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Is Mitt Romney The Candidate Of The “One Percent”?

A number of people are pointing to this scorching quote from Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, explaining the paper’s decision to endorse Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney:

“I think — and this is crazy, but so are we — that Gingrich is going to have a better time in the general election than Mitt Romney,” publisher Joe McQuaid told FOX News. “I think it’s going to be Obama’s 99% versus the 1%, and Romney sort of represents the 1%.”

Aside from the obvious humor value here, this actually gets at something serious: The possibility that Mitt Romney’s tax rates, and not just his corporate past and support for cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, amount to an unexplored vulnerability in a general election. Because he gets income from investments, Romney would have paid roughly 14 percent of his income in taxes in 2010, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice — lower than the rate paid by many middle class taxpayers.

Wait, there’s more. According to Bloomberg News, Romney is now benefitting from the fundraising of Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of the world’s largest private equity firm, who is also soliciting help for Romney from colleagues. Bloomberg presents this as a sign that Romney is “closing the sale with Wall Street’s wealthiest donors.”

But there’s more to it than this. As Pat Garofalo notes, Schwarzman is also well known as a warrior against efforts to close loopholes that benefit private equity firms. Indeed, this new Romney supporter has even compared his battle against such efforts to World War Two:

“It’s a war,” Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

Obviously, people like Schwarzman will back the GOP nominee, whoever he is, and Dems will likely highlight this kind of thing to paint the eventual GOP nominee, whoever he is, as in the pocket of Wall Street. But the fact that Romney himself personally benefits from aspects of the tax code that Obama wants to change makes him a less-than-ideal messenger to deliver criticism of Obama’s push for tax fairness, and will likely make Dem attacks along these lines more potent. After all, Dems can argue that not only do the Schwarzmans of the world prefer Romney’s policies, but on top of that, Romney himself is actually one of them. You can’t say that about Newt.

This general election vulnerability is being obscured right now, because for obvious reasons, it isn’t an issue in the GOP primary. But the Obama team has taken note of this weakness — and Obama surrogates are likely going to work very hard to exploit it — even if it isn’t getting much attention right now. It seems like Republicans who are evaluating Romney’s strengths and weaknesses as a general election candidate might want to consider how this will play next year, particularly if resurgent populism continues to help shape the political environment, as many expect it to do.

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, The Plum Line, November 28, 2011

November 29, 2011 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

With “Radicalized Right-Wing Obstructionism”, Divided Moderates Will Be Conquered

The deficit that should most worry us is a deficit of reasonableness. The problems the United States confronts are large but not insoluble. Yet sensible solutions that are broadly popular can’t be enacted.

Why? Because an ideological bloc that sees every crisis as an opportunity to reduce the size of government holds enough power in Congress to stop us from doing what needs to be done.

Some of my middle-of-the-road columnist friends keep ascribing our difficulties to structuralproblems in our politics. A few call for a centrist third party. But the problem we face isn’t about structures or the party system. It’s about ideology — specifically a right-wing ideology that has temporarily taken over the Republican Party and needs to be defeated before we can have a reasonable debate between moderate conservatives and moderate progressives about our country’s future.

A centrist third party would divide the opposition to the right wing and ease its triumph. That’s the last thing authentic moderates should want.

Let’s look at the record, starting with the congressional supercommittee’s failure to reach agreement on a plan to reduce the fiscal deficit. It’s absurd to pretend that we can shrink the deficit over the long term without substantial tax increases.

No matter how hard policymakers try to trim spending on Medicare, its costs will go up for many years simply because so many baby boomers will be retiring between now and 2029. Moreover, employers will keep cutting back on coverage for their workers as long as the price of insurance continues to go up.

However we manage it, in other words, government will be required to pay an ever larger share of our nation’s health-care bills. That means the government’s share of the economy is destined to rise — unless we decide to leave a large part of our population with little or no protection against illness.

The least we can do under those circumstances is to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy enacted under President George W. Bush. Yet the only revenue conservatives on the supercommittee put on the table involved $300 billion, most of it from ill-defined tax reforms, in exchange for lower tax rates on the rich and making something like $3.7 trillion worth of tax cuts permanent.

Progressives have already made clear that they are willing not only to increase revenue but also to cut Medicare costs. The Obama health-care law did both, and it was attacked by Republicans for doing so. Democrats on the supercommittee offered substantial entitlement cuts. But they rightly refused a deal that would squander years of future revenue in the name of keeping taxes low on the wealthiest Americans.

What might a reasonable budget argument look like? Progressives would propose fewer spending cuts in exchange for tax increases that would fall mainly on the wealthy: higher rates on top incomes, capital gains and estates, along with a financial transactions tax. Conservatives would counter with larger spending cuts coupled with taxes on consumption rather than on investment. Out of such a debate might come a sensible deal, based on a shared acknowledgment that long-term balance requires both thrift and new revenue.

In the meantime, a broad range of economists agree that America’s sputtering jobs machine needs a sharp and quick jolt. It is unconscionable that in the face of mass unemployment, Republicans continue to foil measures to spur employment, including an extension of the payroll tax holiday. How can conservatives declare simultaneously that (1) it would be a terrible crime to raise taxes on the rich in the long term, and (2) it is an act of virtue to raise taxes on the middle class immediately? Has class warfare ever been so naked?

Then there is immigration. Common sense says there is no way the United States can or should deport some 11 million illegal immigrants. But when Newt Gingrich spoke of this reality — and suggested that conservatives ought to worry about how deportations would break up families — he was said to have committed a gaffe that will end his ride as the Republican front-runner. In today’s GOP, it’s becoming dangerous to be sensible.

We need moderation all right, but a moderate third party is the one way to guarantee we won’t get it. If moderates really want to move the conversation to the center, they should devote their energies to confronting those who are blocking the way. And at this moment, the obstruction is coming from a radicalized right.

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 27, 2011

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Deficits, Immigration | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fictionalized History”: Steer Clear Of Newt’s Courses

Newt Gingrich raised some eyebrows recently when he said he intends, if elected president, to teach an online course. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Gingrich’s desire to teach while holding public office isn’t new.

In the 1990s, Gingrich taught “Renewing American Civilization” at Kennesaw State College in Georgia. The course became infamous because it was at the heart of a congressional ethics investigation that led to severe penalties for the disgraced former Speaker. But back in 1995,  before the ethics scandal broke in earnest, the Washington Monthly ran a piece by Allan Lichtman that scrutinized Gingrich’s skills as a history professor.

Wouldn’t you know it, Gingrich had a little trouble keeping his facts straight here, too. He taught what Lichtman described as “fictionalized history.”

The thesis of Gingrich’s course is that American history was an uninterrupted continuity of opportunity and progress from colonial times until what he calls the “breakdown” of 1965. If you read the papers, you know what comes next: That’s when the elite liberal state, aided by the counterculture, introduced the infections of dependency, bureaucracy, and failure. He’s teaching the course in part to balance out the liberal’s view of the world. Did you know, for example, that Thomas Edison “is almost never studied in the counterculture because all his values are exactly wrong? He was successful, and he was very work-oriented, he was highly creative.” […]

Gingrich’s historical selectivity and outright errors are, well, revealing. He manages to get through the entire Civil War without ever mentioning slavery. Of the Declaration of Independence, he says “They originally wrote, ‘We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”’ Property? John Locke, yes. The Declaration of Independence, never.

Not surprisingly, much of Gingrich’s course is preoccupied with the history of the welfare state-the “actively destructive” welfare state, that is. He doesn’t acknowledge any of the good that government has done over the past 30 years, when federal investments in education, electrification, research, and facilities built Gingrich’s modern South.

If Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.8 million for to take advantage of his expertise as a “historian,” I’m afraid the mortgage giant paid too much.

If students paid anything at all to take one of one Gingrich’s courses, I’m afraid they were charged too much, too.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, November 28, 2011

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Utah About To Elect Another Senator Who Thinks Medicare Is Unconstitutional?

Last year, Sen. Mike “A Noun, A Verb, and Unconstitutional” Lee (R-UT) upset longtime Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in the Utah GOP’s arcane candidate selection process — allowing the Tea Party to elevate someone to the Senate who believes that everything from Medicare to Social Security to child labor laws somehow violate the Constitution. Since then, Utah’s senior Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has tripped over himselfto pretend that he is just as radical as young Sen. Lee.

Alas, all of Hatch’s extremist posturing may be for naught, as the Tea Party has found someone who shares their apparent policy goal of ensuring that people who can’t afford health care are left to fend for themselves:

During a recent media blitz in Washington, D.C., Dan Liljenquist, a state senator from Utah, went after Sen. Orrin Hatch, arguing he has done more than any other Republican to promote nationalized health care. […] The skirmish is the first between these potential 2012 opponents. Liljenquist, a Republican, says he won’t make an official decision until early next year, but he has prepared for a possible run for Hatch’s seat. […]

[Liljenquist] argued that Hatch is not committed to returning power to the states, focusing on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that Hatch spearheaded in 1997. That program, which pays for health coverage for poor children, has come under fire from tea party Republicans who see it as a step toward a national takeover of health insurance. Liljenquist went as far as to call it “unconstitutional.”

Liljenquist’s suggestion that the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is unconstitutional is absurd. SCHIP works by providing funds to states to help them pay for health insurance for children. Because the Constitution allows the federal government “to lay and collect taxes” and to use those revenues to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States,” there is simply no doubt that it can spend money on providing health care to vulnerable young people.

Moreover, other essential health care programs — such as Medicare and Medicaid — stand on similar constitutional footing as SCHIP. So if Liljenquist thinks one of these programs is unconstitutional, it is likely that he believes that we must eliminate all three.

In other words, if Liljenquist succeeds in taking Hatch’s Senate seat, Utah could become the only state in the union to have its entire Senate delegation believe that the Constitution requires millions of children, low-income Americans and seniors to be cast out into the cold with no meaningful access to health care.

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, November 28, 2011

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Health Care | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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