there isn't any inherent racism in comparing a white man to a monkey.)

Imagine a Democrat yelling "You lie!" at President Bush as he uttered those famous words about Saddam Hussein acquiring uranium from Africa. Imagine the exploding heads on Fox if Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Mr. Bush that he could not address Congress on a certain day. And these are just the ones that stand out. The simple fact that they have decided to vote against anything he proposes, including policies that they initially came up with such as cap and trade and the DREAM Act, show that it's not the ideas but the man behind them. The Affordable Care Act is an update to the 1993 Republican counter-proposal to the Hillary Clinton healthcare idea. Mitt Romney took it and passed it in Massachusetts. Now it's socialism.

Granted, the Republicans treat every Democratic president as if he is a usurper; after all, according to them, only Republicans should rule. But the level of disrespect for Mr. Obama is far beyond the pale, so to speak. To them it may be politics as usual; after all, they're not counting on the black vote. But people of all races remember not just what they did, but how they were treated, and memory lingers on long after the campaign is over.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: Tax policy at ten paces

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: Obama-Biden Campaign.

Where: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

What's going on: The Democrats attack Romney on tax policy in this television ad. It's hard to get excited about numbers, or even fully understand them, but the bottom line is that the ad, called "Two Americas," continues to blast away at the image of Romney as a friend of the rich.

The New York Times writes:

Mr. Romney is basing much of his campaign on the idea he is an accomplished and skilled businessman who could deal effectively with the nation's economic problems. The ad tries to undermine this claim by trying to paint Mr. Romney as an ally of the wealthy and corporations, including those that have sent American jobs overseas.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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So Mitt, were you lying then or are you lying now?

Bain Capital? I have no idea what you're talking about.

So, Mitt Romney filed papers with the SEC indicating he was the Chairman, CEO and President of Bain Capital from 2000 to 2002, and there are other documents that he still owned 100 percent of the company in 2002. The Romney campaign is quite focused on the need to argue that beside the legal documents indicating his leadership and ownership, he had nothing to do with the day-to-day workings of the firm from 1999 on. Romney wants to make this case because things were done at the firm during this period that would not reflect well on his candidacy. We all get that.

There is no doubt that he unequivocally left the firm in 2002 or that his name appeared on official documents as the head of the company between 1999 and 2002. Republicans argue that he was not responsible for decisions the company made in this period. Democrats argue that he was.

TPM makes the case for holding him responsible in this period by saying this:

For Romney to be truly off the hook politically for the stuff Bain was doing, he'd have to claim not lack of control, but lack of knowledge. And that’s just not going to wash with anyone. He could try going the "I didn't have even the slightest idea what the company I technically still owned was doing" route, but he’d be marking himself as either dishonest or incompetent.

And yet that's really his only out. Just a guess, but if, hypothetically speaking, he'd learned during the 1999-2002 stretch that Bain had made a practice of poisoning the water supply in a Midwestern factory town, he'd have severed all ties, legal and otherwise, with the company.

But that didn't happen. More likely, Bain went on doing what it had always done, and with Romney's tacit stamp of approval. So he owns it.

I think that makes sense. What also makes sense is that if Bain had been engaged in nefarious activities in violation of SEC regulations, I doubt the SEC would accept the excuse from Romney, the legal CEO, that he was no longer actively involved in running the company so they ought to leave him be. My guess is the regulators would have a good laugh at that.

I would think the SEC documents Romney signed are pretty weighty pieces of paper. I would also think Mitt Romney would not take such a chance with his finances, reputation or legal liability involved in completely distancing himself from knowledge of the activities of Bain Capital.

We can bracket for now the legal and ethical issues associated with Romney telling the SEC that he was head of the company while now claiming that he wasn't running it. That's sounds dicey too.

I know Republicans are in a panic over this, but does anyone seriously think it's credible that significant decisions were made at Bain in the 1999-2002 period of which Romney did not approve? It just doesn't sound possible.

In light of the fact that Romney has been so slow to release his tax returns, this is just another example of someone used to having his own way who doesn't feel he has to play by the same rules as the rest of us.

Twisting, bending and smashing the truth comes so naturally to W. Mitt Romney.

One other thing, there is desperation in the voices of the Republican pundits on the panel circuit over this. I think they know they've got a problem.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Defending Romney's offshore tax shelters: The Republican Party's anti-tax anti-Amerianism

So what's the Republican Party all about these days? Well, the imposition of theocracy, sure, but really it's about plutocracy -- the rule of the rich, the rich being entitled to rule by virtue of their wealth, with policies that allow the rich to get richer. Romney may talk about helping average Americans even as he embodies plutocracy to the core, but for the most part Republicans aren't even denying it anymore:

Republicans aren't just in favor of lowering taxes; now they're applauding wildly complex efforts by the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying billions in taxes by shipping capital to other countries.

"It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, on Tuesday. He was defending Mitt Romney, who, as [yesterday] morning's editorial in The Times notes, appears to have the most elaborate history of tax avoidance – offshore tax havens, disputed sheltering mechanisms, complex trusts – of any major presidential candidate in history.

Invest in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Graham seems to be saying. It's the patriotic thing to do.

That peculiar vision of the American way doesn't go back very far. Mr. Romney's financial practices aren't unusual just because he is one of the wealthiest candidates ever to run; it's because previous well-to-do candidates would have been embarrassed to admit they had gone so far to enrich themselves at the public treasury's expense.

For Republicans, it's perfectly okay, it seems, to avoid paying taxes -- and for the rich to take advantage of whatever is at their privileged disposal. This is beyond merely advocated for a flat tax. This is defending a system, and those who take advantage of it, that allows the rich above all to get away with putting their vast wealth in offshore tax shelters, that allows them to avoid paying taxes altogether, that allows them to avoid contributing not just their fair share but anything at all, or not very much at all, to a revenue system (developed through democratic self-governance, effectively the people willingly taxing themselves) that supports and sustains the public good -- that funds things like Social Security, national parks, and the military.

We can argue about whether or not it's "really American" to prefer generally low tax rates and generally limited government, but it's certainly not "really American," except in the wild fantasies of Ron Paul-loving libertarians and increasingly most Republicans, to want to get out of paying taxes altogether. That may be how Mitt Romney and his privileged rich ilk handle their finances, but the American people, Republican extremists excepted, would rather not have the American way of life undone so that the rich can hide their money from the taxman.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

The truth about Romney and Bain

On the national political stage today, it's all about Romney and Bain Capital, when he left the firm and so the point in time after which, he claims, he bears no responsibility for its activities (and specifically for things like outsourcing). There has been a good deal of contentiousness, as Richard noted here and here, with (which appears to be in complete and utter denial) and the Post's Glenn Kessler on one side, along with Romney's surrogates and apologists, and the Obama campaign, David Corn, Josh Marshall, and other reputable reporters, and the truth on the other. And then, today, came The Boston Globe:

Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president."

Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney's state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain "executive" in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings. 

This is pretty definitive, even with Fortune taking Romney's side:

Bain documents show that Romney was indeed telling the truth about no longer having operational input at Bain -- which, one should note, is different from no longer having legal or financial ties to the firm.

Yes, but isn't that the point? He may no longer have been running the day-to-day operations of the firm after he left in 1999, but he was still ultimately in charge, still closely connected, still making money off its activities, and still involved not just with Bain but with some of the companies in which Bain invested, including sitting on various boards. Henry Blodget sums up the issue well:

Note that the Romney campaign does not deny that Romney was "chairman, CEO, and president" of Bain from 1999-2002.

What the Romney campaign says instead is that Romney "left" Bain in 1999 and had "no input on investments or management of companies after that point."

So, read to the legal letter, both of those statements may technically be true (or at least defensible).

Romney did leave Bain in 1999, at least for a leave of absence (he went to run the Olympics).

And it is possible that, once he left, he no longer had direct input into investment or management decisions.

However ...

As "Chairman, CEO, and President" of Bain, he damn well would have remained responsible for these decisions. In which case, saying he had "left" and implying that he had no involvement or responsibility whatsoever is highly misleading.

In other words, he was either responsible for what Bain did or he lied to the SEC. (What's more, as Mother Jones has reported, Bain was involved in outsourcing jobs well before 1999.)

Simply, as Adam Serwer writes at Mother Jones, Romney's story is "falling apart," with the evidence piling up:

The Boston Globe is not the first to report evidence that Romney may have been misleading the public about when he left Bain. Following a Mother Jones report two weeks ago showing that Romney was at Bain when it invested in a medical waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses, my colleague Nick Baumann noted that several public documents indicated Romney was still involved with Bain years after he claimed to have left. Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall posted SEC filings where Romney's "principal occupation" is listed as "managing director of Bain Capital, Inc."
It is any wonder the Romney campaign, and Republicans generally, are responding with such intensity to this developing story? They're terrified it could bring down Romney's candidacy.
And they're right.

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The Rolling Stones celebrate 50 years in rock

By Richard K. Barry

It wouldn't be right to miss the opportunity to note The Rolling Stones' 50-year mark as one of the top bands ever in rock 'n' roll.

A CBC story notes the following:

The band touts July 12, 1962 as the inaugural Rolling Stones performance, with the group — then comprising Jagger, Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Dick Taylor and Tony Chapman — taking the stage of London's influential Marquee Club with a name inspired by a Muddy Waters song.

I don't know that I have a favourite song, but "Paint It Black" is up there.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Mitt Romney's one-dimensional campaign

By Richard K. Barry

By now we understand Mitt Romney's strategy to get the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Whatever the question, whatever the constituency, the answer is that Romney will do better at job creation than President Obama.

When Romney stands in front of the NAACP, rather than spend too much time focussing on historic injustices faced by African-Americans and the range of issues that would need to be addressed to provide effective equality of opportunity and good lives, he just wants to talk about jobs.

When speaking to Latino voters, rather than discuss substantive solutions to problems like immigration and other quality of life concerns, he just wants to talk about jobs.

Now, in a new political ad aimed at women, rather than discuss any number of issues that could improve the lives of women in America, he, or his surrogates at American Crossroads, wants to talk exclusively about the unemployment rate for women since George W. Bush broke the economy (of course, he won't put it that way).

I know that ever since James Carville, campaign manager for Bill Clinton in 1992, made everyone think everything was always about the economy, we have tended to think in that way. And in the midst of a bad economy, it's hard not to.

But I just want to ask the question: Does there come a time when key constituencies will get turned off by a candidate's unwillingness to engage on other, not directly economic, issues?

Yes, everyone cares about the economy, but my guess is that it is always wiser to speak to voters as if you understand the complexity of their lives and their challenges.

Maybe the reason Mitt Romney isn't doing that is because he can't.

We all like to joke about Bill Clinton as a candidate saying he could feel people's pain. But we still liked the fact that he tried and that Obama is trying.

When Mitt Romney is talking about job creation you don't get the sense that he grasps that people want jobs to enable them to live fulfilling lives. It's all so much a business calculus devoid of human feeling.

Yes, jobs. Yes, the economy. But yes also to the lives people want for themselves and their families in all its complexity. Is there any chance at all that Mitt Romney gets that? And is that going to be a problem for his campaign?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Dream on

Dear Mr. Romney Willard Mitt Willard Romney WMR

Forgive me for shredding your name, but as your letter of July 6th was in the same format, I assumed you would find it preferable if I used the same scheme. It's best to assume it was done deliberately rather than being the product of the same method you use to formulate your political positions from one minute to another.  Thank you for your letter reminding me that I may legally contribute an amount greater than the average American family income to your campaign, but I suggest that if you can't run a campaign with the hundreds of millions the corporate aristocracy has given you, you might not be the frugal sort of leader you'd like us to believe you are.

I'm glad to hear that

"Growing up, I was fortunate to have been an eyewitness to the American Dream," 

but I suggest that your vantage point might have been different from that of the actual

"people [who] worked hard, seized opportunities, and hammered out a legacy of prosperity and hope for their children and grandchildren."  

Most of them didn't have multi-millionaire parents who served as governors and presidential cabinet members and of course very few of them ever realized the kind of success you had handed to you.   But I have to ask how you have arrived at the notion that people can no longer work hard or seize opportunities -- after all you're currently engaged in at least one of those activities and I have no doubt that you've spent many hours campaigning.

I see absolutely nothing in "Obama's policies" that have interfered with your or my or anyone else's endeavors. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to what policies you refer. Doing that would at least set you apart from your colleagues and staff writers since not one of them seems to know or acknowledge that those policies have either been thwarted or in many cases are policies inherited from the previous administration along with its unprecedentedly expensive wars. Obama has lowered taxes for most of us -- wasn't that supposed to be the Republican panacea? Where were all the jobs that tax structure was supposed to create? Why did we have eight years with zero private sector job growth which then began to grow under "Obama's policies?" Without some actual economic policy suggestions that might somehow pay off the massive debt Mr. Bush left us -- I mean suggestions other than making our government more like the weak and ineffectual government of India so as to import a wage scale like theirs, without ideas like eliminating Social Security and Medicare and the very health care plan you wrote yourself -- without some real ideas that a moment and a contribution won't reverse, all we can do about opportunity is dream.

Anyway Mr. Romney Willard Mitt Willard Romney WMR, I remember too. I remember solid growth and high employment levels and a land of opportunity when we had a 90% top tax bracket and strong unions. My grandparents remember a time when that wasn't so and 12 hour work days and 6 day work weeks with no vacation or benefits and mostly the rich and the Caucasian went to college was the way it should be according to Republicans -- and you were a communist if you didn't agree.  

I remember when I couldn't live in many neighborhoods, when I would be a felon in Florida and most of the south for marrying outside my race -- a time when many jobs and many schools were not open to me and other minorities and when firehoses and dogs were turned on women and children who may have disagreed with your fictitious views of our immediate past. I remember the "conservative" opinions and I don't see that they've changed all that much. For all our problems -- for all the problems Republican policies have caused -- today my children and my grandchildren are closer to their dreams than I could have been and it's still a better country than it was when you were born.

In terms of upward mobility and opportunity, in terms of education and health our country has been sinking for a very long time, with perhaps the exception of the all too brief Clinton years. I'm sure you remember Clinton, the fellow your ilk branded as being against capitalism and business and the "American Dream" and many other absurd and dishonest charges you now try to pin on Mr. Obama.

I'd also be interested to know what your policies actually are other than to beat Obama at any cost and undo the health plan you wrote for Massachusetts. I'm asking how you're different because I and most of the economists I know feel that no matter who is elected, the only way Republican-generated debt (be honest now, the biggest borrowers and spenders in your lifetime have been Republicans and much of the "spending" you accuse Democrats of consists of paying Republican bills) will finally be settled is by devaluing the dollar and evaporating the savings of Americans, leaving us with the kind of America I dream about and wake up screaming. There's nothing you can do to change it.

So no, Mr. Romney Willard Mitt Willard Romney WMR, I won't be putting a stamp on the return envelope to spare your billionaire budget, but as as a measure of my esteem, I am enclosing an envelope sized piece of 1/8th inch rolled steel for ballast. It's American made steel. It's a piece of history. Use it as a reminder of how the greedy liars on the right exported opportunity. Use it as a paper weight for all that money Daddy Kochbux gives you.


Capt. Fogg Fogg Capt RG bananafanna fogg...

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Mitt Romney's secret African-American supporters

This isn't going well.
This is hilarious. After getting booed during his speech at the NAACP convention, Mitt Romney told Fox News that he has plenty of black support but, see, they are afraid to say so publicly. And wouldn't you know that this "secret African-American groundswell for Mitt" just happens to be repeating the very same speaking points, albeit in private, he offered up in his comments to the NAACP.

Yup. Mitt had this to say to Fox:

I spoke with a number of African-American leaders after the event and they said, you know, a lot of folks do not want to say they will not vote for President Obama but they are disappointed in his lack of policies to improve schools.

He continued:

The president has not been able to get the job done and people want to see someone who would get the economy going so I expect to get the African-American votes, and I believe we disagree on some issues like "Obamacare" [but] on a lot of issues people see eye-to-eye, they want someone getting the economy going.

How convenient. A lot of African-Americans believe exactly what Mitt Romney believes, but no one can prove this because they are afraid to say so publicly.

As Josh Marshall at TPM says, given that Romney is polling in the single digits with African-Americans, it would also appear they are afraid to tell pollsters their real feelings.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus goes all Joe McCarthy

The face of the GOP.
Damn, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus gives me the creeps. I'm not entirely sure how I'd describe him: maybe part Edward G. Robinson, part Eddie Munster grown up but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have a reflection in a mirror. I don't know where the GOP dug him up, but this dude is one dark soul.

Recently, he was being interviewed by John Roberts, who was sitting in for Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. It's worth noting that earlier in his career Roberts was known as J.D. Roberts when he was a music video VJ in Toronto. Judging from this interview, ol' J.D. still has the journalistic chops he developed asking the tough questions to people like Boy George and Olivia Newton John. You know, who designs your clothes, who does your hair, that sort of thing?

I now it's foolish to expect anything from Fox but, as Mediaite points out, Fox News Sunday is a "news" program, not the Hannity or O'Reilly dreck where right wingers are expected to drone on for hours unchallenged. But there was Reince (Reince? What kind of name is that?) talking about how voters have to elect Romney to "save America" and for "the sake of the very idea of America," and for "liberty and freedom" to prevent Obama from doing away with "our way of life."

And there was J.D., looking dapper as ever, letting him go on with nary a word.

Fine. It's Fox. I should expect it. But I am getting so tired of this Tea Party argument from someone who is supposed to represent the mainstream of the Republican Party that to support the kinds of fairly middling policies Obama and Democrats everywhere are offering is to support the end of the "idea of America."

Here we go again. Only Republicans are true Americans. Only Republicans love their country. Only a Republican should be president. Anyone who disagrees ought to be hauled before some sort of House un-American Activities Committee to swear they don't advocate the overthrow of the government. If they take the fifth or give a wrong answer, well, it wouldn't be pretty.

For what has become of the Republican Party, this election isn't about competing ideas of governing. It's a fight to the death between those who believe in America and those who want to destroy her. Given the stakes as Priebus describes them, it actually amazes me that they don't have a plan to take up arms when they lose the election in November. Maybe they do.

I'm just tired of it. It really pisses me off.

Here's creepy Reince:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Bullshit denied: Romney's failed attempt to woo black voters

I wrote yesterday that black voters aren't going to buy what Mitt Romney is selling and that his speech to the NAACP was really just a symbolic gesture.

Well, those in attendance at the speech certainly didn't buy it, booing him for attacking Obama and pledging to repeal Obamacare, and to the extent it was all just a gesture, it failed on that level as well.

Dear Leader Rush, never known for anything resembling sensitivity and understanding concerning the interests of non-whites, may say he was booed simply because of his skin colour, but of course the NAACP isn't racist the way, say, Dear Leader Rush is, and it's been more than supportive of various white figures in the past (Bill Clinton comes to mind).

No, he was booed because, as some of those in attendance said, he was "patronizing" and "totally disconnected," that is, because he was himself. "I don't think he has any way to even remotely relate to the everyday citizen, let alone African-American citizens," said one woman, while the organization itself issued the following statement:

This morning Governor Romney laid out his policy agenda for this nation. Unfortunately, much of his agenda is at odds with what the NAACP stands for – whether the issue is equal access to affordable health care, reforming our education system or the path forward on marriage equality. We appreciate that he was courageous and took the opportunity to speak with us directly.

In other words, they respected him for showing up and genuinely wanted to hear what he had to say. And they oppose him not because of his race but because of what he stands for, that is, they oppose him on the issues.

And then there was this:

Mitt Romney told the NAACP on Wednesday that President Obama has made it worse for African-Americans "in almost every way."

"If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone," Romney told the nation's leading civil rights group at their national convention in Houston, Texas. "Instead, it's worse for African-Americans in almost every way. The unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income and median family wealth are all worse for the black community."

This is just stupid. The economy was in terrible shape when Obama took office, and if anything he's successfully pulled the economy back from the brink of collapse despite all-out Republican opposition and obstructionism. Of course the economy is still in rough shape, but it's rough for everyone and it's not like Romney actually has a plan to fix it. Obama has a plan, one being blocked by Republicans, but for Romney it's all about tax cuts for the wealthy, for people like himself, while cutting programs that benefit non-rich Americans of all colors. (And to the extent blacks are worse off now than non-blacks, it's only because they were worse off to begin with. What, he's really saying the Obama has made it especially worse for blacks? That's beyond stupid.)

Romney's pitch depends on ignorance -- that is, on voters buying the bullshit he's selling without any understanding of the truth. That may work with right-wing voters who despise the president and are willing to swallow whatever anti-Obama nonsense Republicans are spewing, but it won't work, or at least shouldn't work, with anyone who actually cares to know the truth and is willing to peel back the layers of Romney's bullshit, and it certainly won't work with the NAACP and the vast majority of black voters generally.

More bullshit:

-- "I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president." Surely he doesn't believe this. I think we've all had ample opportunity to get to know who Romney truly is, and most of us don't like what we see.

-- "I am running for president because I know that my policies and vision will help hundreds of millions of middle-class Americans of all races, will lift people from poverty and will help prevent people from becoming poor. My campaign is about helping the people who need help. The course the president has set has not done that -- and will not do that. My course will." Seriously? Obama was the one who got health-care reform passed. Obama was the one who issued an executive order enacting the provisions of the DREAM Act. Obama was the one who came out in support of marriage equality. Wasn't all that about helping people who need help? And, to repeat, Romney's policy agenda is largely about doing whatever it takes for the rich to get richer.

In other words, it was must Mitt being Mitt. No wonder they booed. Any sensible person would.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jon Huntsman: Still the sanest guy at the party

Republicans have been taking shots at some Democratic candidates who have chosen to skip their party's nomination convention this summer. It's been suggested that they don't want to emphasize their party affiliation or ties to President Obama to the extent that it could be a drag on their own electoral chances. I'm sure there is truth in the charge. 

Let me know when you
come to your senses.
This is, however, somewhat different than a flat out, undisguised, denunciation of one's own party as was offered by former GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman. In explaining why he would not be attending the Republican convention, he said this:

I will not be attending this year's convention, nor any Republican convention in the future, until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States -- a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits.

I have to think that there are at least a few more reasonable Republicans who are hanging back to see what happens with their party's current experiment with radical conservatism. If things go poorly in November, I suspect there will be hope on the part of those like Huntsman that they can get their party back, to borrow a phrase.

I suspect Huntsman, and maybe Jeb Bush, is setting himself up for that possibility.

It does beg the question, what would it take for the GOP to find its way again?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The neverending tax story

Ed. note: I just want to point out that the news media's reporting on this has been miserable -- and wrong. As Dan Amira pointed out at Daily Intel the other day, the media are saying that the extension applies only to those who make less than $250,000 a year. This reflects a failure to undersand how taxation, and specifically progressive taxation, works. The extension of the tax cuts on income under $250,000 will apply to all Americans who pay income tax -- because all Americans who pay income tax have income in the $1-to-$249,999 range. The rate will rise (to pre-Bush levels) only on income over that higher amount.

President Obama himself made this mistake in selling his own proposal: "I'm calling on Congress to extend the tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 for another year." Uh, sort of. The tax cuts will be extended for these 98 percent -- and also for the other two percent. Okay, what Obama said is literally true, and he no doubt framed it that way for political reasons, but the point is that the extension is for everyone. The rich just have to suck it up and pay their fair share on the income that makes them rich.

Now on to Mustang Bobby's post...



President Obama would like to once again extend the Bush tax cuts, but only for another year, and only on income under $250,000 a year.

(It should also be explained that the tax on $250,000 does not apply to a person's gross income; it applies only to the Adjusted Gross Income, which is what is left after all the deductions and credits and so forth. A person paying taxes on $250,000 would have to gross a lot more than that to qualify. Also, the higher rate doesn't apply to the whole $250,000; only the amount over it. So if your AGI is $260,000, you pay the higher rate on the $10,000, not the whole nut. An additional 3% on $10,000 is $300, which, to someone with that kind of money, is lunch. Also, if you have that kind of income and you haven't got an accountant that can find a way to shelter your income (hello, Mitt), then you deserve to pay whatever the IRS can get out of you.)

As you'll remember, the whole lot of the Bush tax cuts were supposed to expire in December 2010, and the whole idea of them in the first place was that they were to be temporary just to get the economy roaring back when Mr. Bush was president. (Hmm. How'd that work out?) The deal with the GOP to extend them expires in December.

This time the extension of just the cuts for the middle class (making up to $249,999.99 is middle class? Who knew?) is being done for obvious political reasons: it puts the Democrats on the side of tax cuts and forces the GOP be against them since they want everybody -- which to them means more than just the "common people" -- to keep their tax cuts and even get some more because the 35% rate that the wealthy are struggling under is such a horrible burden that they have to send their money overseas to protect it.

Judging from the fuming and the foaming from the Republicans, it looks like Mr. Obama has pulled yet another rabbit out of his hat, at least in terms of campaign positioning: he's on the side of the middle class while Mitt Romney and rich are on the other. It will make for some pretty good ads in Ohio and the other swing states, and it will be up to the Republicans to explain why they're going to vote against it.

Trying to gin up sympathy for the rich? Good luck with that.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Betting against America: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is no Mitt Romney

Well, you knew this was coming.

With the narrative turning against Mitt Romney now that the Obama campaign has started defining him, specifically as the narrative relates to his work at Bain Capital and his tax shelters in Switzerland and the Caymans, Republicans are circling the wagons in a concerted effort to defend him from any and all criticism regarding his money -- how he made it, where he put it, and what he's done with it.

They are already saying, in the face of the evidence, that allegations he was involved in outsourcing jobs while at Bain are lies, and while they can't say he hasn't parked his money in offshore accounts, they are now trying to turn that issue around on Democrats, at least by making the case they they all do it so who cares.

The Romney campaign is tackling the first of these, what with polls showing the Obama campaign's efforts are working. As for the second, it seems to be falling to surrogates like The Weekly Standard, where Daniel Halper reported yesterday, without concealing his back-patting glee, that -- oh my god! -- Democrats have foreign investments too! Well, really just one Democrats in this case, namely DNC Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who "previously held funds with investments in Swiss banks, foreign drug companies, and the state bank of India."

"The revelation," Halper adds, seemingly without breath, "comes mere days after the Democratic chair attacked presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for holding money in Swiss bank accounts in the past... The hypocrisy... is clear: The Democrats, as well as President Obama, hope to paint Romney as an out of touch man for holding money in overseas bank accounts, when in reality their own chairman, Wasserman Schultz, had overseas investments."

Well... game, set, and match, right? Er, not so fast.

First, Schultz "previously held funds." In other words, in the past. Romney has money in offshore accounts right now.

Second, Schultz's investments are meager compared to Romney's massive wealth.

Third, investing in funds that in turn make foreign investments (in reputable banks and corporations like HSBC and Volkswagen) isn't the same as parking your money in offshore tax shelters and then refusing to disclose your tax returns.

Fourth, Schultz isn't running for president.

That's checkmate, morons. Want to try again to defend the indefensible?


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Mitt Romney wants black people to vote for him

The 2012 Republican Party. Not exactly NAACP-friendly.

The Times:

Four years ago, Barack Obama captured 95 percent of the black vote. But in a 2012 election in which every vote may matter, Mitt Romney is not conceding an inevitable rout on that front.

On Wednesday, Mr. Romney will make a pitch to the nation's premier civil rights group, the N.A.A.C.P., testing President Obama's overwhelming support among black voters by trying to pry away some defectors with his pro-jobs message at a time of 14.4 percent unemployment among African-Americans.

Okay, Obama may not win 95 percent of the black vote this year, but Romney's appearance seems more like a symbolic gesture than a serious pitch for votes.

After all, his "pro-jobs message" is as substantial as a Justin Bieber tune. To the extent that he has any sort of plan for the economy, it's all about slashing taxes, mostly for the benefit of very rich people like himself, and so all his message amounts to is an ad hominem attack on Obama based almost entirely on lies, with the message coming from a privileged rich douchebag whose party is overwhelmingly white and mostly dismissive, often aggressively so, of the concerns of non-white America.

Do you really think that will play well with black voters?

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Would I lie to you?

I always wanted to use Latin in the title of a post. There, now I can cross that off my list. The phrase above can be roughly translated as "Who guards the guardians?" It is frequently attributed to Plato's Republic, which is incorrect, but I don't care. It's an important concept, whatever the source. In politics it is usually taken to refer to the problem of ensuring those who have power exercise it in the interest of the common good.

This came to mind when I was thinking about the determination that the Obama campaign was not being truthful when it blamed Mitt Romney for outsourcing jobs while at Bain. Its argument was that he had ceased to be head of Bain Capital in 1999 and therefore to claim that he had responsibility for company activities that involved outsourcing, which occurred after that, was, in its estimation, untrue.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, there is substantial evidence to indicate that Romney continued to play a significant leadership role in the company after he claimed to have stepped down in 1999 so I, and others, have argued that's case is built on a distinction that makes no difference.

Yesterday, further to support the critique of, Josh Marshall at TPM wrote this:

There's no question that numerous public filings and some contemporaneous press references say Romney was still running things at Bain after 1999. But his campaign insists that whatever securities filings may have said, in practice, he was so busy running the 2002 Winter Olympics that he actually had no role at Bain after early 1999. That's possible in theory. But there's no evidence for it besides self-interested claims by Romney. And there's plenty of documentary evidence to the contrary. After all, what you tell the SEC is really supposed to be true.

But here's the thing. I've found yet more instances where Romney made declarations to the SEC that he was still involved in running Bain after February 1999. To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet noted these.

The documents go into different aspects of Romney's ownership of various Bain and Bain related assets. But in both Romney had to say what he currently did for a living.

And because facts are important, Marshall finishes his argument by providing evidence of two SEC filings from July 2000 and February 2001 in which Romney listed his "principle occupation" as "Managing Director of Bain Capital." The relevant section of the SEC filing is below:

The bottom line is that Romney provided information to the SEC that he still had a leadership role at Bain after 1999. No matter how he tries to spin this, this is called proof that he is the one not telling the truth. This is what it means to check facts.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the people who originally stated that Obama's campaign got it wrong did so out of partisan interest or maliciousness. I suspect they just got it wrong. is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and, as far as I know, is well regarded. But as of yesterday it was still running the now discredited critique of the Obama campaign on their website.

In a democracy, independent media should be guards of our political system. I know this because I have been watching Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. When they get it wrong, they ought to do something about that. In answer to our opening question, apparently we all have a responsibility to guard the guardians or fact check the fact checkers, because, in this case, they don't appear to be willing to do it themselves.

Too bad.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Intended consequences

By Carl

The city of Scranton, PA has slashed municipal salaries lower than a fry cook at McDonald's.

The city of Bakersfield, CA is about to declare bankruptcy.

Conservatives didn't go Galt, they brought Galt's Gulch here.

Do we like it?

In Scranton, the Democratic mayor can't get the Democratic city council to agree on a tax hike to cover salaries and to get the banks to lend to the city again. But a lot of the problem stems from two things: Republican governor Tom Corbett, who's more interest in voter ID and transvaginal ultrasounds than in good governance, and Republicans in Congress who insist on cutting aid to communities in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Scranton, while not a poor town, is not exactly a hotbed of wealth. Families there can't afford to hire private security forces or private fire fighters.

Bakersfield is the culmination of some forty years of tax insanity in California as a whole, however. Proposition 13, and its aftermath (preventing local communities from circumventing that law), have created massive budget holes across the state at all levels of government. California now distributes block grants of tax revenues. You can bet those are based on antiquated formulae and reward communities favorable to the current legislature at the expense of communities who support the opposing party.

A quarter of a million people were affected yesterday by bad legislation, and bad administration.


(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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For Republicans, Obama can do no right. Ever.

Jon Chait had an excellent post yesterday ripping a Michael Gerson WaPo column to shreds -- actually, obliterating it to smithereens, but in a calm, collected way that revealed Gerson's usual partisan inanity and ignorance, even as he masquerades as one of the smarter Republican commentators these days.

Gerson, flailing about, criticized Obama for not doing enough to fix the economy, and to get it moving again. That's a debate worth having, perhaps, but the problem for Gerson, and Republicans generally, is that they don't quite know where to land: He hasn't done enough, but they don't really want him to do much, and what's more they've tried to block him at every turn (stimulus, auto bailout, etc.). Here's Chait summing up Gerson's ridiculously inconsistent argument:

Okay, so first Gerson has flayed Obama for failing to propose a major plan. Then he has argued that we shouldn't have a major plan because the deficit is too big. And yes, the deficit is pretty big, because the Bush administration spent eight years passing a series of major initiatives that were completely funded by debt. And yes, "prospects are poor" for passing a major new stimulus, because Republicans in Congress will never pass the actual Obama plan that Gerson won't acknowledge. In fact, unlike every Bush administration initiative ever, Obama's jobs plan is fully paid for over ten years. Now, it's not paid for in a way Republicans would like, but they would be free to propose other ways to offset the cost of a jobs plan if they so desire to pass something to address the economic crisis. Oddly, they do not.

Somewhere in the middle of writing his column, or possibly after submitting it to an editor, Gerson appears to have become vaguely aware that Obama has proposed an economic plan. So, after repeating his general claim that Obama has no economic plan, Gerson notes, as an aside, that he does have a plan but it's too small.

In other words, it doesn't matter what Obama does. To Republicans, it will always be wrong. Do too little on the economy, he should have done more. Do too much, he's being fiscally irresponsible. Do anything, actually, and Republicans will do everything in their power to stop him. And this applies to other issues as well, not just the economy. Remember how Republicans dismissed the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, saying it was an easy decision for which the president deserves no credit at all?

Basically, this is what disloyal, partisan opposition looks like. The Republican Party is out for itself and itself alone. It's not that it doesn't have it's own policy agenda -- it does, and it's a combination of Ayn Rand and theocracy -- it's that its approach to Obama is complete and utter obstructionism no matter what. Gerson's rambling and largely incoherent column, amounting to little more than throwing darts, just proves the point.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More VP gossip

Look at me. I'm waving my arm.
Oh, that's exciting!

Politico is reporting that Sen. Rob Portman is being vetted for Romney's VP slot while South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is not. That's not exactly news as everyone knows Portman is near the top of everyone's short-list and Haley has publicly stated she would decline the post if offered.

The upside to Portman is that Romney might actually appear to have a personality while standing next to him, which is also the downside.

As for Haley, or any woman for that matter, I don't see it, no matter what Ann says. Romney may need to appeal to more women to be competitive, but that doesn't mean he'll actually chose one as a running mate. If you think McCain looked uncomfortable next to Palin, can you imagine Romney next to a female VP candidate? I can't. It wouldn't at all appeal to his "stuck-in-the-50s" mentality. 

On the idea of female candidates in general, have you ever noticed that when a political party loses an election in which a woman is their candidate, the party elders often shy away from nominating a woman the next time? But when a man loses an election, they never say, "better not run another man. That didn't work out too well last time." No, they never say that.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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