It’s easy to forget, but the iteration of Mitt Romney we see in 2012 is by no means similar to the 2008 version. If Romney 1.0 was an independent who distanced himself from Reagan, and Romney 2.0 was a moderate Republican with sensible positions on social issues and health care, Romney 3.0 was a social conservative who cared deeply about the culture war.
It was that third version who sought the Republican nomination four years ago, working under the assumption that this wing of the party would never accept John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, so he could be the far-right standard bearer.
For the 2012 race, Romney has moved on to a yet another persona — version 4.0 is an outsider businessman, representing the GOP establishment and the top 1% — but that doesn’t mean he’s unwilling to try on his old costumes from time to time.
With Rick Santorum positioning himself as a credible rival, and Newt Gingrich baiting Romney “into a discussion of religious values,” we’re getting another look at a facade we haven’t seen in a while: Culture Warrior Mitt.
Consider Romney’s message of late:
On marriage equality, Romney, who used to be a moderate on LGBT issues, was disgusted by yesterday’s Prop 8 ruling in California: “That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”
On Planned Parenthood, Romney is not only eager to cut off the health organization from all public funding, he endorsed Komen for the Cure’s original decision to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. (Romney attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Massachusetts in 1994.)
On contraception, Romney is investing a great deal of energy in attacking the Obama administration over its decision to characterize contraception as preventive care in all health insurance plans. That Romney used to agree with Obama has apparently been forgotten.
On religion in public life, Romney has begun adding more faith talk in his stump speech, as evidenced by an appearance in Colorado yesterday. “When they wrote the Declaration of Independence, they chose their words with care,” Romney said. “The state did not endow us with our rights, nor did the king. Instead, the Creator endowed us with our rights.”
Whether social-conservative voters buy any of this remains to be seen. Romney’s Mormon faith, which is a deal-breaker for some evangelicals, and the fact that he was a pro-choice moderate a few versions ago, makes the pitch difficult. But if the race for the Republican nomination becomes a protracted fight, don’t be surprised if Culture Warrior Mitt sticks around for a while.
By: Steve Benen, Maddow Blog, February 8, 2012
According to Republican gospel, taxes on investment must always be low, or else investors will simply sit on their money, refusing to do the very thing that could earn them more money. However, as David Abromowitz laid out in Bloobmerg View today, Mitt Romney’s tax returns undermine this argument.
After all, Romney made his fortune via investments made by Bain Capital, the private equity firm that he ran. And Bain’s investments between 1984 and 1999 “occurred when capital-gains rates were much higher than they are today. Yet Bain consistently attracted massive amounts of private capital, and thrived”:
Bain’s haul is further evidence that fair tax rates don’t hold back profit-seeking capitalists, at least until those rates reach a point that no one is proposing. From 1984 until 1999, the top rates on capital gains — the profit from investments as opposed to compensation for work — were often at 28 percent, and never lower than 20 percent. Indeed, in 1987, under President Ronald Reagan, the 20 percent rate rose to 28 percent — a 40 percent increase in potential taxation of Bain investment profit. (Yes, Reagan did raise taxes, even on capital.)
An analysis by the Wall Street Journal of 77 Bain deals in that time period showed that the firm “produced about $2.5 billion in gains for its investors,” on about $1.1 billion invested. Clearly, even with capital-gains rates almost double those today, fund managers such as Romney didn’t lack investors.
As billionaire investor Warren Buffett put it, “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital-gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.” It’s worth remembering that it was conservative icon Ronald Reagan who completely equalized the tax treatment of investment and wage income, rejecting the argument that a lower capital gains rate was necessary to incentivize investment.
As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has noted, the case for a lower capital gains tax is dubious at best. “Nothing in our history or experience says that unearned income has to be taxed this lightly,” he wrote.
By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, February 9, 2012
Yesterday morning, presidential candidate Rick Santorum made the unambiguously false claim that the Obama Administration wants the government to force Catholics to ordain female priests — a brief the administration filed in the Supreme Court actually says exactly the opposite. Perhaps inspired by his surprising triple loss in three GOP primary and caucus states earlier this week, Santorum’s opponent Mitt Romney repeated Santorum’s fabricated claim at a campaign event later in the day:
This president is attacking religion, and is putting in place a secular agenda that our forefounders would not recognize. He, uh, he took a position which I thought was interesting which is he said, instead of a church being able to say who their ministers are, the government has to approve who you say your ministers are. He made that decision, and by the way, the church involved went to the Supreme Court, ultimately, to see if they could reverse that decision by the Obama Administration . . . did you know that the Supreme Court voted 9-0 against the president to retain religious liberty.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Romney really shouldn’t ape Santorum’s inability to get his facts straight. For starters, the Obama Administration did not even come close to saying that the government has to approve church ministers. Rather, as conservative Chief Justice John Roberts explained in the unanimous opinion Romney refers to, the Obama Administration’s position is that “it would violate the First Amendment for courts to apply [anti-discrimination] laws to compel the ordination of women by the Catholic Church or by an Orthodox Jewish seminary.”
Nor is it true that this Supreme Court decision ended some nefarious Obama plot to impose unwanted clergy upon churches. The case that Romney refers to, Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, dealt with a school teacher who spent most of her time teaching secular subjects, but who also spent some time providing religious education at a religious school. The school claimed this teacher was actually a minister — and thus unprotected from the federal law that makes it illegal to fire her because she has a disability — while the teacher (and the Obama Administration) believed that she should not be treated the same way as Catholic priests or Orthodox rabbis because the overwhelming majority of her job duties were secular. Ultimately, a federal appeals court agreed with the teacher, and the Supreme Court agreed with the school.
No one in this saga ever claimed that the government can pick and choose a church’s ministers. Rather, the most important issue in the case was a very narrow factual dispute over what a single woman’s job was. But, of course, for Romney to realize this, he would actually have to spend some time learning basic facts before opening his mouth. And he has much more important things to do, like finding ways to copy Santorum’s successful strategy of telling falsehoods to GOP primary voters.
By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, February 9, 2012
Catholic bishops and their GOP allies have been in an uproar ever since the Obama administration announced new rules that require employers, including most religiously-affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans with no cost-sharing. Republican candidates have accused Obama of waging a “war against religious freedom.” Rick Santorum went so far as to say Obama has put America on “the path” of beheading devout citizens.
The less shrill voices have implored Obama to “compromise” by broadening the religious exemption to let religiously-affiliated hospitals refuse women contraception. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has made it clear they’re not interested in compromise. According to a report in USA Today, they aren’t just demanding a broader religious exemption from the new contraception coverage rule — they want contraception coverage removed from the Affordable Care Act altogether:
The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”
That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”
“If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.
In short, Catholic bishops are saying that federal laws shouldn’t apply to anyone who claims to have a religious objection to them. Houses of worship and other religious nonprofits are already completely exempt from the rule. It is only when religious institutions choose to go into business as hospitals and serve the general public that they are bound by the same laws as everyone else. Yet the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has promised a legal challenge.
But the organization does not speak for a majority of American Catholics, 52 percent of whom support requiring health plans to cover contraception. Several major Catholic universities and hospitals already offer contraception coverage.
By: Marie Diamond, Think Progress, February 9, 2012
This is a really old story, but let me tell you anyway.
When I was first married, my mother-in-law sat down at her kitchen table and told me about the day she went to confession and told the priest that she and her husband were using birth control. She had several young children, times were difficult — really, she could have produced a list of reasons longer than your arm.
“You’re no better than a whore on the street,” said the priest.
This was, as I said, a long time ago. It’s just an explanation of why the bishops are not the only Roman Catholics who are touchy about the issue of contraception.
These days, parish priests tend to be much less judgmental about parishioners who are on the pill — the military was not the first institution in this country to make use of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” system. “In most parishes in the United States, we don’t find them preaching about contraception,” said Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice. “And it’s not as though in the Mass you have a question-and-answer period.”
You have heard, I’m sure, that the Catholic bishops are in an uproar over an Obama administration rule that would require Catholic universities and hospitals to cover contraceptives in their health care plans. The Republican presidential candidates are roaring right behind. Mitt Romney claimed the White House was trying to “impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”
Let’s try to work this out in a calm, measured manner. (Easy for me to say. I already got my mother-in-law story off my chest.)
Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using pills, condoms or any other form of artificial contraception. A much-quoted study by the Guttmacher Institute found that virtually all sexually active Catholic women of childbearing age have violated the rule at one point or another, and that more than two-thirds do so consistently.
Here is the bishops’ response to that factoid: “If a survey found that 98 percent of people had lied, cheated on their taxes, or had sex outside of marriage, would the government claim it can force everyone to do so?”
O.K. Moving right along.
The church is not a democracy and majority opinion really doesn’t matter. Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment — to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.
The problem here is that they’re trying to get the government to do their work for them. They’ve lost the war at home, and they’re now demanding help from the outside.
And they don’t seem in the mood to compromise. Church leaders told The National Catholic Register that they regarded any deal that would allow them to avoid paying for contraceptives while directing their employees to other places where they could find the coverage as a nonstarter.
This new rule on contraceptive coverage is part of the health care reform law, which was designed to finally turn the United States into a country where everyone has basic health coverage. In a sane world, the government would be running the whole health care plan, the employers would be off the hook entirely and we would not be having this fight at all. But members of Congress — including many of the very same people who are howling and rending their garments over the bishops’ plight — deemed the current patchwork system untouchable.
The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.
We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?
Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we’ve worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don’t get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard.
The bishops should have at it. I wouldn’t try the argument that the priest used on my mother-in-law, but there’s always a billboard on the front lawn.
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 8, 2012