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Mitt Romney Has Signed Paul Ryan’s Suicide Note

Suddenly Republicans are wondering: is Mitt Romney really so electable after all?

Turns out Rick Santorum won Iowa. Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Romney’s record at Bain have drawn blood. More blood has flowed from Romney’s own admission this week that he pays a tax rate of only about 15 percent on his ample income. Then there’s Romney’s offhand dismissal of the $374,000 he earned in speaking fees in 2011—enough in itself to qualify Romney for the top 1 percent—as “not very much.” All of which has led political analyst Jeff Greenfield to quip, “Only way for Mitt to look more like embodiment of wealth is to wear a top hat and monocle (thank God he doesn’t smoke cigars!)”.

Yet in itself, great personal wealth need not be an obstacle to the presidency. John F. Kennedy was wealthier than Mitt Romney, and Lyndon Johnson not a lot less so. The two Roosevelts were likewise far from poor; ditto the two Bushes.

Romney, however, seems already type-cast as a dangerously out-of-touch Richie Rich.

The journalists and commentators who watch his campaign tend to blame Romney personally for the disconnect. Little gaffes get magnified into campaign-wrecking disasters, like describing $374,000 in speaking fees as “not much.”

But when a campaign is connecting, it can ride out gaffes. Bill Clinton reached the White House despite Hillary Clinton dismissing at-home moms as “staying home to bake cookies,” and Obama rode out the fuss triggered by a tape recording of his description of rural white voters “clinging to their guns and religion.”

Romney’s trouble is not his too-pressed shirts or his too-coiffed hair or even his tax returns. Bill and Hillary Clinton also had a tax return problem in 1992: it was revealed that they had claimed a tax deduction for donating used socks and underwear to Goodwill. It looked petty and grasping. They won anyway.

Romney’s problem is not his wealth. It is his apparent lack of concern for others’ nonwealth. But that lack of concern has been sharpened to a dangerous point, not by Romney himself, but by the missteps of his party.

Why would the typical voter care whether Romney is rich or not? From the point of view of the typical voter at the median household income of $49,500, all the presidential candidates look rich. They almost always do.

The question of utmost concern to the voter is, what will these rich politicians do for me? Or to me?

And here’s where Romney faces his real challenge—2012 will be a tough re-elect for Barack Obama. When Democrats face tough elections, there is one thing they can always be counted on to do: accuse Republicans of having a secret plan to eliminate Medicare. Jimmy Carter did it in the presidential debate of 1980: “Governor Reagan, as a matter of fact, began his political career campaigning around this nation against Medicare.” Bill Clinton did it in his duel against Newt Gingrich in 1995-96: “Yesterday [congressional Republicans] sent me legislation that said—we will only keep the government going, and we will only let it pay its debts if and only if we accept their cuts in Medicare, their cuts in education, their cuts in the environment, and their repeal of 25 years of bipartisan commitments to protect the environment and public health.”

President Obama would dearly like to do it again in 2012. But this time, Republicans made it easy for him. Obama does not have to accuse them of having a secret plan to eliminate Medicare. In 2011, all but four House Republicans and all but five Senate Republicans voted for a very public plan to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from Americans younger than age 55.

The Paul Ryan plan would instead offer future retirees support to buy a private insurance plan—with the amount of the support rising at the rate of general inflation. If health care costs continue to rise during the next three decades at the same pace as in the past three decades, then—under this proposal—today’s 30-somethings would receive support sufficient to cover about 25 percent of their Medicare costs, leaving them to find the other 75 percent themselves. The money saved would be applied to balance the budget and finance a big tax cut, reducing the top income-tax rate to 28 percent from the otherwise scheduled 39.6 percent.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer at the time expressed worry that the Ryan plan might prove a “suicide note.”

And at first Mitt Romney shrewdly kept his distance. “I appreciate what Paul Ryan has done,” Romney said on May 27, 2011, and cautiously added, “I’m going to have my own plan.” Asked whether he’d sign the plan, Romney demurred: “That’s the kind of speculation that is getting the cart ahead of the horse.”

A week later, Romney’s resistance was weakening. Asked June 2, 2011, whether he would sign the Ryan plan if it comes to him, he said yes, but added again, “I’m going to have my own plan.”

Through the fall, Romney yielded more and more ground to pressure from congressional Republicans entranced by Ryan’s vision.

In November, Romney did at last release that Medicare plan of his own. Structurally, the Romney plan resembled Ryan’s. But it remained vague on the key feature: how much premium support would future seniors get?

Then Gingrich began to rise in the polls, the first adversary to seriously worry the Romney campaign. To protect his right flank, Romney in December for the first time expressed unequivocal support for the Ryan plan—and the end of the Medicare guarantee for those now under 55.

Would a President Romney do such a thing? Would Congress really ultimately go along with it? Probably not and certainly not. But can President Obama credibly allege that a President Romney might do it? And will those allegations exact an electoral cost?

If the answers to those questions prove to be “yes,” conservative critics will blame Romney for his “weakness” as a candidate. But the real weakness will be that Romney acceded to those conservatives’ pressure to co-sign Paul Ryan’s suicide note.


By: David Frum, The Daily Beast, January 20, 2012

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taxes At The Top”: Low Taxes On The Very Rich Are Indefensible

Call me peculiar, but I’m actually enjoying the spectacle of Mitt Romney doing the Dance of the Seven Veils — partly out of voyeurism, of course, but also because it’s about time that we had this discussion.

The theme of his dance, for those who haven’t been paying attention, is taxes — his own taxes. Although disclosure of tax returns is standard practice for political candidates, Mr. Romney has never done so, and, at first, he tried to stonewall the issue even in a presidential race. Then he said that he probably pays only about 15 percent of his income in taxes, and he hinted that he might release his 2011 return.

Even then, however, he will face pressure to release previous returns, too — like his father, who released 12 years of returns back when he made his presidential run. (The elder Romney, by the way, paid 37 percent of his income in taxes).

And the public has a right to see the back years: By 2011, with the campaign looming, Mr. Romney may have rearranged his portfolio to minimize awkward issues like his accounts in the Cayman Islands or his use of the justly reviled “carried interest” tax break.

But the larger question isn’t what Mitt Romney’s tax returns have to say about Mitt Romney; it’s what they have to say about U.S. tax policy. Is there a good reason why the rich should bear a startlingly light tax burden?

For they do. If Mr. Romney is telling the truth about his taxes, he’s actually more or less typical of the very wealthy. Since 1992, the I.R.S. has been releasing income and tax data for the 400 highest-income filers. In 2008, the most recent year available, these filers paid only 18.1 percent of their income in federal income taxes; in 2007, they paid only 16.6 percent. When you bear in mind that the rich pay little either in payroll taxes or in state and local taxes — major burdens on middle-class families — this implies that the top 400 filers faced lower taxes than many ordinary workers.

The main reason the rich pay so little is that most of their income takes the form of capital gains, which are taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent, far below the maximum on wages and salaries. So the question is whether capital gains — three-quarters of which go to the top 1 percent of the income distribution — warrant such special treatment.

Defenders of low taxes on the rich mainly make two arguments: that low taxes on capital gains are a time-honored principle, and that they are needed to promote economic growth and job creation. Both claims are false.

When you hear about the low, low taxes of people like Mr. Romney, what you need to know is that it wasn’t always thus — and the days when the superrich paid much higher taxes weren’t that long ago. Back in 1986, Ronald Reagan — yes, Ronald Reagan — signed a tax reform equalizing top rates on earned income and capital gains at 28 percent. The rate rose further, to more than 29 percent, during Bill Clinton’s first term.

Low capital gains taxes date only from 1997, when Mr. Clinton struck a deal with Republicans in Congress in which he cut taxes on the rich in return for creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And today’s ultralow rates — the lowest since the days of Herbert Hoover — date only from 2003, when former President George W. Bush rammed both a tax cut on capital gains and a tax cut on dividends through Congress, something he achieved by exploiting the illusion of triumph in Iraq.

Correspondingly, the low-tax status of the very rich is also a recent development. During Mr. Clinton’s first term, the top 400 taxpayers paid close to 30 percent of their income in federal taxes, and even after his tax deal they paid substantially more than they have since the 2003 cut.

So is it essential that the rich receive such a big tax break? There is a theoretical case for according special treatment to capital gains, but there are also theoretical and practical arguments against such special treatment. In particular, the huge gap between taxes on earned income and taxes on unearned income creates a perverse incentive to arrange one’s affairs so as to make income appear in the “right” category.

And the economic record certainly doesn’t support the notion that superlow taxes on the superrich are the key to prosperity. During that first Clinton term, when the very rich paid much higher taxes than they do now, the economy added 11.5 million jobs, dwarfing anything achieved even during the good years of the Bush administration.

So Mr. Romney’s tax dance is doing us all a service by highlighting the unwise, unjust and expensive favors being showered on the upper-upper class. At a time when all the self-proclaimed serious people are telling us that the poor and the middle class must suffer in the name of fiscal probity, such low taxes on the very rich are indefensible.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 19, 2012

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Election 2012, Taxes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Total Self-Absorption”: Newt’s Toxic Narcissism

Before he dumped Marianne for Callista, Newt Gingrich approached his second wife of 18 years with the possibility of an open marriage.

I ask you: how awesome is that?

In an interview airing tonight on Nightline, Marianne recalls Newt complaining to her. “You want me all to yourself. Callista doesn’t care what I do.”

Assuming Marianne can more or less be believed, let’s update what we now know of the former speaker’s personal history:

1.  Gingrich dumped his first wife, Jackie, while she was being treated for cancer.

2.  Some 12 years into his second marriage, he started sleeping with a much younger Hill staffer.

3.  Six years into the affair, he asked wife No. 2 for an open marriage.

4.  When she declined, Newt pressed ahead with a divorce—shortly after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

5.  The dissolution of Newt and Marianne’s union occurred as the then-speaker was galumphing around the country loudly proclaiming President Clinton to be morally unfit for office.

My God, it’s like a bad telenovela—only starring homely people.

I have to admit, while the tales of Gingrich’s mistreatment of the women in his life are, of course, appalling, I also find them utterly irresistible—and more than a little satisfying. Not because I care about Gingrich’s rank hypocrisy. Unlike many journalists, hypocrisy isn’t what gets my blood boiling. All politicians are hypocrites to one degree or another. They have to be.

No. What entrances me about these Newtonian love stories are how perfectly they jibe with the former speaker’s broader character portrait: namely, that of a pure, unadulterated narcissist, a man whose sense of himself as a world historic figure leads him to believe that whatever is good for him must be what is good. Period. In Gingrich’s worldview, the end justifies the means—and the end is invariably the advancement of Newt Gingrich’s personal aims.

The entire sweep of Newt’s personal life brings to mind a line from Whit Stillman’s 1990 film, Metropolitan, in which one of the cast of young, rich Manhattanites scolds another, “When you’re an egoist, none of the harm you do is intentional.”

I’d say that this line could apply to all aspects of Newt’s life except that, in many of his political dealings, Newt absolutely intends to cause harm. Demonizing the opposition is frequently his aim, and his aim in that department tends to be quite good.

But with his wives, one gets the sense that Gingrich never set out to hurt anyone. He simply didn’t give a damn—or at least enough of a damn to make an effort to minimize damage to the other person on his way out the door.

Lots of people cheat on their spouses. Lots of people leave their spouses. It takes a special kind of ego to carry on a lengthy affair with another woman, then grandiosely suggest to your wife: so howzabout you content yourself with just a slice of Newt pie and agree to share the rest?

Hypocrisy, infidelity, dishonesty, immorality—none of those interest me here. When it comes to Newt, the ultimate driver—and the biggest danger—has always been the man’s total self-absorption and near-messianic self-regard.

That ought to make even the most devout Newt fan a little nervous.


By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, January 19, 2012

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romney, “Let Detroit Go bankrupt”: Auto-Industry Rescue Paying Dividends

One of the more clear-cut triumphs of President Obama’s first three years has been the success of his auto-industry rescue. Republicans predicted it would fail miserably. They were wrong and the White House was right.

Bloomberg reported this week that auto plants are operating at a capacity unseen in a long while, adding shifts and creating jobs. The Detroit Free Press reported today that GM has reclaimed the crown of world’s largest automaker. And perhaps best of all, Michigan’s unemployment rate has also dropped to its lowest levels since September 2008, buoyed by the auto industry.

It led Jonathan Cohn to report today that while Michigan is still struggling to get on its feet, “recovery clearly seems to be underway” in the state, “most likely because the auto industry is growing again.”

President Obama and his allies will claim credit for this resurgence. They should — and not just for the obvious reasons.

The decision to rescue the Chrysler and General Motors in early 2009 was not popular: The only way to save the industry was to put up federal dollars, something presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney now says he opposed. And that was not what the public, already suffering from “bailout fatigue,” wanted to hear. But the rescue also provoked ambivalence in Michigan. The administration was serious about using the structured bankruptcy to reorganize the companies into leaner, more competitive firms. That meant layoffs and, over the long-term, significantly lower pay for unionized auto workers.

A lot can still go wrong, with the industry and with the economy…. But positive job growth in Michigan is clearly good news — not just for Obama and his allies but also, and more important, for the people of the Midwest.

Remember, dozens of prominent Republican officials, including most of the GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as the party’s leading presidential candidates, were absolutely certain the rescue would be a disaster. In the midst of an economic crisis, Republicans saw the American automotive industry — one of the central backbones of the nation’s manufacturing sector — teetering on the brink of collapse. The GOP was prepared to simply let it fail, forcing hundreds of thousands of workers into unemployment during an already-severe jobs crisis. Mitt Romney’s infamous phrase was, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

What’s more, Republicans were equally certain that Obama’s rescue plan was hopeless. It was a foregone conclusion, they said, since government intervention in the marketplace is always a disaster. Romney called the administration’s plan “tragic” at the time.

Except they were wrong — about literally every aspect of the debate.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 19, 2012

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Auto Industry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Secretary Of Defense Palin”: Another Reason To Fear A Newt Gingrich Presidency

Newt Gingrich has staked out a string of positions over the course of the campaign that should be enough to disqualify him from holding the nation’s top political office. Gingrich can’t grasp the concept of separation of powers and believes the president should overrule court decisions he dislikes willy-nilly. He’s in favor of child labor and peppers his speeches with race-baiting language. About the only thing Gingrich gets right is his desire to reinvest in space research.

But this statement might resonate with voters more than any of those disqualifiers:

Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice,” Gingrich said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time.

Gingrich was speaking of his new supporter Sarah Palin, one of the most disliked public figures even in this era of general political disillusionment. Vice presidential picks rarely prove consequential, but Palin’s spot on the ticket may have cost John McCain as much as two percent of the national vote in 2008, according to some political scientists. In the unlikely scenario that Gingrich wins the GOP nomination, he would be unlikely to offer that same position to Palin, but even hinting at a cabinet post for Palin should be enough to derail Gingrich in a general election.


By: Patrick Caldwell, The American Prospect, January 19, 2012



January 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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