Public-sector jobs continued to disappear last month; according to today’s report, government employment is down by 4,000. To Republicans, these aren’t “real” jobs. For the rest of us, however, the decline of the public sector over the last three years has been a tremendous drag on economic growth. Since June 2009, state and local governments have shed more than 600,000 jobs. At the Economic Policy Institute, Josh Bivens and Heather Shierholz crunch the numbers to find that the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs if not for those ongoing losses:
Putting our four components together—the jobs lost in the public sector, the jobs the public sector should have gained just to keep up with population growth, the jobs lost in the private sector due to direct public-sector job declines, and the jobs likely lost when state spending cutbacks on transfer programs were made—we find that if it weren’t for state and local austerity, the labor market would have 2.3 million more jobs today—and half of these jobs would be in the private sector.
This is more than a fifth of our 9.8 million “jobs gap”, the number of jobs needed to bring the economy back to full employment. If all of these 2.3 million jobs had been filled, it is likely that the unemployment rate would now be between 6.7% and 7.5% instead of 8.2%, and the labor force participation rate (which has dropped dramatically in recent years due to weak job opportunities) would be up to three-tenths of a percentage point higher than it is.
Remember: Thanks to Republicans on the state and local level, the United States has been going through austerity for the last two years. Our sluggish economic growth has less to do with the administration’s policies and everything to do with a Republican Party that sees mass immiseration as an opportunity to cut spending.
BY: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 9, 2012
It’s still safe to say that, compared to the other Republicans who sought their party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney was the GOP’s best option. But there were warning signs during the primary season that he’d be far from an ideal challenger to President Obama, and the potential impact of his deficiencies is becoming clearer.
First, there’s the matter of Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney once ran. Because the economy figured to dominate the campaign, Romney set out to run on his business experience this time around, not his gubernatorial record. Early this year, Newt Gingrich had some success turning this emphasis around on Romney, stirring up resentment among blue collar Republican voters in South Carolina over Bain’s history of profiting while shutting down businesses and laying off workers.
Gingrich never really had a chance, but there was reason to suspect his formula would be useful for Democrats in the general election. And sure enough, after a few months of heavy Bain-focused attack advertising by an Obama-friendly super PAC, Romney’s image and standing in battleground states seems to have eroded. Whether the damage will be lasting is another question, but clearly playing the Bain card has at least the potential to steer swing voters away from the GOP candidate this November.
Then there’s healthcare, the issue that Rick Santorum once warned made Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” The problem for Romney is obvious: He championed a healthcare reform law in Massachusetts that helped position him for the 2008 White House race, then watched it become poison in the Republican Party when Obama adopted it as the blueprint from his national law.
So when the Supreme Court upheld the ACA two weeks ago, Romney’s instinct was not to join his fellow Republicans in denouncing the individual mandate as a tax. To do so would be to admit that his Massachusetts mandate had also been a tax. But this didn’t sit well with Republicans, forcing Romney to change his tune and invent a justification for claiming his mandate was somehow different than Obama’s.
Will the circumstances of Romney’s early July flip-flop end up mattering in November? Probably not. But the episode underscored how uncomfortable healthcare can be for Romney if he’s pressed on it – as he probably will be by Obama when they debate this fall. John Kerry’s experience running against George W. Bush comes to mind here. For all of the criticisms Kerry leveled against Bush over his conduct of the Iraq war, Bush was always able to point out that Kerry himself had voted for the war. In the same way, any time Romney rails against the ACA, Obama will be able to reply, “Gee, Mitt, where do you think I got the idea?”
And there’s also Romney’s top-1-percent image, which was accentuated during the primary season by a series of “wealth gaffes” by the candidate and revelations about his personal finances – particularly his use of Swiss bank accounts and offshore accounts. Again, this wasn’t enough to sink him against his comical primary season opposition, but it raised the possibility that Romney would be a poor match for a post–Wall Street meltdown general election – a man whose upbringing, professional history, personal lifestyle and general bearing all mark him as a member of the super-affluent elite. Obama and his fellow Democrats argue that the GOP treats the top one percent as a protected class, so in nominating Romney they are playing to type.
It’s not surprising, then, that Democrats have spent the last week playing up the pictures that emerged from Romney’s holiday retreat at his opulent lakefront home in New Hampshire, especially those featuring the candidate on his jet ski. And with the offshore accounts back in the news thanks to reports from Vanity Fair and the Associated Press, it was inevitable that Democrats would now make them a centerpiece of their anti-Romney talking points.
Romney’s goal is to be a generic opposition party candidate – to avoid controversy and policy details and to function as the protest vehicle for economically frustrated swing voters who are eager to vote Obama out. It’s not a bad game plan, given the state of the economy, and Romney certainly comes much closer to being generic than Santorum, Gingrich or any of the others who vied with him for the GOP nomination. But he has vulnerabilities that could ultimately keep a critical chunk of swing voters from checking his name off, and those vulnerabilities are beginning to come into focus.
By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, July 9, 2012
Mitt Romney has taken lots of abuse for being an out-of-touch rich guy whose struggles to connect to regular folks often produce comical results. But the stories coming out of Romney’s one-day fundraising marathon in the Hamptons (three separate events at the no doubt spectacular vacation homes of Ronald Perelman, Clifford Sobel, and David Koch) on Saturday actually make Romney look good.
Because the thing about Mitt is this: He’s trying. He may be terrible at it, but he’s making an effort to connect with ordinary people. He talks to them almost every day. Yes, the encounters are awkward and superficial, but he wants to be one of the fellas, and he understands that this is something he could be a lot better at. Whereas the people who came to these fundraisers are actually as pretentious, condescending, and elitist as Democrats would like people to believe Mitt Romney is.
Let’s stipulate that among the attendees at these events were some folks who are thoughtful and modest, treat their servants respectfully, and believe that all human beings have value. But it wasn’t hard for the reporters outside to find others who were walking caricatures of nouveau riche vulgarity. There’s the woman who stuck her head out of her Range Rover as she sat in a line of other luxury cars waiting to be checked through and yelled, “Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.” Then there’s this:
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point this woman buttonholed Romney and shared with him her insight about the importance of connecting with babysitters and nails ladies. That’s a big part of what you buy when you give a big fat donation—the right to personally deliver to the candidate your brilliant strategic insight. Every rich person thinks that their money proves how much they understand about politics, and it’s the candidate’s job to nod his head, look fascinated, and pretend that his perspective has been profoundly altered by the pearl of wisdom the rich person has just given him.
The fact that these really are Mitt Romney’s people, the ones for whom he will be working hard once he gets in office, doesn’t mean he doesn’t think plenty of them are idiots, because plenty of them are. And if he’s smart, he’ll make sure his advance team knows that never again should they allow reporters anywhere near his donors on the way into an event.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 9, 2012
Anyone following the presidential election is well aware that Mitt Romney has friends in rich places, and his campaign is out-fundraising and outspending President Obama’s by huge margins. On Friday’s TRMS, Rachel discussed the drastic monetary disparities between the two sides with Obama fundraiser and Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein.
So far in super PAC fundraising, Republicans have raised $158 million, and Dems only $47 million. Maddow asked Weinstein why he’s a fundraiser for Obama and what he thinks about the disparity.
The movie producer put it in his own terms:
“When you’re talking about spending money, I’ll give you an example of two movies that I distribute. I spent the exact same amount on both movies. One movie was called “The King’s Speech.” It grossed $140 million, won a few Oscars, including Best Picture, and did sensational based on its budget. The other picture was called “Our Idiot Brother” and we spent the same money and the movie grossed $25 million. Not bad for what we paid for it, a little bit of profit. To me, Romney is “Our Idiot Brother,” Obama is “The King’s Speech.” You can spend all the money in the world, but if you’ve got a bad product it doesn’t matter. Ask anybody on Madison Avenue, don’t ask the Wall Street guys, bring the advertising guys on. If I have a defective product, I can spend $5 billion and I’m not going to sell anything.”
The president has said he’s not worried about Romney’s “unlimited” resources, but Obama campaign manager Jim Messina sent an urgent email to donors on Friday asking them to open their wallets and start closing the gap. Maddow asked Weinstein why Democratic donors who’ve supported Obama in the past seem to be giving less money this election cycle.
“I think people are confident on the Democratic side. I think you see Romney and you hear even conservatives, Rupert Murdoch, criticizing Mitt Romney. And there’s so much dissention, Mike Lupica wrote a column at The Daily News calling him a ‘Mute’ Romney,” Weinstein said.
“He doesn’t say anything, maybe that’s why these guys have to raise all that money and have advertising. We have a president who speaks and speaks to the issues. They have a candidate who says nothing, they also have a campaign strategy which is ‘say nothing.’ At a certain point, the American public will get tired of it. If the Democrats need money, people will raise more. I think everybody is sitting back and saying, ‘why spend it if we don’t have to.’ If we have to, they will.”
The Weinstein Co. co-chair wants people to know he’s no bleeding heart liberal – he’s voted for Republicans and raised funds for them as well.
“When there’s a good man, there’s a good man – with all due respect to governor Romney, he is not capable of running the United States,” he said.
By: Quinn Wonderling, MSNBC Lean Forward, July 6, 2012
Mitt Romney escaped the record heat this weekend by attending several parties in his honor in the Hamptons. Early predictions were that one afternoon in this elite enclave would net the candidate more than $3 million for his campaign.
Less than 200 miles away in Philadelphia, where the median income hovers at $36,000 and a quarter of the city lives below the poverty line, there were no beach parties, but some disturbing news. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that state election officials upped the number of statewide voters potentially affected by the new voter ID laws from the 90,000 that Governor Corbett claimed to 758,000. A full 9.2 percent of the state’s eligible voters could be turned away from the polls in November, despite being eligible. In Philadelphia, where over half of the city’s residents are people of color, 18 percent of registered voters lack proper ID under the state’s new laws—laws that Pennsylvania House leader Mike Turzai claimed will deliver the state to Romney in November.
These twin anecdotes seem to perfectly capture the GOP 2012 plan for victory: “voters out, money in.” Despite the massive capital advantage the Republicans have accrued, they’re still driving a strategy of disenfranchisement and destruction that imperils our democracy and seeds distrust among a populace already experiencing record lows of confidence in their elected leadership.
Next week, pundits will be hyperventilating over the political fundraising totals from the last quarter. The cover of the Sunday NY Times Magazine breathlessly asks the rhetorical question, “Can Democrats Catch Up in the Super-PAC game?” Let’s get it clear: no, they can’t and no one ever claimed they could. But they also don’t need to—what they need is to raise some money, spend it smarter than their counterparts, and provide millions of people the legal means and the emotional desire to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The right understands this key to Democratic victory, which is why outraising is not enough. Victory requires dominating the system at both ends.
More than two dozen states have passed voter ID laws, with eleven passing in the last two years. Republicans, sensing the opportunity, have continually hyped the negligible threat of voter fraud in order to make voting tougher and tougher for the elderly, the poor, Latinos and African-Americans—all of whom tend to lean Democratic. Meanwhile, back in April, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson gave $10 million on one day to Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. Combined with $20 million to Newt Gingrich’s failed bid plus millions more to Rove and Koch brothers front groups, Adelson has given close to $60 million all told, and has stated publicly that he’ll spend up to $100 million to defeat Barack Obama.
What’s driving these actions at both ends of the spectrum is a mix of personal entitlement, business efficiency and good old-fashioned elitism, with a healthy dose of racism. Take Adelson: he’s in for high stakes because his personal stakes are high. He’s under investigation by both the Department of Justice and the Security and Exchange Commission for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying off local officials and working with organized crime to further his gambling empire in Macau, China. The Obama administration has been diligent about prosecuting FCPA cases, while Adelson presumes the heat would be off under a Romney presidency. When you have $25 billion, what’s $100 million to secure your freedom?
Adelson also makes 90 percent of his earnings from his casinos in Macau and Singapore, a high number, but not unheard of for US companies operating abroad. Obama has promised to close the loopholes that allow these corporations to shelter earnings overseas, robbing US treasuries of billions in tax dollars. Preserving offshore tax havens is not the only place where donating big bucks to GOP Super PACs is a highly efficient business model. Mega-donors David and Charles Koch’s company, Koch Industries, spent a whopping $40 million on disclosed lobbying expenditures between 2008 and 2010. The price of a fundraiser in the Hamptons is peanuts compared to that tab. Between the tax plan and the estate tax, high-net-worth folks stand to save millions annually under Romney. The candidate himself would save almost $5 million per year under his own plan.
Apparently, when the stakes are this high, you don’t take chances. Hence, the full court press on disenfranchisement. In Florida, the GOP governor has been so intent on purging voter rolls of Latino-sounding names that the Justice Department filed an injunction and sixty-seven election supervisors courageously refused to implement the program until he proves his claims in each case.
Self-serving economics is a repugnant driver, but the psychology that allows lawmakers to deny fundamental rights to their constituents while their rank and file stand by is even more insidious. In a rare moment of honesty, a GOP donor that shelled out $25,000 to attend one of the Romney events yesterday had this to say to a LA Times reporter:
“I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them… But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies—everybody who’s got the right to vote—they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income—one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”
While it’s the money they flaunt, it’s the people they fear, a fact that would serve us well to remember as limited resources are spent in 2012 and beyond. As progressives work to protect the vote for every American citizen in the short term and to blunt the impact of big money on our democratic process, let’s not lose focus on long-term investments in our own not-so-secret weapon: the people—of all colors and ages, all incomes levels, in the cities and on the farms—that make this country great. When they all have a voice, we all win.
By: Ilyse Hogue, The Nation, July 9, 2012