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Pandering To The Extremists: Mitt Romney In A Time Warp

There was something almost quaint about Mitt Romney’s speech on health careThursday, as if we were watching early sound footage of Theodore Roosevelt.

Republicans no longer talk about the virtues of government social programs, especially if they intend to run for president in a party that now considers Medicare the first cousin of socialism. Yet there was Mr. Romney defending a mandate to buy health insurance as passionately as in any similar speech by President Obama.

When he was governor of Massachusetts, of course, Mr. Romney created a health care system very similar to the one championed by the president. He could have walked away from it, as he did in the 2008 presidential race, or fecklessly repudiated it, as Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, did in the Republican debate last week regarding his earlier support for a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases.

This time, to his credit, Mr. Romney is standing by his record, perhaps hoping there might still be a few primary voters who appreciate candor — assuming he doesn’t pivot again in the heat of the right-dominated primaries.

Tearing it down might help him politically, he said, but “it wouldn’t be honest.” He said he did what he “thought would be right for the people of my state.” A mandate to buy insurance, he said, makes sense to prevent people from becoming free riders, getting emergency care at enormous cost to everyone else.

Where he went off the rails, however, was in not acknowledging that that same logic applies to the nation. Mr. Romney tried desperately to pivot from praising his handiwork in Massachusetts to trashing the very same idea as adapted by Mr. Obama. His was an efficient and effective state policy; Mr. Obama’s was “a power grab by the federal government.”

He tried to justify this with a history lesson on federalism and state experimentation, but, in fact, said nothing about what makes Massachusetts different from its neighbors or any other state. And why would he immediately repeal the Obama mandate if elected president? Because Mr. Obama wants a “government takeover of health care,” while all he wanted was to insure the uninsured.

That distinction makes no sense, and the disconnect undermines the foundation of Mr. Romney’s candidacy. At heart, he is still the kind of old-fashioned northeastern Republican who believes in government’s role while trying to conceal it under a thin, inauthentic coating of conservative outrage. But in its blind abhorrence of President Obama, the party has also left behind former centrists like Mr. Romney, and it is unlikely that any amount of frantic pandering about the free market will change that. He is trapped not only between the poles of his party but between eras, a candidate caught in an electoral time warp.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Individual Mandate, Liberty, Medicare, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Swing Voters, Tea Party, Uninsured, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teachers, Secretaries, And Social Workers: The New Welfare Moms?

Conservatives have had their sights on public-sector workers for a while and for good reason. Public-sector workers represent two favorite targets: organized labor and government. I am a public-sector employee and union member, so I can’t help but take these attacks and struggles personally. I am also a veteran of the welfare “reform” battles of the 1990s, and the debates over public-sector workers are strikingly similar.

Like welfare moms, public-sector workers have been painted as greedy [fill-in-the-blank barnyard animals], feeding from the public trough and targeted as the primary source of what’s wrong with government today.

Like 1990s welfare-reform debates, this one is dominated by more fiction than fact. For example, previous and recent research consistently shows public-sector workers actually earn less than private-sector workers with comparable skills and experience. While many, but not all, public-sector workers who work long enough for the public sector have a defined-benefit pension, the unfunded portions of those pensions are often due to bad state policy, not union negotiations.

In some states, like my own, Massachusetts, current workers are paying most of their pension costs through their own contributions into interest-bearing pension funds. Because state and local governments with defined pensions do not contribute to social security, there are currently cost savings. The upshot is that the cost of pensions may not be as high as some are arguing.

It is true that health-insurance costs for current retirees are expensive and worrisome. But this is because of the rising costs in private health insurance. Making workers pay more for their health-care benefits will erode the compensation base of public-sector workers, but it won’t get at the real problem of escalating health-care costs.

During the welfare debates, one of the arguments used to justify punitive legislative changes was spun around the fact that welfare moms who did get low-wage employment could also get child-care assistance—while other moms could not. Sound familiar? Public-sector workers do have employer-sponsored benefits many private-sector workers no longer get. But benefits haven’t improved in the public sector over the last 20 years; indeed most public-sector workers are paying more for the same benefits.

Over the same period, many private-sector workers have been stripped of their employer-provided benefits even as profits have soared. Instead of asking why corporate America is stripping middle-class workers of decent health-care coverage and retirement plans, the demand is to strip public-sector workers of theirs.

The new Cadillac-driving welfare queens are the handful of errant politicians who game the pension system and a few highly paid administrators getting handsome pensions. Sure they exist, but are hardly representative. The typical public-sector worker is a woman, most often working as a teacher, secretary or social worker. Women comprise 60% of all state and local workers (compared to their 47% representation in the private work force). And those three occupations make up 40% of the state and local work force.

Shaking down public-sector unions may make some feel better about solving government fiscal problems, but the end result will be more lousy jobs for educated and skilled workers. It will also not stem the red ink that is causing states to disinvest in much-needed human and physical infrastructure with budget cuts. But eroding wages and benefits combined with public-sector bashing will send a very loud market signal to the best and brightest currently thinking about becoming teachers, librarians, or social workers to do something else.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walter is leading the attack on public-sector workers today. In the 1990s it was another Wisconsin governor, Tommy Thompson, who was a leader in demanding and implementing punitive changes to his state’s welfare system. His plan became a model for the rest of the states and federal welfare legislation in 1996. Then there were horror stories and welfare bashing, but not much in the way of discussing the real issue of decent paying jobs that poor and low-income mothers on and off welfare needed to support their families. The main result of welfare reform was the growth in working-poor moms.

There is one important difference. Public-sector workers, unlike welfare moms, have unions and a cadre of supporters behind them.

By: Randy Albelda,, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Health Care, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Employees, Republicans, Social Security, State Legislatures, States, Teachers, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Gingrich’s Intolerant History: A Presidential Bid Built On Divisiveness And Name-Calling

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and latest entrant in the Republican presidential field, has money, experience and name recognition. His introductory videois all serenity and hope, a deceptively calm way for many voters to meet a splenetic politician with a long history of slashing divisiveness and intolerance.

He refers to himself as a historian, but apparently his personal study of history has primarily taught him about the effectiveness of demagogy. Donald Trump, fiddling with birth certificates, is an amateur compared with Mr. Gingrich at sliming the Obama administration — as well as Democrats, Muslims, blacks and gay men and lesbians.

The Democrats who won in 2008, including President Obama, are “left-wing radicals” who lead a “secular socialist machine,” he wrote in his 2010 book, “To Save America.” He accused them of producing “the greatest political corruption ever seen in modern America.” And then the inevitable historical coup de grâce: “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”

The slurs don’t stop there. He compared the Muslims who wanted to open an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan to the German Reich, saying it “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” He is promoting the fringe idea that “jihadis” are intent on imposing Islamic law on every American village and farm.

Last year, he called for a federal law to stop the (nonexistent) onslaught of Sharia on American jurisprudence and accused the left of refusing to acknowledge its “mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” This nuanced grasp of world affairs was reinforced when he said that Mr. Obama displayed “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

In his world, advocates for gay rights are imposing a “gay and secular fascism” using violence and harassment, blacks have little entrepreneurial tradition, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court is a “Latina woman racist.” (He kind of took back that last slur.)

Despite all this, not to mention the ethics violation when he was speaker, Mr. Gingrich’s real liability among the conservative and fundamentalist groups that dominate the Republican primaries is his personal history of infidelity that led to two sordid divorces. (Much of which took place while he was denouncing President Bill Clinton for moral transgressions.) That may explain his endless calls to restore Judeo-Christian values.

It is sometimes difficult to know what some Republican candidates stand for, as they pander to the far right without alienating the center. It is not difficult to know what Newt Gingrich stands for, and to find it repellent.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The People Revolt: Reverse Robin Hood Visits Banks Near Wisconsin Capitol

This afternoon, the People’s Rights Campaign, a coalition of labor and community organizations, organized a community action on Madison’s Capitol Square. Activists scrounged for their last pennies and taped them to “deposit slips” so that they could be deposited directly into the accounts of the CEOs of M&I Bank, Bank of America and JPMorgan ChaseBank.

“Why should they have to pay any taxes at all when grubby peasants and working stiffs still have a few pennies left in their pockets?” asked the group’s press release.

Kim Grveles of Wisconsin Resists”What we’re trying to do here is call a spade a spade,” National Nurses United organizer Pilar Schiavo said. “Walker’s budget takes from the poor, seniors, students and workers at a time when people most need help. Walker is taking our last pennies and giving them to the rich and to corporations.”

Kim Grveles of Wisconsin Resists added, “We’re demonstrating Walker’s agenda to transfer money from people to corporate sponsors of the governor and other GOP members of the legislature. Every bill is making us poorer and making the big corporate campaign contributors wealthier just like a reverse Robin Hood– stealing from the working class poor and giving to the rich.

“The corporations aren’t paying their fair share in taxes, they’re getting bailout money and they’re making millions in profits every year.”

Organizers referenced a May 1st article in the Wisconsin State Journal that pointed out that “changes to a corporate tax law proposed in Walker’s budget may mean businesses would pay the state about $46 million less in taxes over the next two years– and $40 million less each year after that.”

Reverse Robin Hook Mike Amato speaks in front of M&IGroups of protestors spread out and took their pennies and deposit slips to the branches of M&I Bank, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase Bank closest to the Capitol.

At M&I, security guards locked the front door as soon as the group of a dozen or so approached. Mike Amato of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, who was dressed as a Reverse Robin Hood, tried giving his deposit slip to a guard, saying, “They want to create a peasant system, so we’re helping them out by being reverse Robin Hoods, stealing pennies from the poor to give to the rich.”

The security guard seemed unimpressed, later blocking off the entrance to the drive-thru teller window as well, saying that it was “private property” and making deposits to the CEO’s account would not be allowed, but he was later seen with a bank manager, discussing the text of one of the deposit slips the group had left behind.

Reverse Robin Hood’s BandAccording to Schiavo, a group of protestors succeeded in getting into the local Bank of America investment branch, where they deposited their pennies into CEO Brian Moynihan‘s account. Protesters were locked out of JPMorgan Chase Bank’s branch but were able to deposit their slips through the slit between the glass doors and leave them in a pile in the entryway.

Schiavo noted that the People’s Rights Campaign seeks, through this action, to call attention to their platform, which calls for “restored rights to living wage jobs, access to healthcare and retirement security rather than giving back to corporations that have already received money from the government and continue to give huge bonuses to their CEOs.”

By: Rebecca Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, May 11, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Bank Of America, Banks, Businesses, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Financial Institutions, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Taxes, Union Busting, Unions, Wealthy, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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