“The Opposite Of Patriotism”: Republican Resistance To Hurricane Relief Is A Stink Of Hypocrisy, And Worse
Provoked by opposition to Hurricane Sandy relief among House Republicans – and the delay in voting the first tranche of aid by Speaker John Boehner – both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and representative Peter King (R-NY) denounced the irresponsibility and cruelty of those betrayals. Even when that first bill passed, 67 Republicans voted no, in contrast with only 11 who voted no when Congress provided emergency funding for Hurricane Katrina (far more quickly, too) in 2005.
The Tea Party Republicans in Congress would offer various excuses for their hostility to Sandy relief, from budgetary constraints to far-right ideology. But those who voted no hail from states that have benefited from all kinds of federal relief over the past two decades, financed by Northeastern taxpayers who send a wildly disproportionate sum in levies to Washington every year.
Moving down the alphabet from Hurricane Andrew onward over the past two decades, it is not hard to trace tens of billions of dollars for storm relief alone that have flowed from New York and Connecticut to the South, the Gulf Coast, the Midwest and other regions over the years, with never a word of demurral over costs, “pork,” or “offsets” from other federal spending.
Then consider the many other forms of federal aid that have benefited the regions where “conservative” fiscal stringency supposedly prevails, and a disturbing habit quickly emerges: Republican members of Congress tend to support aid packages that benefit their own states or districts, while opposing help for other Americans. This doesn’t hold true for all Republicans or conservatives, of course, but it is nevertheless a detectable pattern.
The most obvious example in recent years is the rescue of the auto industry, a decision of national importance supported by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, which nearly all Republicans rejected – except those from Michigan and auto-plant districts in several surrounding states. Those in favor included Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chair from Wisconsin, who voted for the bailout and then, while running for vice president on the GOP ticket, pretended to have opposed it. But he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Sandy relief.
The Republicans in Kansas, whose entire four-member delegation voted against Sandy relief, never voiced any opposition to the massive aid provided by the federal government in 2007 when the city of Greensburg was devastated by a Force 5 tornado – or for that matter all the other instances of disaster assistance accepted by that benighted state over the decades. Nor did the Republicans in places like Missouri or Georgia or any of the other states severely damaged by flooding in recent years suddenly stop their routine pleading for federal aid, which they duly received.
The biggest frauds are naturally to be found in Texas, one of the drought-stricken states where the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and sundry federal agencies have been spending vast sums to help farmers, ranchers, and other suffering residents. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a right-wing Texas Republican whose district includes bone-dry Lubbock, praised those federal bureaucrats just last summer for spending funds to help farmers and ranchers in his Lubbock district “mitigate damage caused by wildfires and drought.” Quoted in a local newspaper, Neugebauer said, “I hope that FEMA will quickly follow suit and declare a major disaster declaration for affected Texas counties.” But this week, Neugebauer was one of seven Texas Republicans who voted against Sandy relief, along with fellow wingnuts from drought-afflicted districts across the South and West.
All this represents something worse than cheap hypocrisy, which often crosses political and ideological lines. The behavior of these Republicans is rooted in their selfish ideology and regional chauvinism – and their rejection of a generous spirit that has united this country for more than a hundred years. It is the opposite of patriotism.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 5, 2013
“I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars,” said Mitt Romney on Monday night when he met with President Obama to discuss foreign policy. “And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry.”
That might be considered true—unless moving the most important American auto parts manufacturer to China counts as hurting the U.S. auto industry. But those words now stand as one of Romney’s most glaring falsehoods in the final debate.
Romney’s defensive statement came in response to a remark by Obama noting that the Republican nominee is “familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas.” Moments later, he added: “If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.”
Most viewers had little idea what Obama was talking about or why Romney felt the need to rebut him so specifically. But their coded exchange almost certainly referred to an investigative report that broke wide on the Internet, without much attention from the mainstream media so far—Greg Palast’s article in The Nation magazine, exposing Romney’s huge profits from Delphi, a crucial auto parts company that moved nearly all of its jobs to China after taking billions in auto bailout money from the Treasury.
As Palast reported, the Romneys made millions from that intricate deal, put together by one of his main campaign donors, billionaire investor Paul Singer — through a “vulture fund” known as Elliot Management. Having bought up Delphi at fire-sale prices, Singer and his partners essentially blackmailed the Treasury into paying them billions so that Delphi would keep supplying parts to General Motors and Chrysler. They stiffed the company’s pensioners, pocketed the bailout funds, and moved all but four of the firm’s 29 plants to China.
The neglect of the Delphi story by mainstream and even progressive outlets such as MSNBC has been remarkable, particularly because neither Romney nor his campaign has denied it. If anything, a statement issued by the campaign to The Hill, a Washington publication, seemed to confirm Palast’s reporting by attempting to deflect blame onto the Obama administration:
Romney’s campaign did not deny that he profited from the auto bailout in an email to The Hill Wednesday afternoon, but it said the the report showed the Detroit intervention was “misguided.”
“The report states that Delphi had 29 US plants before the misguided Obama auto bailout, and just four after. Is this really what the president views as success?” Romney spokeswoman Michele Davis said.
“Mitt Romney would have taken a different path to turning around the auto industry,” Davis continued. “As President, Mitt Romney will create jobs and give American workers the recovery they deserve.”
Taking Delphi bankrupt under the management of Singer and Romney’s other partners didn’t create jobs or security for Delphi’s American workers. After taking nearly $13 billion in bailout financing from the Treasury — with the support of Rep. Paul Ryan, who has also received generous support from Singer — the new Delphi management abrogated the company’s pensions, closed all those U.S. plants, and moved production to China. And so far, Romney has escaped any questions about why he and Ann Romney invested their millions with vulture investors who used taxpayer funds to destroy American jobs.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 23, 2012
Faced with the hard facts that “bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” as Vice President Biden always says, Mitt Romney has resorted to claiming that Obama followed his lead on the auto industry bailout. “I know [Obama] keeps saying, you wanted to take Detroit bankrupt,” he said during this week’s debate at Hofstra University. “Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt.” Romney’s right, in a way — both his plan and Obama’s plan envisioned the auto companies going through a period of bankruptcy restructuring. But there’s a key difference: Obama’s approach was to use government dollars to prop up the auto companies until they could stand on their own again — something that Romney, like other Republicans in the Tea Party’s anti-spending thrall, adamantly opposed as dangerous government intervention in private industry.
But it turns out that Romney should know firsthand that this kind of intervention can be successful, as a new report shows that he and his wife made at least $15.3 million courtesy of Obama’s auto bailout. According to a Greg Palast, who followed the paper trail for the Nation, Romney and his wife made the money via an investment in a hedge fund that saw astronomical returns on its investments in an auto parts maker that would have gone under absent the president’s rescue operation.
Delphi, the auto parts company, was once part of General Motors but was spun off in 1999. It foundered on its own and declared bankruptcy in 2005, at which point hedge funds came in and bought up the company’s old debt. Among them was Elliott Management, a giant in the industry run by GOP mega-donor Paul Singer. Romney was an investor. Elliott and the other hedge funds were able to buy Delphi’s toxic debt for a fraction of their face value, around 20 cents on the dollar. In 2009, as bailout negotiations were underway, Elliott used their bonds to buy large shares in the company, again for pennies (this time for about 67 cents per share). Not only would Delphi have gone out of business along with its largest customer, GM, but the parts maker got at least $2.8 billion directly from the taxpayer-funded Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In 2011, Elliott and the other hedge funds took Delphi public at $22 a share, making a whopping 3,000 percent return on their investment of less than 70 cents a share.
So how much did Romney make? His personal financial disclosure forms say he and Ann Romney had at least $1 million invested, but the disclosure rules are so vague that it could be far more. Palast sketches out the possible windfall:
It is reasonable to assume that Singer treated the Romneys the same as his other investors, with a third of their portfolio invested in Delphi by the time of the 2011 initial public offering. This means that with an investment of at least $1 million, their smallest possible gain when Delphi went public would have been $10.2 million, plus another $10.2 million for each million handed to Singer — all gains made possible by the auto bailout.
But that’s just the beginning. Since the November 2011 IPO, Delphi’s stock has roared upward, boosting the Romneys’ Delphi windfall from $10.2 million to $15.3 million for each million they invested with Singer… The Romneys’ exact gain, however, remains nearly invisible—and untaxed—because Singer cashed out only a fragment of the windfall in 2011.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 19, 2012
“My heart aches for the people I’ve seen,” Mitt Romney said, on the second day of his Ohio bus tour. He’s now telling stories of economic hardship among the people he’s met.
Up until now, Romney’s stories on the campaign trail have been about business successes – people who started businesses in garages and grew their companies into global giants, entrepreneurs who succeeded because of grit and determination, millionaires who began poor. Horatio Alger updated.
Curiously absent from these narratives have been the stories of ordinary Americans caught in an economy over which they have no control. That is, most of us.
At least until now.
“I was yesterday with a woman who was emotional,” Romney recounts, “and she said, ‘Look, I’ve been out of work since May.’ She was in her 50s. She said, ‘I don’t see any prospects. Can you help me?’”
Could it be Romney is finally getting the message that many Americans need help through no fault of their own?
“There are so many people in our country that are hurting right now,” Romney says. “I want to help them.”
Later in the day, Romney told NBC that because of his efforts as governor of Massachusetts, “one hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”
But the repackaging of Mitt as a compassionate conservative won’t work. The good citizens of Ohio — as elsewhere — have reason to be skeptical.
This is, after all, the same Mitt Romney who told his backers in Boca Raton that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and unwilling to take care of themselves.
It’s the same Romney who was against bailing out GM and Chrysler. One in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the automobile industry. Had GM and Chrysler gone under, unemployment in Ohio would be closer to the national average of 8.1 percent than the 7.2 percent it is today.
This is the same Romney who has been against extending unemployment benefits. Or providing food stamps or housing benefits for families that have fallen into poverty. Or medical benefits. To the contrary, Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, turn Medicare into vouchers, and turn Medicaid over to cash-starved states.
This is the same Mitt Romney who doesn’t worry that Wall Street financiers — including his own Bain Capital — have put so much pressure on companies for short-term profits that they’re still laying off workers and reluctant to take on any more.
And the same Mitt who doesn’t want government to spend money repairing our crumbling infrastructure, rebuilding our schools, or rehiring police and firefighters and teachers.
Romney says he feels their pain but his policy prescriptions would create more pain.
Mitt Romney’s real compassion is for people like himself, whom he believes are America’s “job creators.” He aims to cut taxes on the rich, in the belief that the rich create jobs — and the benefits of such a tax cut trickle down to everyone else.
Trickle-down economics is the core of Romney’s economics, and it’s bunk. George W. Bush cut taxes — mostly for the wealthy — and we ended up with fewer jobs, lower wages, and an economy that fell off a cliff in 2008.
In Ohio Romney is repeating his claim that, under his tax proposal, the rich would end up paying as much as before even at a lower tax rate because he’d limit their ability to manipulate the tax code. “Don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to be closing loopholes and deductions,” he promises.
But Romney still refuses to say which loopholes and deductions he’ll close. He doesn’t even mention the “carried interest” loophole that has allowed him and other private-equity managers to treat their incomes as capital gains, taxed at 15 percent.
What we’re seeing in Ohio isn’t a new Mitt Romney. It’s a newly-packaged Mitt Romney. The real Mitt Romney is the one we saw on the videotape last week. And no amount of re-taping can disguise the package’s true contents.
By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, September 26, 2012
Who knew that Mitt Romney was such a fan of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign?
“How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?” Romney told thousands of Republican delegates, alternates and hangers-on Thursday night. “Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal.”
Speaking of the “fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president” Americans felt upon Obama’s election, the man who will now seek to prevent the Democratic president’s re-election told the fortieth Republican National Convention about how much he had hoped Obama would succeed “because I wanted America to succeed.”
But it wasn’t just that citizens wanted America to succeed. As Romney noted: “Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get ahead a little more, put aside a little more for college, do more for their elderly mom who’s living alone now or give a little more to their church or charity.… This was the hope and change America voted for.”
In this, Romney was right.
When Americans went to the polls in 2008, the clear majority voted for Barack Obama because they wanted a president who would address the economic missteps and misdeeds that had caused a stock market meltdown on the eve of the election—handing the new president what even one of his harshest critics, Republican vice president nominee Paul Ryan, admitted in his Wednesday night acceptance speech was “a crisis.”
The response to that crisis, Americans hoped, would do more than just bring a measure of stability to the markets. They hoped that it would bring a measure of prosperity to them and to their communities.
Unfortunately, Obama and his party did not have partners in addressing the crisis.
While Romney says he wanted Obama to succeed, Rush Limbaugh said before the new president was inaugurated in January, 2009, “I hope Obama fails.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on behalf of the president’s legislative partners: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Paul Ryan saw to it: rallying opposition to a stimulus that was designed to jumpstart the economy, opposing healthcare reforms that mirrored those Romney implemented as the governor of Massachusetts, and refusing even the most minimal compromises as the nation’s credit rating was threatened during a absurd fight over whether to raise borrowing limits that Democratic and Republican presidents had raised in the past.
Even in the rare instances where Obama put the needs of the nation—and the moment—above politics, other members of “the loyal opposition” merely opposed. One of them even argued against providing the support that was needed to preserve the American auto industry, writing an article that declared: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Who was that guy?
Oh, right, Mitt Romney.
Much was made of the web of deception that Paul Ryan wove with his acceptance speech on Wednesday night. But Romney actually tried to one-up his running mate.
The man who stood before the convention of his party and declared that he wanted Barack Obama to succeed campaigned against Obama’s election in 2008—attacking the Democratic nominee and his supporters for proposing “timid, liberal empty gestures.”
Throughout Obama’s first term, Romney was a steady critic—not just of auto bailouts but of virtually all of the policies of the new administration. He never demanded, as Wendell Willkie did after the 1940 elections, that Republicans recognize the necessity of working with a Democratic president. Like Ryan, Romney abandoned the traditional “one nation” Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower and a former Michigan governor named George Romney, which argued that Republicans could and should work with Democrats, especially in tough times.
On a night that was all about telling Mitt Romney’s story, with reflections on his humane service with his church, on his not so humane service with Bain Capital and of his moderate Republican service as governor of Massachusetts (well, except for the Romneycare part), Romney and his enthusiasts had plenty to say about Obama’s failings. Even in speeches that were ostensibly about Romney’s business acumen, there were sharp, at times unrelenting “they just don’t get it” attacks on the president.
Then, Romney went for the jugular with lines like: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
“To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past,” he told the crowd, ‘I can guarantee you this: if Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right.’”
That just does not sound like a guy who wanted Barack Obama to succeed.
It sounds more like a guy who formed part of a partisan opposition that did everything in its power to make Obama “a one-term president.”
Three years into the first Obama term, veteran Washington watchers Thomas Mann (who works for a think tank packed with former Republican White House aides) and Norman Ornstein (who works for Dick Cheney’s old think tank) wrote an article titled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”
“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party,” observed Mann and Ornstein.
“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition,” they continued. “When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
The Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, of Dwight Eisenhower and George Romney, of Gerald Ford and, yes, of Ronald Reagan, never moved so far from the mainstream that it would not cooperate and compromise when it came time to do right by America.
But the party that Mitt Romney now leads moved so far that it was, indeed, “nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
They did not achieve Limbaugh’s dream of forcing an Obama failure. But they made the president’s tenure dramatically harder, and the prospect for renewal dramatically more difficult to achieve. And, now, Mitt Romney says: “Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us. To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be.”
Or, it could be a time to consider the successes that might have been if the party that has nominated Mitt Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president was not “an insurgent outlier in American politics [that was] ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.”
“You might have asked yourself over these last years whether this is the America we want,” Romney said in his acceptance speech.
Yes, Americans might have asked just that.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 30, 2012