About a year ago, the job market looked a lot like it does now — after a strong winter, the economy stumbled badly in May and job growth stalled. Once the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis was resolved, President Obama shifted gears, refocused his agenda, and unveiled the American Jobs Act.
It seems like ages ago, but it was just last September when the president delivered an address to a joint session of Congress, laying out a detailed plan to boost job creation. It’s easy to forget, but it was a credible, serious plan — the AJA would have prevented thousands of layoffs for teachers, cops, and firefighters; invested heavily in infrastructure; and cut taxes intended to spur hiring.
Independent analysis concluded the plan would have a significant and positive effect. From an AP report in September:
A tentative thumbs-up. That was the assessment Thursday night from economists who offered mainly positive reviews of President Barack Obama’s $450 billion plan to stimulate job creation. [...]
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimated that the president’s plan would boost economic growth by 2 percentage points, add 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a full percentage point next year compared with existing law.
Macroeconomic Advisers wasn’t quite as optimistic, but its analysis projected that the White House plan “would give a significant boost to GDP and employment over the near-term.” The firm would expect to see the proposal create at least 1.3 million jobs.
Despite public clamoring for action on jobs, congressional Republicans reflexively killed the American Jobs Act, saying it was unnecessary. The House wouldn’t bring it up for a vote, and a Republican filibuster killed it in the Senate. For GOP policymakers, this was a time when Washington should stop investing in job creation and start focusing on austerity — lower the deficit, take capital out of the economy, and everything would work out fine.
As panic sets in after this morning’s brutal jobs report, take a moment to consider a hypothetical: what would the economy look like today if Congress had followed Obama’s lead, responded to public-opinion polls, and passed the American Jobs Act? In 2012, do you think the nation could use those 1.3 million jobs or not?
Are we better off now as a result of Republican obstructionism and intransigence, or would we have been better off if popular and effective job-creation measures had been approved?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 1, 2012
The latest meme making the Beltway rounds at the urging of Mitt Romney’s staff is that their candidate has really pulled a fast one on the “conservative base” of his party: he’s a “moderate” (you know, like Bill Clinton) who’s figured out he can keep the wingnuts happy just by being a Breitbartian badass towards Obama. Give’ em Solyndra photo ops, the meme suggests, and they won’t make Romney endorse the Gold Standard or a Personhood Amendment. McKay Coppins wrote up the meme today for Buzzfeed:
The conventional wisdom of the chattering class has been that Romney is captive to the Republican Party’s conservative base, desperate and anxious to maintain their tepid support. But his new appeal to the right marks a recognition that he can court conservatives without, in any traditional sense, “tacking right.” His aggressive tactics stand in for the sort of policy compromises that could damage him in November; better, his advisers argue, to court conservatives with a press conference shouting match than with a high-profile fight over abortion or gay marriage. What’s more, they say, the media obsession with Romney “pandering” to the right represents a misunderstanding of conservatives, who can live with Romney’s moderate record – as long as he’s a fighting moderate.
So the idea here is that every time Romney pleases the crazy people by echoing one of their favorite attack lines on Obama, or simply looks the other way when they pursue craziness (e.g., Trump’s neo-birtherism), it’s a sign Mitt is actually being faithful to his “moderate” course, giving the Right bread and circuses while intending to offer swing voters—and America—that fine “moderate” governance.
If anyone buys this meme, then they’re falling for a stunt a lot more transparent than the base-tending hijinks that have supposedly fooled the right-wing rubes.
It should be enough for anyone that Romney has endorsed two large and violently immoderate measures: the Ryan budget, and Jim DeMint’s Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, those twin substantive litmus tests for a candidate’s commitment to a long-term agenda focused on a radically reduced government at all levels supported by a more regressive tax system. He’s also promised to try to make abortion and same-sex marriage illegal through federal policy if possible and judicial appointments if necessary; there is nothing “moderate” about reversing 40 years of legalized abortion. And don’t get me started on Romney’s foreign policy views, which seem to combine the worst features of Dick Cheney and John Bolton.
Are there right-wing policy positions too extreme for Romney to embrace unless he has to? Of course; there always are and always will be; we’re living in a moment of movement conservative triumphalism so powerful that no one is safe of the charge of being insufficiently pure. That doesn’t make Mitt some sort of safe “centrist” alternative to Obama who’s managed to outmanuever a weak field and trick the Right into accepting his nomination, and is now tricking hard-core conservatives again by giving them the sizzle of the psychotic campaign they crave instead of the steak.
By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 1, 2012
Lost in the exhaust of mendacity left in Las Vegas this week, after Donald Trump brought his birther fantasies to town on behalf of Mitt Romney, was a curious statement by the man who has now cinched the Republican nomination for president.
On Tuesday, the same day Trump proved yet again that money and truth, like money and taste, are seldom twined, Romney talked about amending the Constitution to require the president to have business experience. He spoke approvingly of a notion from a store owner who wanted to make anyone who does not have at least three years of business background ineligible to lead the country.
“He said, ‘I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birth place of the president being set by the Constitution, I’d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States,’” said Romney, cheerfully summarizing this rewrite of the founders’ governing blueprint.
Well, there goes Teddy Roosevelt, the writer, rancher and police commissioner, not to mention his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt, the assistant naval secretary and politician, or Dwight Eisenhower, the career soldier. Ike’s résumé, which includes defeating the world’s most concentrated form of evil in Nazi Germany, would not be enough to qualify him for the presidency.
Romney has made business experience the main reason to elect him. Without his business past or his projections of business future, there is no there there. But history shows that time in the money trade is more often than not a prelude to a disastrous presidency. The less experience in business, the better the president.
In a scholarly ranking of great presidents, a 2009 survey conducted by C-Span,6 of the 10 best leaders lacked sufficient business experience to be president by Romney’s rumination. This list includes Ronald Reagan, the actor, union activist and corporate spokesman, and John F. Kennedy, the naval officer, writer and politician. There is one failed businessman on the list of great presidents, the haberdasher Harry S. Truman.
By contrast, two 20th century businessmen — George W. Bush, whose sweetheart deal with the Texas Rangers made him a multimillionaire, and Herbert Hoover, who came by his mining fortune honestly — were ranked among the worst presidents ever by the same historians. Bush left the country in a sea of debt and an economic crisis rivaled only by the one that engulfed Hoover.
Both George W. Bush and Romney are Harvard Business School graduates, further padding their business cred. Once they started governing, both men failed to improve the economic lives of those under them.
At Bain Capital, Romney as C.E.O. practiced a very Darwinian form of capitalism for 14 years; he points to his time there as a model for how he would turn around the American economy. But it’s clear that enriching a handful of shareholders often has very little to do with job creation. The point of private equity, after all, is to make deals that turn investments into profits — nothing more. In that realm, Romney has succeeded.
Once he moved from running Bain to running the Bay State, Romney was a failure at job creation. His state ranked 47th. Job growth nationwide, even under the sluggish economy of George W. Bush, was five times higher than it was in the Massachusetts run by Romney from 2003 to 2007. This was reflected in his approval ratings — 34 percent in the last full year of his term, making him one of the most unpopular governors in the country, ranked 48 out of 50.
The biggest job creator of modern times, Bill Clinton, wouldn’t know a spreadsheet from a cooked derivative. His business experience was nil, but he had governing smarts, and his instincts were usually right. Under Clinton’s watch, the United States added 23 million new jobs — this after he raised “job-killing” taxes on the rich.
Romney never mentions Clinton’s formula for prosperity, or that of Franklin Roosevelt, the other business-challenged president who took the American economy to new highs. Roosevelt had been through a traumatic life experience, the diagnosis of polio, that made him a man of resolve, with empathy for the average person.
“If you spent two years in bed trying to wiggle your toes, after that anything would seem easy,” said Roosevelt. When he ran for president in 1932, his theme was “the forgotten man.”
Romney has shown a strange tendency to fetishize wealth, from his belief that “corporations are people” to his boasting of how many Cadillacs his wife drives. His European role model would have to be Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man. A media tycoon, the Rupert Murdoch of his country, Berlusconi was laughably bad as a three-time prime minister.
The verdict is still out on Barack Obama, the community organizer, lawyer and writer. Because he got hit with the Bush hangover, his overall job numbers show a net loss of about 850,000, from January 2009 to the present. But if you start a year into his presidency, Obama has added almost four million jobs.
We aren’t electing a C.E.O. to occupy the White House. We’re looking for good judgment, broad life experience, flashes of wisdom. Still, for those who insist on making business the bottom line in who they pick, the past is indeed predictive.
By: Timothy Egan, The New York Times, May 31, 2012
“Violating Basic Civil Rights”: Gov Rick Scott’s Florida Voter Purge Gets Pushback From Elections Supervisors And U.S. Justice Dept
Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because the U.S. Department of Justice has said the process violates federal voting laws.
Late Thursday, the Department of Justice sent Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner a letter telling him that an effort launched by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration last year to remove the names of people believed to be non-citizens from voter rolls appears to violate at least two federal voting laws. The federal agency gave Detzner until Wednesday to respond.
The Justice Department letter and mistakes that the 67 county elections supervisors have found in the state list make the scrub undoable, said Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
“There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” Davis said.
Ron Labasky, the association’s general counsel, sent a memo to the 67 supervisors Friday telling them to stop processing the list.
“I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court,” Labasky wrote.
Davis said the effect on supervisors will be “if they’ve started the process and they do find out that someone is ineligible to vote and they have credible and reliable information to back it up, then they will remove that person from the database. But if they have not had contact with someone on the list, they’re stopping at that point.”
Detzner in April sent supervisors a list of more than 2,600 voters his Division of Elections had identified as potential non-citizens by matching the state’s voter registration database with driver license records. Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher received 115 such names.
Supervisors were supposed to send letters to those on the list notifying them to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days or be removed from the voter rolls. But supervisors say they have found errors, including some on the list who have died, many who have become naturalized citizens since they first got their driver licenses, and others who are U.S.-born citizens — including a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born World War II hero who now lives in Broward County.
Detzner’s spokesman, Chris Cate, said of the supervisors’ plan, “The supervisors have the ultimate duty of making the determination of eligibility. We respect the process and we have confidence in their capability to determine if someone is an ineligible voter or not.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department said the scrub appears to violate at least two federal National Voting Rights Act laws.
Five counties in Florida require federal approval before any voting or election changes are made for those counties, but Detzner did not seek approval from the Justice Department or a federal court, according to the letter written by T. Christian Herren, chief of the Justice Department’s voting section.
Florida’s current effort also appears to violate the National Voting Right Act’s prohibition on any major voter scrub 90 days before an election, Herron wrote. With an Aug. 14 primary scheduled in Florida, that would prohibit scrubs after May 16.
Herren gave Detzner until Wednesday to respond “so that the Department can determine what further action, if any, is necessary.”
Detzner issued a press release Friday indicating he will respond on time but will not back down from the state’s effort.
“As Florida’s Chief Election Officer, I am committed to ensuring the accuracy of Florida’s voter rolls and the integrity of our elections. . . . The Department will continue to act in a responsible and cautious manner when presented with credible information about potentially ineligible voters. No one that has the right to vote has been denied the opportunity to cast a vote, and as the Secretary, it is my duty to ensure that remains the case,” Detzner said.
Cate said the agency disagrees with the federal department’s interpretation of the 90-day restriction on voter list maintenance.
“We’ll address that specifically in our response to DOJ,” he said. “We have a year-round responsibility to make sure ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot.”
Detzner also has blamed federal officials for the faulty data. On Thursday, he sent a request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for access to its Systematic Alien Verification of Eligibility database so that his department could use it to identify potentially ineligible voters.
Last month the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles volunteered to help state elections officials by using its access to the federal database to check Florida’s list of suspected non-citizens. But this week the highway department determined it is only allowed to use the list to check the names of people who are applying for driver licenses or state identification cards, DHSMV spokeswoman Courtney Heidelberg said.
The effort to remove names of immigrants from voter rolls has sparked accusations from civil-rights and liberal groups that Scott’s Republican administration is trying to suppress voter turnout in November in the crucial swing state of Florida.
“The question no one is asking is why are they doing this,” said Progress Florida Political Director Damien Filer. “The fact is Rick Scott is carrying on a disgraceful GOP legacy of disenfranchising voters in Florida. And he’s doing it on purpose. Sadly, Florida is once again a late-show punch line. Jon Stewart and Jay Leno are no doubt thrilled. Florida voters, not so much.”
In 2000, thousands of eligible voters were not allowed to vote because of an error-riddled felon voter list created under Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration. State officials abandoned another problematic felon voter list four years later.
Liberal activists started an online petition at credoaction.com asking the Justice Department to intervene, and Democrats, including Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have asked Scott’s administration to abandon the effort.
GOP leaders also intensified the rhetoric this week.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry urged supporters to call or e–mail the White House to demand that the Homeland Security department give Detzner access to its database.
“While Democrats and their liberal special interests demagogue the important issue of securing our elections, they seem happy to accept that illegal voters may be in our system,” Curry said on the party’s website, rpof.org. “Florida’s Republicans believe the vote is the foundation of our democracy, and it is too important to allow even one illegal vote to be cast.”
Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux responded, “Pointing the finger at SAVE or other databases is a smokescreen and it’s a red herring for a system that’s clearly rife with error.”
By: Dara Kam, Staff Writer, The Palm Beach Post, June 2, 2012
On Thursday, Mitt Romney campaigned at the headquarters of Solyndra — the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan under the stimulus — and reiterated his debunked claims that its bankruptcy symbolized the corruption and cronyism of the Obama administration. But just one day later, a solar panel developer “that landed a state loan from Mitt Romney when he was Massachusetts governor” went belly up, the Boston Herald reports, creating an inconvenient storyline for the GOP presidential nominee.
The company, Konarka Technologies, “filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and will cease operations, lay off its 85 workers and liquidate”:
“Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations,” CEO Howard Berke said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”
The demise of Konarka could become a hot topic on the campaign trail because Romney personally doled out a $1.5 million renewable energy subsidy to the Lowell startup in 2003, shortly after taking office on Beacon Hill.
Konarka is the second Massachusetts solar company, along with Evergreen Solar and Beacon Power, to receive taxpayer dollars under Romney’s tenure and subsequently declare bankruptcy.
Romney, meanwhile, routinely dismisses the nation’s 3.1 million clean energy jobs, even as clean energy is booming in Massachusetts. The industry has created 64,000 jobs across the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, June 2, 2012