Ok, I thought it would be fun to pretend that I am a Republican. Cut me some slack here. I know what some of you are thinking…this is some mean trick.
No, really, I am trying to figure out what I would do if I were running for president as a Republican. And I understand the problem with going “mainstream” now, as everyone is fighting for the most conservative, extreme wing of the party.
But here are 5 things I would suggest:
Middle Class: First and foremost, I would try and figure out how to fight for the middle class. I would not be talking about stopping a $1,500 tax break for working families, while suggesting another drop in the upper income tax bracket from 35 percent to 28 percent, even after the Bush temporary tax cut from 39 percent to 35 percent. The Republicans are doing everything in their power to pay for the tax break for the middle class in some fashion but do not seem to care much about paying for the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. This is hurting them badly politically and they need to support tax breaks for those who are suffering. So, I would be talking about the middle class by suggesting help for college and trade school, help with job training, incentives for hiring and expanding, and providing tax breaks for start-ups.
Tolerance: I would try and take on others (including the opponents) for gratuitous slams at gays, Hispanics, blacks, women, and Arab Americans. I would openly criticize an audience that boos a gay soldier fighting for his country, a candidate who talks about “Obama’s war on religion” while blasting gays in the military, and others who believe a state initiative on Shariah law is smart politics. Americans are moving fast towards tolerance and acceptance of those who are different from them—embrace it, don’t fan the flames of intolerance.
Role of Government: Republicans will, for the time being, blast government but they should say what they are for. How about acknowledging that the Securities and Exchange Commission should have had more teeth and been more vigilant in going after the Madoffs and Stanfords of the world? Now is not the time to let the financial system run amok; rather we should be tougher in protecting the “little guy”, the consumer, the investor, the depositor. Why not combine a concern for over-regulation of small businesses with a tighter grip on those who have abused the system?
Foreign Policy: This is one area where Republicans should zip it. If I were running I would give Obama his due on the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, praise Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and pivot to domestic issues. Talk expanding trade, cutting good deals, competing with the Chinese and leave it at that—but don’t accuse Obama of being “weak.” Doesn’t work. Creating more jobs in the international economy is a much better message.
National Service: Sounds like a side issue, but I would call for all Americans to give back to their country. Everyone between 18-25 should serve in some capacity for two years, in the military, in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, in their local communities. The reward: help with their education, paying off student loans, assistance with grad school—a new GI Bill if you will—but ultimately, good deeds are their own reward. We would change the ethic in this country that you can have your cake and eat it too, that your government owes you, that there is no need to contribute your talents, hard work, resources, to others.
So, I guess if I turned into a Republican, I wouldn’t be very popular in the current crowd, would I? But my strong belief is that a Republican who adopted these five ideas might just stand a better chance of being elected next November. Yes, this is Christmas and a time of miracles but maybe, just maybe there are some Republicans out there who agree.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2011
Let’s leave aside the question of fairness, for now. The paramount question is whether the United States is generating the revenue it needs to fund the public structures that are essential for business and individual prosperity—things like transportation networks, schools, healthcare, college, and many other important functions of government in a capitalistic society. By any indicator the answer is that the United States is falling short in providing both the revenue to fund these services as well as providing for their ongoing maintenance and modernization.
Federal tax revenue is lower than it has been in half a century. The federal government’s revenues from income taxes on households make up 6.4 percent of GDP; which is 1.1 percentage points lower than half a century ago, and 3.8 percentage points lower than the peak in the boom year of 2000. Our current tax revenues are not only low relative to historical levels, but they rank low internationally as well. Our total tax revenues, including federal, state, and local taxes, comprise 27 percent of GDP, a level far lower than most of our peers in the developed world. In fact, among the 33 nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only three (Korea, Turkey, and Mexico) take in proportionately less tax revenue than we do.
And so we come to the question of whether the richest in America are paying their fair share. The reality is that the steep fall in federal tax revenue was caused largely by cuts in the tax rates for the very wealthiest households. The current marginal tax rate for the highest income bracket—in other words, the tax rate on income above a threshold for the wealthiest taxpayers—of 35 percent is among the lowest since WWII, far lower than the 80 percent rate during the high-growth 1960s and the 39.6 percent rate of much of the 1990s. Of course, most rich households do not pay the published rate—after taking into account deductions and other big tax benefits, the actual percentage of a rich household’s entire income paid in taxes has also fallen precipitously, dropping from 31.3 percent for millionaires in 1993 to 22 percent today.
So, no, the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes—neither as defined by historical American norms or by international standards. And, the result of that shirking of responsibility is sluggish growth, diminished social mobility, declining educational attainment, and lost business efficiencies due to our insufficient and often outdated transportation and information networks.
By: Tamara Draut, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2011
On Fox News this morning, Steve Doocy, reflecting on Newt Gingrich’s remarks in last night’s debate, said the disgraced former House Speaker “was brilliant” when “talking about out-of-control judges and the courts.”
I saw the same comments. “Brilliant” wasn’t the adjective that came to mind.
Megyn Kelly noted in her question to Gingrich that he’s proposed congressional subpoenas for judges who issue rulings that Republicans don’t like, as well as judicial impeachments and the prospect of eliminating courts the right finds offensive. Kelly reminded Gingrich that two conservative former attorneys general have characterized his approach as “dangerous,” “outrageous,” and “totally irresponsible.” He responded:
“[T]he courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful, and I think, frankly, arrogant in their misreading of the American people. […]
“I taught a short course in this at the University of Georgia Law School. I testified in front of sitting Supreme Court justices at Georgetown Law School. And I warned them: You keep attacking the core base of American exceptionalism, and you are going to find an uprising against you which will rebalance the judiciary.”
Gingrich added he’s “prepared to take on the judiciary” unless federal courts started issuing rulings that he agreed with. He went on to say he understands these issues “better than lawyers,” because he’s “a historian.”
Let’s note a few relevant angles here. First, it’s time to stop characterizing positions such as these as “conservative.” Gingrich doesn’t want to conserve anything; he’s eyeing a radical revolution of the separation of powers and the American branches of government, stripping the judiciary of its power as an independent branch.
Second, Gingrich is a lousy historian. Real scholars tend to consider Gingrich’s crusade against the courts as a crackpot agenda.
And third, it was odd to see Ron Paul, of all people stand up last night as a voice of reason.
“Well, the Congress can get rid of these courts. If a judge misbehaves and is unethical and gets into trouble, the proper procedure is impeachment. But to subpoena judges before the Congress, I’d really question that. And if you get too careless about abolishing courts, that could open up a can of worms. Because there could be retaliation. So it should be a more serious — yes we get very frustrated with this, but the whole thing is, if you just say, ‘Well we’re going to — OK there are 10 courts, let’s get rid of three this year because they ruled a way we didn’t like.’
“That to me is, I think opening up a can of worms for us and it would lead to trouble. But I really, really question this idea that the Congress could subpoena judges and bring them before us. That’s a real affront to the separation of the powers.”
Yes, Ron Paul was the sensible one on the stage last night when it comes the courts.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 16, 2011
The payroll tax cut that Speaker of the House John Boehner called “chicken shit” in the GOP House caucus would save the average American $1,000 per year. A grand doesn’t mean much to the speaker or his banker and billionaire buddies but to working families that’s a lot of money. John Boehner’s idea of soaking the rich is to jump in a hot tub with them after 18 holes.
I betchya $10,000 that working families know that former Gov. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about their financial problems. Mitt Romney speaks French. Does that make him a cheese-eating surrender monkey?
The GOP flying circus pitched its big top in Iowa last night. It was fun watching Mitt Romney juggle his positions on healthcare; former Speaker Newt Gingrich swallowing a sword inflamed by his own rhetoric, and Gov. Rick Perry driving the clown car.
The Donald jumps off another one of his ships just before it sinks. First, his presidential campaign and then his own debate. Things are really bad for Trump when even the clowns in the GOP presidential race don’t want to be in the same room with him.
Gingrich went to New York City to see The Donald and conveniently Tiffany’s is right next to Trump Tower. While in NYC, Gingrich had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Tiffany’s. Where do you think Newt will be doing his Christmas shopping this year anyway? By the way President Obama got what he wanted for Christmas. Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich’s campaign is deeply in debt and he was in hock big time to Tiffany’s. And he calls himself a fiscal conservative. Gimme a break! Gingrich doesn’t know much about family values but he did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
I watched the Newt Gingrich-Jon Huntsman debate debacle. Do you think anybody will remember their debate 150 years from now? I don’t think so. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas have nothing to worry about.
Rush Limbaugh would rather hug it out with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton than read this post. Bill O’Reilly would rather watch Keith Olbermann. Glenn Beck would rather see a Michael Moore movie than read this. A Tea Party-er would rather hook up with an Occupy-er.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2011
When Mitt Romney decided to get Republican ideological-purity cautionary tale and non-witch Christine O’Donnell to announce her endorsement of him, he was probably thinking about how useful it would be to have the support of another staunch conservative. He may not have been thinking about some of the secondary issues involved in this plan, such as the fact that it would require O’Donnell to talk, which would involve her saying awkward things like, “he’s been consistent since he changed his mind.”
The line actually gets to the nub of the conservative question on Romney. Since he changed his mind, he has indeed been dogmatically consistent. (In contrast to Newt Gingrich.) But why?
One of the most revealing stories I’ve seen on Romney was written by Jonathan Weisman last month in The Wall Street Journal. In it, Weisman chronicles the degree to which Romney simply flipped a switch in 2005, deciding virtually overnight to stop courting moderates and liberals he needed to get elected in Massachusetts and to start courting the right. The switch occurred across the board, on social as well as economic issues:
A gun-rights lobbyist, Jim Wallace, found himself battling the governor over firearms fees and hunters’ priorities. A low point for Mr. Wallace came one day in July 2004 when Gov. Romney was set to sign a bill that banned assault weapons but that also had some provisions gun-rights groups liked. Mr. Wallace had an invitation to speak at the signing ceremony.
At the last minute, a gun-control activist, Jon Rosenthal, got an invitation too. Not only that, but as Mr. Rosenthal rushed into the news conference, he says he saw Romney aides pulling up the name tags taped to the floor that showed where each guest was to stand —tearing up the paper with Mr. Wallace’s name and replacing it with one bearing his own name. The gun-control advocate was placed close to the governor and got the speaking slot that Mr. Wallace, the gun-rights lobbyist, had expected.
Yet in the following year, 2005, both sides on the gun issue noticed a change.
In May of that year, Mr. Romney declared a “Right to Bear Arms Day.” Mr. Wallace’s group, the Gun Owners’ Action League, began having nearly monthly meetings with the governor’s top aides, he says. Mr. Romney signed legislation cutting some red tape detested by gun owners in November 2005, and less than a year later he became a lifetime member of the N.R.A.
The positive interpretation of this narrative, if you’re a conservative, is that Romney will stay bought — he decided to ingratiate himself with the right, and he needs to retain the right’s support to accomplish anything. That’s more or less the argument Ramesh Ponnuru made in his National Review cover story endorsing him. The negative interpretation is that Romney is essentially running a con, though it’s impossible to tell if he was conning Massachusetts then or is conning Republicans now. (My guess, based on Romney’s admiration for his moderate father, is that he’s conning conservatives now, but I can’t really be certain.) When you’re running a con, of course you stay consistent – you have to keep up the front, no matter what.
The robotic consistency of Romney’s newfound conservatism does contrast sharply with Gingrich, who lurches between hysterical right-wing paranoia and bouts of bipartisanship. And yet the erratic character of Gingrich’s swings suggests that they’re unplanned, and thus that they spring from actual conviction, albeit momentary convictions. Gingrich actually believes what he is advocating at the moment he is advocating it. Nobody can plausibly say the same of Romney.
Romney is the handsome swindler who plots to win your mother’s heart and make off with her fortune. Gingrich is like the husband who periodically gets drunk and runs off to spend a week with a stripper in a low-rent motel but always comes home in the end. Which one would you rather see your mother marry?
By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, December 14, 2011