Setting the groundwork for the GOP congressional capitulation to President Obama’s insistence that interest rates not be raised on college loans, Speaker John Boehner announced today that the House will vote to keep the rates at the current level and will pay for it from a ‘slush fund’ in the Affordable Care Act.
In making his announcement, Boehner claimed there was never any intent on the GOP’s part to raise the rates on student loans and that President Obama had simply manufactured this disagreement to score political points with young voters and their families.
I wonder, then, how the Speaker would explains the provision in the Ryan Budget—passed last month by all the Republicans in the House but ten—that doubles the student loan rate to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012?
And that Obamacare ‘slush fund’ the Speaker intends to raid to pay for holding the line on the student loans?
It turns out, the fund in jeopardy was created in the Affordable Care Act to screen women for breast and cervical cancer in addition to providing funds for the treatment of children with birth defects.
This, apparently, is Speaker Boehner’s idea of a slush fund.
While it was clear from the start that Congressional Republicans had handed the president a political gold mine by opposing the freeze on student loan interest rates, it is not only Speaker Boehner’s troops that find themselves behind the political eight ball. Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, after managing to work out that supporting the hike was a serious political loser, came out in support of the President’s position earlier this week. By doing so, Romney has now put himself in opposition with the Ryan budget for which he has previously offered up his strong and complete support.
BY: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, April 25, 2012
Well, the results of the latest wave of primaries are in. The people have spoken, decisively. All 10 of them.
I am exaggerating. In Rhode Island, well over 3 percent of the eligible voters flocked to the polls on Tuesday, as the overwhelming majority declared their enthusiasm for Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee. We are totally talking mandate.
And I cannot tell you how much excitement there was in New York. Six percent turnout! In my neighborhood, the atmosphere was electric. Voters had not been so politically exercised since that year we had a primary pitting a recently deceased congressman and a member of a cultlike group led by a Marxist psychotherapist.
And, wow, no more Newt Gingrich.
Newt is reportedly planning to drop out of the presidential race on Tuesday. The crushing blow was the Delaware primary, where the Gingrich campaign had hoped to win a dramatic come-from-behind victory under the theory that only a couple of Republicans would actually vote and that they would be the same people who once nominated Christine O’Donnell for the Senate.
Unfortunately, a whopping 16 percent of the eligible electorate showed up, way too big a crowd for the fragile Gingrich candidacy to withstand. This has been a terrible month for Newt. His campaign is millions in debt. His pet billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, seems to have deserted him. He was bitten by a penguin at the St. Louis Zoo. And now this.
Did you ever notice how many of the Republican candidates seemed to have animal issues? Rick Perry shot that coyote, and Jon Huntsman got bitten by a goat — really, that was the high point of the Huntsman campaign. Also, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the veep front-runner, recently imitated a chicken on television. You will be hearing more about this incident because I think I speak for the entire national media when I say that we are planning to discuss possible Republican vice presidential candidates nonstop through the spring and summer.
And the winner is the guy who drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car!
“My guess is you’ll see a dramatic difference in the youth vote this time — part of it is you have a younger, more dynamic Republican candidate,” said a Romney surrogate, former Senator Hank Brown.
Take that, young Americans. You can’t find jobs because the baby boomers are never going to retire. The Republicans in Congress want to raise the price of student loans. And, in politics, 65-year-olds get to be the youth candidate.
We are now in for six months of Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, and with the polls showing the race to be very close, you could argue that it is going to be really exciting. Except for the fact that it’s Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama.
Ignore the polls, I beg you. It will just make you nervous and crazy for no good reason. When it comes to their political preferences, the American people are like a bunch of middle school students picking their best friend on Facebook. Do you know who one of the most popular political figures in the United States is right now? Hillary Clinton! Nearly two-thirds of Americans are crazy about Hillary Clinton, and only 27 percent view her unfavorably. Do you remember when she was the most polarizing name in politics? Do you remember when she lost to Barack Obama and we all said it was like the cool popular guy versus the hard-working student council treasurer? Barack Obama would kill for Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings now.
Romney is now busy with a passel of closed-door fund-raisers in states like New Jersey and New York, which he will never, ever, visit for any other reason than closed-door fund-raisers. Newt’s future plans are unknown. Perhaps he will go back to that great job he had before, getting $300,000 fees for his advice as a historian to corporations with big financial interests pending in Congress. And what about Rick Santorum? You can’t spend the rest of your life not endorsing Mitt Romney. The only guy who seems to have his future plotted out is Ron Paul, who is apparently planning to continue running for president while we all ignore him.
So many surprises to look forward to. What humanizing interchange will Mitt have with the public next? Will it be as good as the last one, when he insulted the cookies at a Pittsburgh community center? Will he win over the loser Republicans’ billionaires? Their celebrity supporters? Rich guys are one thing, but Gary Busey will take some wooing.
Will he ever release all his tax returns? Will he keep the Kid Rock theme song for his campaign? Have we ever had a presidential nominee who walks on stage to a song that seems to suggest he is “wild, like an untamed stallion?” When we did, would you have imagined it would be Mitt Romney?
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 25, 2012
It turns out that there is at least one question on which Mitt Romney is not a flip-flopper: He has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve.
He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign, and it may prove to be his undoing.
Here’s Romney’s problem. His best strategy is to cast President Obama as a failure because the economy has not come all the way back from the implosion of 2008. The most effective passages in his well-reviewed speech after his primary victories Tuesday were about the shortcomings of the status quo.
“Is it easier to make ends meet?” Romney asked. “Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more at your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Are you paying less at the pump?”
And there was the line pundits were bound to love that played off James Carville’s memorable utterance from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. “It’s still about the economy,” Romney said, clearly relishing the moment, “and we’re not stupid.”
But Romney, unlike Clinton, is not offering a program through which government would take specific steps to solve the problems he catalogues. Instead, he is calling on voters to share his faith that our difficulties would go away if the state simply got out of the way, allowed the market do its thing and counted on the success of the successful to lift up everyone else.
Romney is right in saying he has “a very different vision” from Obama’s, and this is where the magic comes in. He envisions “an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. And because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hardworking, educated, skilled employees is intense, so wages and salaries rise.”
Just like that, all would be well — as if we never needed the trust-busting of the Progressive Era, the social legislation of the New Deal, the health programs of the Great Society and the coordinated action of the world’s governments in 2008 and 2009 to keep the Great Recession from becoming something far worse.
This is Romney’s true radicalism. I suspect it is a principled radicalism. And exposing its implications will be Obama’s opening to make the campaign about something other the economy, stupid. Romney’s speech Tuesday was every bit as important as his supporters said it was. It contained both the foundation of an effective campaign based on the electorate’s discontents and the basis for undermining the very argument Romney wants to make.
Romney’s philosophical inclinations give the president ample room to speak to non-ideological, non-utopian voters, the 10 percent or 15 percent who will decide this election.
They may not like government very much, but they are also wary about what capitalism does when the watchdogs fall asleep. They don’t cotton to further tax cuts for the wealthy. They reject the idea that worrying about how unequal the rewards in our society have become is the same thing as being “envious” of those who have done well. They are fully onboard that opportunity and not “entitlement” is the American way. But they rather welcome the help — low-interest student loans, for example — that government can offer to those looking to rise and prosper.
That’s why Romney’s shift to Obama’s side in the president’s battle with House Republicans over student loans may be his most instructive flip-flop yet. It shows that Romney will do all he can to soften his underlying radicalism. His goal is to deprive Obama of ways to reveal the concrete impact of free-market utopianism — and the price of the cutbacks Romney embraced by endorsing Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.
What Romney has going for him is a journalistic presumption that he is either a closet “moderate” or so opportunistic that he is altogether lacking in a coherent worldview. The first is wrong. The second is unfair to Romney. What he believes matters, and it is the biggest obstacle between him and the White House.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 25, 2012
President Obama and Senate Democrats have been trying to implement the Buffett rule, a minimum tax on millionaires, which would remedy the problem of millionaires being able to pay lower tax rates than middle class families. One state lawmaker in Iowa thinks his state needs its own version — the Branstad rule — after Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) was able to pay just $52in state income taxes on his nearly $200,000 in income:
Gov. Terry Branstad’s $52 state income tax bill in 2011 is proof that fixes are needed in the tax system, Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids said today.
“Some people talk about nationally we need a Buffet rule, maybe in Iowa we need a Branstad rule,” said Hogg, who additionally noted that a person making between $30,000 to $40,000 a year can expect to pay somewhere around $1,000 or more in state income tax.
Branstad was able to pay such a low amount because Iowa is one of just six states in the country that allows residents to write off their federal income tax payments from the previous year on their current year’s tax return. So Branstad was able to apply his 2010 federal income tax payments — which were paid on the salary he received from his prior job as the president of Des Moines University — to this year’s state income tax bill.
Iowa loses $642 million annually due to this provision, nearly one quarter of its total income tax revenue. More than half of the benefit of the deduction goes to the richest 5 percent of Iowans, while 76 percent of the benefits go to the richest 20 percent. “States should take a hard look at eliminating, or at least capping, their deduction because of the impact this lopsided tax policy has on state budgets and tax fairness,” the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy wrote. Branstad’s administration called his low tax bill an anomaly.
By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, April 25, 2012
So, to recap Mitt Romney’s new stump speech, he thinks Americans should vote on whether they’re financially better off than they were in 2008 — which is to say, they should blame President Obama for the effects of the Great Recession. He accuses Obama of attempting to run the campaign instead on “diversions, distractions, and distortions.”
What does Romney mean by that? He means that Obama wants Americans to base their vote on who has their interest at heart. Obama argues, and I would agree, that Romney’s agenda advances the narrow interests of the richest Americans at the expense of the broader interest. And of course, this is a fundamental ideological divide between the two candidates and their parties. Democrats want to maintain (and slightly expand) the government’s role in redistributing income from the best-off Americans to the most vulnerable. Republicans consider that sort of redistribution essentially illegitimate. What Romney calls a distraction is actually the most important issue of the election.
That isn’t to say he ignores it completely. Romney’s speech does contain one somewhat oblique passage in which he attempts to turn the fairness issue back against Obama. His argument is revealing. Here’s how Romney puts it:
I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. …
This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.
In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.
Romney has to couch the implications of his argument carefully, but the underlying logic is perfectly clear. He believes that fairness is defined by market outcomes. If Romney earns a thousand times as much as a nurse in Topeka, it is solely because his character, education, or hard work entitle him to that. To the extent that unfairness exists, it is solely the doing of government: clean energy, laws permitting union dues, overpaid government employees, and so on. Aside from unfairness imposed by government, poverty is attributable to the bad choices or deficient character or upbringing of poor people.
Now I doubt that Romney actually believes the full implications of this, even though many Republicans certainly do. But it is striking that Romney’s formulation makes no allowance for the role of government in alleviating unfairness created by the marketplace. To be sure, he is just making a campaign speech, but every speech by Obama invariably has passages lauding the marketplace and wealth. Here’s Obama yesterday:
In America, we admire success. We aspire to it. I want everybody here to do great, be rich, go out and start a business. That’s wonderful.
Now, campaign rhetoric is campaign rhetoric, but in this case it reflects an underlying reality. Obama wants the government to do a bit more to reduce inequality, but he is not proposing to change the United States’ place as the most unequal advanced economy on Earth. His opponent has adopted the position that any interference with the natural level of inequality created by the market is illegitimate. He may not want to take that philosophy to its absolute limit, but he is running on a program that would go very far toward implementing it.
The desire by Democrats to center the campaign on this basic philosophical choice is not a distraction, nor is it an attack on wealth. It’s an attempt to highlight what the election is actually about.
By: Jonathan Chait, The Daily Beast, April 25, 2012