Mitt Romney, returning to New Hampshire on Monday with his new running mate, lasted only about 30 seconds before stumbling right into the issue that has dogged his candidacy like no other.
“Gosh, I feel like I’m almost a New Hampshire resident,” the winner of the state’s Republican primary told the crowd at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. “It would save me some tax dollars, I think.”
D’oh! Does Mr. Thirteen Percent really want to remind everybody how determined he is to keep his tax returns private?
Maybe so. The Republican standard-bearer seems to take a stubborn pride in his refusal to cough up details. My colleague Greg Sargent argues that Romney seems to be running a “just trust me” campaign that extends beyond 1040s and into the policy realm. It’s an intriguing observation, and so I kept an ear out for specifics as I listened to Romney and Paul Ryan hold their joint town hall meeting at Saint Anselm. Sure enough, they spoke and fielded questions for about an hour but deftly avoided detail.
“I’m going to do five things when I’m in Washington,” Romney announced. This was a promising start.
“Number one, we’re going to take advantage of our energy resources,” he offered. Excellent! Drilling? Pipelines? Nuclear? Romney did not say: Just trust him.
“Number two, I’m going to make sure that our schools are second to none,” Romney said. “We need our kids to have the skills to succeed. That’s number two,” he went on. Thus ended the education-policy segment of the program.
“Number three, I want trade that works for America,” Romney said. The closest he got to specifics here was to say he would “crack down on cheaters like China when they play on an unfair basis.”
“Go, Mitt!” somebody shouted.
Mitt did go — right to No. 4, to “show America that this team can put America on track to a balanced budget and stop the deficit spending.”
“Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!” the audience chanted.
He moved on to No. 5: reducing regulations. And here he had a specific, sort of: “I want to make sure that we get Obamacare out of the way and replace it with something which will help encourage job growth in this country.”
Replace it with . . . something?
Of course, Romney is hardly the first presidential candidate to avoid specific commitments and promises. His opponent, President Obama, was caught on a hot mike telling Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev to wait until after the election for a new Russia policy.
The difference with Obama, though, is he has already established a track record in office. By declining to put meat on the bones of his policy proposals, Romney wouldn’t have any mandate from the voters if he does defeat Obama. In policy speeches, he’s somewhat more specific than he is at typical campaign stops, but even then there’s nothing resembling a comprehensive plan for budget balancing, job creation or tax reform.
Romney and Ryan, in rolled-up sleeves and open collars, took the stage at Saint Anselm to the orchestral tune “Tryouts,” from the college-football film “Rudy.” This was appropriate, because the two men were about to pass and punt on issue after issue.
Ryan, the policy wonk of the pair, teased the crowd with the prospect of specific proposals (“We’re going to win this debate about Medicare!”) but then floated the idea of letting younger Americans, when they retire, “have a choice of guaranteed coverage options, including traditional Medicare.” That is a specific policy — but it hasn’t consistently been Ryan’s; he got the House last year to approve his plan phasing out traditional Medicare.
Still, that was apparently enough detail for one day. “I won’t go into all the things that we’re proposing to do to get jobs back, because I want to leave something for Mitt to talk about,” Ryan said. “The point is, we’re offering you solutions.”
Just trust them.
In fact, Romney didn’t furnish the promised proposals, and his foreign policy didn’t get much more elaborate than “American strength is critical.”
The audience members were friendly, but they wanted more details. His plan to reduce the debt?
“We want to grow this economy and cut federal spending.”
His tax plan? “I will not raise taxes on the American people.”
His Afghanistan plan? “Bring our men and women home, and do so in a way consistent with our mission.”
His plan to reduce student costs? “Make sure that when you graduate, you can get a job.”
Just trust him.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 20, 2012
Missouri Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who appears to believe that the government’s college student loan program is the equivalent of Stage 3 cancer. Actually, he said “the Stage 3 cancer of socialism,” which is perhaps not the exact same thing. But I believe you get the idea.
This was a week after Texas Republicans nominated a Senate candidate who is worried about protecting the world’s golf courses from the United Nations. Republicans, I think you need to get a grip.
Meanwhile, the most cheerful place this side of Disney World is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the Democratic incumbent, was regarded as the political equivalent of roadkill until the Republicans picked Representative Todd Akin for her opponent. Now, the McCaskill campaign is doing a happy dance while Akin will be trying to explain that he thinks student loans are cancerous only when they come from the government rather than private industry.
This is not the kind of argument you really want to be having on your big primary win day. Also, Akin not only wants to keep the government out of the student loan business, his past votes suggest he also wants to see it steer clear of school lunches.
Before the primary, McCaskill ran an allegedly anti-Akin ad that cynics saw as an actual attempt to propel him to the front of the pack. It failed to mention the congressman’s principled opposition to the national School Breakfast Program, but instead denounced him as “too conservative” and an enemy of Planned Parenthood. Honestly, if you wanted to drive Tea Party voters to the polls, it was the next best thing to hiring a bus.
The Tea Party is once again giving Democrats a new lease on life. Not everywhere, of course. Tennessee Republicans seem to be happy with their incumbent senator, Bob Corker, while Democrats woke up on the day after their primary to discover that voters had nominated an anti-gay-rights activist named Mark Clayton, who, according to ClaytonforSenate.com, “works in insurance and is also writing a book intended as a scripture study aide.” A spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, which is disavowing Clayton, theorized that he won because “his name was at the top of the ticket.”
We have been through this sort of thing before, Democrats. Remember Alvin Greene? The guy you accidentally nominated to run against Senator Jim DeMint two years ago? The one who turned out to be facing felony obscenity charges? Didn’t everybody agree that from then on, if you gave the voters a ballot full of totally unfamiliar names, you would warn them which ones to avoid?
But mainly, the Republicans are the ones getting stuck with the unhappy surprises. Richard Lugar, the longtime senator from Indiana, was tossed out in a primary by a Tea Party favorite, Richard Mourdock, who went on to become involved in a controversy over whether or not he compared Barack Obama’s auto industry bailout to slavery. We do not really need to resolve the issue, except to say that Mourdock is fond of making convoluted historical analogies and that he really, really did not like the auto bailout, despite Indiana’s rather large population of autoworkers.
Besides Tea Party upsets, one of the big trends this year is for Democratic Senate candidates in red states to demonstrate their independence by announcing that they are not going to the party convention. This is pretty much a no-brainer, since these events are really, really boring anyway, unless 1) You really like to eat finger food paid for by special-interest groups or 2) You really enjoy being in Southern cities with high humidity around Labor Day.
Skip the convention! Everybody’s doing it! Although Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia did seem to be going a little bit overboard when he refused to say if he’ll even vote for President Obama. “I am just waiting for it to play out. I am not jumping in one way or another,” Manchin told The National Journal. “I’m worried about me. I’ve said it’s not a team sport. You need to go out and work for yourself.”
You’ve got to give the man credit for candor. Manchin may be pretending to be more worried than he really is, given that the Republicans nominated a Senate candidate whose big media splash involved comparing no-smoking regulations to the Nazis’ actions. (“Remember Hitler used to put Star of David on everybody’s lapel, remember that? Same thing.”)
Next week we have Wisconsin, where former Gov. Tommy Thompson, the guy everyone expected the Republicans to nominate for the Senate, is in trouble thanks to a challenge from — yes! — the Tea Party. And will Connecticut Republicans nominate a former congressman with a reputation for bipartisanship or a businesswoman whose claim to fame is building a professional wrestling empire? Duh.
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 8, 2012
“Romney’s Higher Education Plan”: A Giveaway To Wall Street Banks And Predatory Schools That Fund His Campaign
2012 presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney released his higher education plan Wednesday, decrying the nation’s “education crisis.” During a speechbefore the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Romney blamed President Obama for rising tuition prices and increasing student debt.
Of course, tuition increases and growing debt are a phenomenon several decades in the making. And Romney’s plan would make the problem decidedly worse in two important ways, giving federal money away to Wall Street banks and predatory for-profit colleges, two industries to which Romney has extensive ties.
First, as he’s promised before, Romney intends to divert money away from student aid — instead giving it away to banks — by repealing Obama’s student loan reforms:
Reverse President Obama’s nationalization of the student loan market and welcome private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself.
President Obama did not nationalize the student loan market. (Plenty of banks still make private sector student loans.) Instead, Obama and the Democrats cut private banks out of the federal student loan program, ending billions in subsidies that were needlessly going to banks for acting as loan middlemen. The money saved went into the Pell Grant program. Romney’s plan would entail taking away Pell money in order to pay Wall Street to service federal loans.
Second, Romney would remove regulations meant to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges:
Ill-advised regulation imposed by the Obama administration, such as the so-called “Gainful Employment” rule, has made it even harder for some providers to operate, while distorting their incentives.
This rule simply states that colleges leaving too many students crippled with debt and without good jobs lose their access to federal dollars. Many for-profit schools make nearly all of their revenue from the federal government — in the form of the various streams of aid used by their students — yet have much higher rates of student loan default than public schools. Only 11 percent of higher education students in the country attend for-profit schools, but they account for 26 percent of federal student loans and 44 percent of student loan defaults.
Romney is already intimately tied to the for-profit college industry. Inside Higher Ed noted that two of his advisers “have lobbied on behalf of the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix.” On the campaign trail, Romney has effusively praised Full Sail University, a for-profit institution. And it seems that his policy platform would be a boon to this industry which is, in many instances, extremely predatory.
By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, May 24, 2012
In Spain, the unemployment rate among workers under 25 is more than 50 percent. In Ireland almost a third of the young are unemployed. Here in America, youth unemployment is “only” 16.5 percent, which is still terrible — but things could be worse.
And sure enough, many politicians are doing all they can to guarantee that things will, in fact, get worse. We’ve been hearing a lot about the war on women, which is real enough. But there’s also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it’s better disguised. And it’s doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation’s future.
Let’s start with some advice Mitt Romney gave to college students during an appearance last week. After denouncing President Obama’s “divisiveness,” the candidate told his audience, “Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.”
The first thing you notice here is, of course, the Romney touch — the distinctive lack of empathy for those who weren’t born into affluent families, who can’t rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad to finance their ambitions. But the rest of the remark is just as bad in its own way.
I mean, “get the education”? And pay for it how? Tuition at public colleges and universities has soared, in part thanks to sharp reductions in state aid. Mr. Romney isn’t proposing anything that would fix that; he is, however, a strong supporter of the Ryan budget plan, which would drastically cut federal student aid, causing roughly a million students to lose their Pell grants.
So how, exactly, are young people from cash-strapped families supposed to “get the education”? Back in March Mr. Romney had the answer: Find the college “that has a little lower price where you can get a good education.” Good luck with that. But I guess it’s divisive to point out that Mr. Romney’s prescriptions are useless for Americans who weren’t born with his advantages.
There is, however, a larger issue: even if students do manage, somehow, to “get the education,” which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they’ll be graduating into an economy that doesn’t seem to want them.
You’ve probably heard lots about how workers with college degrees are faring better in this slump than those with only a high school education, which is true. But the story is far less encouraging if you focus not on middle-aged Americans with degrees but on recent graduates. Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time — a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education.
College graduates, then, are taking it on the chin thanks to the weak economy. And research tells us that the price isn’t temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life.
What the young need most of all, then, is a better job market. People like Mr. Romney claim that they have the recipe for job creation: slash taxes on corporations and the rich, slash spending on public services and the poor. But we now have plenty of evidence on how these policies actually work in a depressed economy — and they clearly destroy jobs rather than create them.
For as you look at the economic devastation in Europe, you should bear in mind that some of the countries experiencing the worst devastation have been doing everything American conservatives say we should do here. Not long ago, conservatives gushed over Ireland’s economic policies, especially its low corporate tax rate; the Heritage Foundation used to give it higher marks for “economic freedom” than any other Western nation. When things went bad, Ireland once again received lavish praise, this time for its harsh spending cuts, which were supposed to inspire confidence and lead to quick recovery.
And now, as I said, almost a third of Ireland’s young can’t find jobs.
What should we do to help America’s young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want. We should be expanding student aid, not slashing it. And we should reverse the de facto austerity policies that are holding back the U.S. economy — the unprecedented cutbacks at the state and local level, which have been hitting education especially hard.
Yes, such a policy reversal would cost money. But refusing to spend that money is foolish and shortsighted even in purely fiscal terms. Remember, the young aren’t just America’s future; they’re the future of the tax base, too.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste; wasting the minds of a whole generation is even more terrible. Let’s stop doing it.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 29, 2012
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