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Mitt Romney’s “Freedom To Dream”: That Is, If You Just Forget About Reality

At this point, it appears that Mitt Romney delivers a “major” speech on the economy about once a month, apparently working under the assumption that, eventually, someone will take one of these speeches seriously. The last such effort, delivered to an empty football stadium in Detroit, didn’t go well, so the former governor gave it yet another try yesterday at the University of Chicago.

The event was largely overlooked — apparently, once-a-month economic speeches read from teleprompters on a weekday afternoon have started to bore political reporters — but the remarks were actually worth paying attention to. Jamelle Bouie described the speech as “a remarkable work of staggering dishonesty,” which struck me as more than fair.

I believe speechwriters tend to call remarks like Romney’s yesterday as “big picture speeches.” The former governor presented no specifics and offered no details about any aspect of his economic vision, but he used the word “freedom” 29 times, and the word “free” an additional 10 times — all while standing in front of six American flags — all of which apparently was supposed to distract the audience from the fact that Romney’s vision lacked all meaningful substance.

But there was something to be learned from the speech anyway. For one thing, Romney presented an economic vision that’s very conservative.

“[O]ne feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality. […]

“Today, however, our status and our standing are in peril because the source of our economic strength is threatened. Over the last several decades, and particularly over the last three years, Washington has increasingly encroached upon our freedom…. If we don’t change course now, this assault on freedom could damage our economy and the well-being of American families for decades to come.

“We see this attack on our freedom in every corner of the economy.”

Just get the government out of the way and wait for “freedom” to solve all of our problems. Once we get pesky safeguards and regulations out of the way, we’ll be free to breathe dirty air and drink dirty water; we’ll be free of the burdens of affordable medical care; we’ll be free to watch Wall Street excesses rob the country blind; we’ll be free to slip into poverty into an inadequate safety net full of holes; we’ll be free of the homework assigned to college students; and we’ll be free to remain dependent on oil indefinitely.

It’s the kind of freedom that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will find inspiring, and working families will find crushing.

What’s more, yesterday offered a reminder as to just how dishonest Romney is prepared to be to advance his ambitions. To listen to this speech, you’d think that President Obama raised taxes instead of having cut them repeatedly. You’d think the stock market has been crushed by “restricted freedom,” instead of having soared under Obama’s watch. You’d think oil production has been sharply reduced, instead of having gone up each of the past three years.

And you’d think Obama vastly increased government spending and hired legions of new bureaucrats, none of which happened in reality.

“The reality is that, under President Obama’s administration, these pioneers would have found it much more difficult, if not impossible, to innovate, invent, and create.

“Under Dodd-Frank, they would have struggled to get loans from their community banks.

“A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their “dust pollution.”

“And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama’s regulators actually did just that.”

When Mitt Romney says “the reality is,” you can probably assume you’re not going to hear anything about reality. In this case, Romney is completely wrong about Wall Street reform; the Wright Brothers line doesn’t make sense; and the light bulb line refers to a Bush-era, bipartisan energy measure that doesn’t ban light bulbs at all.

“A remarkable work of staggering dishonesty,” indeed.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Don’t Need To Know Anything Else”: It’s Okay If You’re Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney, blaming Rick Santorum for the passage of Obamacare because Santorum endorsed Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey (Feb. 22, 2012):

The reason we have Obama Care — the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror.

Despite the ridiculousness of that argument (and it is especially ludicrous given Romney’s own failure to support Toomey), the next day Mitt Romney kept up the attack, this time slamming Santorum for having supported Specter’s 1996 presidential bid:

“There was also in 1996 when he supported Arlen Specter . . . He supported the pro-choice candidate, Arlen Specter,” Romney said, against a pro-life candidate, Bob Dole. “This taking one for the team, that’s business as usual in Washington.”

And on Monday, Romney’s campaign once again leveled the same attack on Rick Santorum, questioning his conservative credentials for having supported the moderate Specter.

Santorum says he endorsed Specter out of friendship because Specter was a colleague from Pennsylvania. And as HuffPost’s Sam Stein reminds us, that’s the same defense offered by Mitt Romney for his own support of Democrats:

“I don’t think they’re mortal sins for Republicans to make contributions to good people and to their friends, irrespective of their party,” he told reporters upon announcing his Senate bid, according to a February 3, 1994 Boston Herald article.”I place my friendship above politics. I have not been intent on plotting a political resume,” he declared elsewhere, according to a Boston Globe report from the day before.

The difference between what Romney was doing and what Santorum was doing is that Santorum was supporting a Republican while Romney was supporting a Democrat. Which brings us to a new acronym: IOKIYAMR. It’s okay if you are Mitt Romney, the concept that no matter what you do, it’s wrong … unless you are Mitt Romney.

So if you support a guy who later becomes a Democrat, it’s terrible, but if you support a Democrat, it’s okay, because IOKIYAMR.

If your name is Barack Obama and you sign into law health care reform plan that includes health care exchanges and an individual mandate, you’re an America-hating socialist, but if you do the exact same thing in Massachusetts and then support it at the federal level, it’s okay, because IOKIYAMR.

It’s the same reason that President Obama’s Iran policy is wrong (even though Mitt Romney shares the key substantive points) and it’s the same reason President Obama’s stimulus plan was bad (even though Mitt Romney called for a similar one). It’s the same reason it was wrong to vote for Rick Santorum in Michigan if you were a Democrat to screw with Republicans even though Mitt Romney voted across party lines in Massachusetts to screw with Democrats. If you’re Mitt Romney’s opponent, whatever you did was wrong, and whatever he did was right. IOKIYAMR. You don’t need to know anything else.


By: Jed Lewison, Daily Kos, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Collapse Of Civilization”: GOP Releases Plan To Save America From The Poor

The House Republicans unveiled their new budget today, complete with a spooky video pressing home the point that only the House Republicans and their leader Paul Ryan stand between us and CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE. Yes, the peril of rising debt is that bad. No, it’s not so bad that it’s worth restoring Clinton-era tax rates to prevent. But so bad that it’s worth throwing tens of millions of people off health insurance? Oh, yeah.

The first place to begin with the House budget is taxes. The plan is to slash tax rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent. The budget asserts that it will make up for most of the lost revenue by eliminating tax deductions, but it does not say which ones. This would require them to produce about $6 trillion worth of tax deductions. It would also ensure that, if they succeeded, taxes on the rich would fall, a lot, and taxes on many non-rich people would rise. This probably explains why they are not providing any details, which also explains why this promise would be tricky to fulfill. In any case, the upshot is that they have delineated $6 trillion worth of deficit-expansion, offset by unspecified promises to make it up.

On the spending side, things get somewhat more specific. Medicare would be partially privatized. The basic functions of government, like:

Over the next decade, Ryan would spend 30 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would spend $4.8 trillion over this timeframe; the White House’s would spend $6.8 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 38 percent less on transportation and 24 percent less on veterans. He’d cut “General science, space, and basic technology” by 20 percent. And, compared with the White House, he’d slash “Education, training, employment, and social services” by a full 44 percent.

Do House Republicans really think the federal government is vastly overinvesting in things like roads and scientific research, or is this merely a gimmick to make their tax cuts appear affordable? It is hard to say.

They do genuinely seem to believe that the federal government spends way too much on the poor and sick, and move to correct that. Poor people, or people who have a family member with a serious medical condition, come in for special abuse here. The Republican budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance coverage to 30 million people, and replace it with nothing. On top of that, it would absolutely slash Medicaid and the childrens’ health insurance plan, eliminating coverage from 14-27 million more people (the wide variation reflects the fact that the outcome heavily depends on how states respond to the huge cuts, and the elimination of rules that force states to cover poor people.)

All in all, we have a standard mix of specific benefits for the rich, specific pain for the poor, and a lot of vague promises that would entail pain for the middle class, without committing themselves in a way that could hurt politically.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Massive Tax Breaks For The Rich”: GOP Budget Plan To Reduce The Debt Actually Makes The Debt Worse

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the GOP’s new budget this morning, and in doing so, he touted it as a plan to make America’s level of debt more sustainable. “We’ve shared with Americans a specific plan of action that cuts spending, pays off the debt and gets our economy back on the path to prosperity,” Ryan said.

The problem with Ryan’s rhetoric is that his plan fails to match it. By giving massive tax breaks to corporations and the top one percent and preserving unsustainable levels of defense spending, the House GOP’s plan to reduce the debt would fail to reduce the debt. In fact, because it assumes levels of revenue that are pure fantasy under his tax proposals, the plan would actually increase the debt, according to an analysis by Center for American Progress Tax and Budget Policy Director Michael Linden:

But the House budget’s entire claim to deficit reduction is built on the foundation of those fantasy revenue levels. Without them, the debt goes up, not down. In fact, with all the House budget’s tax cuts properly accounted for, revenue would average just 15.3 percent of GDP from 2013 through 2022, not 18.3 percent. The result: deficits would never drop below 4.4 percent of GDP, and would rise to more than 5 percent of GDP by 2022.

The national debt, measured as a share of GDP, would never decline, surpassing 80 percent by 2014, and 90 percent by 2022. By comparison, President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, released in February, would stabilize the debt by 2015, and bring it down to 76 percent by 2022.

As Linden notes, the GOP’s “debt reduction” isn’t just based on fantasy levels of revenue — it’s based on “massive, unrealistic” spending cuts as well. Medicaid would face $1 trillion cuts in the first decade, while education and workforce training programs would get cut in half and transportation funding would be reduced by nearly 25 percent. The plan, which also ignores previous deals and increases defense spending, would also require deep cuts in other vital domestic programs.

“If you agree it’s morally wrong to ignore the most predictable crisis in U.S. history, this is your budget,” Ryan tweeted yesterday. Apparently, though, it seems Ryan and his Republican colleagues got so wrapped up in creating a budget that benefits the top one percent, they forgot to actually reduce the debt.


By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Budget, Deficits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Groundhog Day”: The 5 Worst Things About The House GOP’s Budget

After his last attempt at a budget went down in flames last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled the House GOP’s new budget this morning, painting it as a sensible plan to reform the nation’s tax code and reduce the debt while maintaining entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Yet again, however, Ryan and the GOP have the social safety net and Medicare in their sights, and yet again, they’re attempting to pass the cost of massive tax breaks for corporations and the rich off to middle and lower-income Americans.

Here are the five worst things about Ryan’s budget:

1. SENIORS WOULD PAY MORE FOR HEALTH CARE: Beginning 2023, the guaranteed Medicare benefit would be transformed into a government-financed “premium support” system. Seniors currently under the age of 55 could use their government contribution to purchase insurance from an exchange of private plans or traditional fee-for-service Medicare. But the budget does not take sufficient precautions to prevent insurers from cherry-picking the the healthiest beneficiaries from traditional Medicare and leaving sicker applicants to the government. As a result, traditional Medicare costs could skyrocket, forcing even more seniors out of the government program. The budget also adopts a per capita cost cap of GDP growth plus 0.5 percent, without specifying how it would enforce it. This makes it likely that the cap would limit the government contribution provided to beneficiaries and since the proposed growth rate is much slower than the projected growth in health care costs, CBO estimates that new beneficiaries could pay up to $1,200 more by 2030 and more than $5,900 more by 2050. Finally, the budget would also raise Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67. Some seniors who would no longer be eligible for Medicare would pick up employer coverage—but they would pay more in premiums and cost sharing. And since the budget would scale back or eliminate other coverage options, hundreds of thousands of seniors would become uninsured.

2. ELDERLY AND DISABLED WOULD LOSE MEDICAID COVERAGE: The budget would eliminate the exiting matching-grant financing structure of Medicaid and would instead give each state a pre-determined block grant that does not keep up with actual health care spending. This would shift some of the burden of Medicaid’s growing costs to the states, forcing them to — in the words of the CBO — make cutbacks that “involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost sharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care.” The block grants would reduce federal Medicaid spending by $810 billion over 10 years, decreasing federal Medicaid spending by more than 35 percent over the decade. As a result, states could reduce enrollment by more than 14 million people, or almost 20 percent—even if they are were able to slow the growth in health care costs substantially.

3. THIRTY MILLION AMERICANS WOULD LOSE HEALTH COVERAGE: The budget repeals the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to purchase health insurance coverage, the establishment of health insurance exchanges and the provision of subsidies for lower-income Americans, the expansion of the Medicaid program, tax credits for small businesses that provide insurance coverage. As a result, more than 30 million Americans would lose coverage and the budget would eliminate the new law’s consumer protections, which have already benefited tens of millions of Americans.

4. CORPORATIONS AND THE RICH WOULD GET A $3 TRILLION TAX CUT: By repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and the investment taxes in the Affordable Care Act and lowering the top income tax rate to 25 percent, the Ryan budget provides the wealthiest Americans with $2 trillion in tax breaks. By lowering the top corporate tax rate and allowing corporations to return profits made overseas to the United States at no cost, he gives corporations more than $1 trillion in tax breaks. Ryan insists his plan will be revenue neutral — he just won’t say how. The CBO’s scoring of the plan, meanwhile, is based on Ryan’s own assertions that the plan would maintain or increase revenue.

5. DEFENSE BUDGET WOULD GET A BOOST, WHILE THE SAFETY NET IS CUT: The Ryan budget protects defense spending from automatic cuts agreed to in last year’s debt deal, then boosts defense spending to $554 billion in 2013 — $8 billion more than agreed upon in the deal. At the same time, it asks six Congressional committees to find $261 billion in cuts. That includes $33.2 billion from the Agriculture Committee, meaning food stamps and other social safety net programs are likely to face cuts, all while the Pentagon remains untouched.

By: Igor Volsky and Travis Waldron, Think Progress, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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