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“I Could Have Done That”: All Good Ideas Belong To Mitt Romney

So says a campaign advisor, who pinned the auto bailout success on the former Massachusetts governor.

Back in 2009, when the newly elected President Barack Obama was contemplating a bailout of the auto-industry, Mitt Romney emerged from his temporary hiatus to push policymakers in the other direction. “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” he urged in an op-ed for New York Times. For Romney, a managed bankrupcy of the kind he had pioneered at Bain Capital was the only way to “save” the American auto industry. As for Obama’s approach, Romney warned that “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” A few months later, Romney repeated his warning: If Obama continued on his path, “it would make GM the living dead.”

Three years later, Romney’s prediction hasn’t come to pass. The American auto industry is thriving even as conservatives run with the idea that government is categorically ineffective. In February, during the Republican primary in Michigan, Romney further disparaged the auto bailout, granting its success, but accusing Obama of kowtowing to “union bosses.” This message didn’t play well, and only gave Obama and Democrats an opportunity to tout the success of the bailouts, and contrast them with Romney’s position.

Now that Romney is in the general election, he has begun to shake the Etch A Sketch on a number of issues. One of those, if this comment from Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom is any indication, is the bailout:

“[Romney’s] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed,” Fehrnstrom said. “He said, ‘If you want to save the auto industry, just don’t write them a check. That will seal their doom. What they need to do is go through a managed bankruptcy process.’”

“Consider that the crown jewel,” Fehrnstrom said. “The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”

Writing at Talking Points Memo, Pema Levy points out that Romney’s position on the bailout has been hazy; he was vehemently against the administration, but in a way that gave him a way to claim credit, as Fehrnstrom does. Of course, the fact that Romney has rhetorical space to take credit for the bailout doesn’t mean that’s any less ridiculous; it’s the political equivalent of twelve-year-old boasting—“I could have done that too! If you’d picked me first.”

One last observation—this continues an odd pattern by the Romney campaign, which inhabits a frame established by the Obama campaign rather than creating something for themselves. First, there was the “War on Women,” where Romney advisors argued that it was Democrats who were fighting the real war on women, while conceding that the existence of an actual war. Then, in Romney’s speech last Tuesday, there was “fairness,” when the former Massachusetts governor argued that government was the real purveyor of unfairness in the country. And now we have the auto industry bailout, where Romney claims to have been the real mastermind behind the policy.

I’m not sure what the campaign hopes to get out of this approach. By continuously talking about Obama on Obama’s terms, they do nothing but put themselves on the defensive. It’s a bad strategy, and the only saving grace is that we’re still early in the election.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wasting Our Minds”: A Young Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

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

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Campaigning In Fiction”: Mitt Romney’s Campaign Pledges Raise Questions For Conservatives

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is making campaign promises that could produce an economic miracle – or a more predictable list of broken vows.

Romney says he wants to put the nation on a path to a balanced budget while also cutting an array of taxes, building up the Navy and Air Force and adding 100,000 active-duty military personnel. He says he would slash domestic spending and reduce tax loopholes but has offered few details.

His comments raise eyebrows in Congress, long accustomed to easier-said-than-done promises. And even some conservatives have their doubts.

Christopher A. Preble, a vice president for the libertarian Cato Institute, says Romney’s promise to push military spending to 4 percent of the national economy would require dramatic increases that would raise, not lower, the federal deficit.

Citing “the absurdity of Romney’s plan,” Preble wrote recently that the candidate “hasn’t said what other spending he will cut, or what taxes he would increase.”

“Until he does,” Preble wrote, “it is logical to conclude that he plans to pile on more debt.”

Romney says he will avoid that problem by making courageous cuts to federal programs if elected.

“I have three major ways that we can get ourselves to a balanced budget,” he told voters this month in Warwick, R.I. “Number one is to eliminate some programs. Stop, eliminate them. Not just slow down their rate of growth. But look at programs and say, `Too many, too big, too expensive, too ineffective, get rid of it.’ Some programs you’re going to like. I’m going to ask for sacrifice. But the sacrifice will not be taking more from your wallet…. I’m not going to give anybody any free stuff.”

Other Romney proposals would make states responsible for programs such as Medicaid, and reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent “through attrition.”

It’s not uncommon for candidates to promise unspecified spending cuts. Often, however, they find it extremely difficult to fulfill the pledges once elected. That’s one reason the nation’s debt has soared under Republican and Democratic presidents and congresses alike.

Romney has shown little willingness to cut popular programs so far. He joined President Barack Obama, and bucked some House Republicans, by backing an extension of low college loan rates for middle-income students, a $6 billion government cost.

Voters may understand that candidates can’t or won’t keep all their promises.

“You campaign in fiction, and govern in fact,” said Tom Davis, a former congressman who headed the Republicans’ House campaign committee from 1998 to 2002.

He noted that Obama quickly backed off his campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Obama also pledged to tamp down Washington’s partisan tone and to overhaul immigration laws, neither of which has happened.

Davis said it’s the general thrust of Romney’s proposals that matters most, not every specific item.

“What he’s trying to do is sketch a different vision,” Davis said. Details of how Romney’s proposals will pan out, if he’s elected, “will be determined by Congress and events,” he said.

Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, said Romney’s proposals “are aspirations” more than firm promises. If elected, Romney may have to revisit his current rejection of tax increases and his vow to leave Social Security and Medicare unchanged for current and soon-to-be recipients, LaTourette said.

Romney and Obama “have to come to the realization that a big deal,” which includes tax increases, spending cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare, “is the only way” to address the nation’s deficit dilemma, LaTourette said.

Romney calls for a host of tax cuts. But independent analysts say they will worsen the deficit unless offset by deep and politically unpopular spending cuts.

Romney would keep the Bush-era tax cuts, and further reduce all marginal income tax rates by 20 percent. He says he would lower the corporate tax rate, eliminate the estate tax, push a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and make $500 billion in unspecified domestic discretionary spending cuts in 2016.

He wants wider exploration for energy, including oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

Such promises draw loud cheers at GOP rallies. But for decades, Republican-run and Democratic-run congresses alike have rejected ANWR drilling, a balanced budget amendment, deep spending cuts and other mainstays of Romney’s campaign.

Whether these campaign ideas are called proposals, aspirations or promises, they are easier to talk about than to achieve.

By: Charles Babington, The Huffington Post, April 27, 2012

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pouncing On Presidential Coolness”: Meanwhile, Molasses Mitt Slow Jams To Merv Griffin

The right has come up with a new line of attack against Barack Obama: He’s too cool.

You read that right.

Suddenly, it was an act of unpresidential affrontery for Obama to go on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Never mind that presidents and presidential candidates have been doing the late-night thing for two decades, back to Bubba’s sax-playing moment with Arsenio. Never mind that Mitt Romney recited a silly Top Ten list on Letterman and pretended to be reading Kim Kardashian’s tweets. Never mind that George W. Bush went on Oprah. Obama was a bad boy.

“I thought it was really bad, that we had so many issues and problems going on in this country, around the world, and you can’t swing a cat without finding President Obama on a comedy show,” said Fox contributor Dana Perino, Bush’s last White House press secretary.

And there was grumbling about Obama’s comedy stylings at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner. He was too sharp in going after Romney, he shouldn’t have joked about eating dog meat, and so on. (Uh—I can remember when Bush poked fun at not finding those weapons of mass destruction.)

So is hipness now a political liability?

Clearly this is a concerted effort to turn the president’s charm and wit against him. The Republicans are saddled with a somewhat awkward candidate. It’s hard to imagine Mitt slow-jamming the news on Fallon’s show. No wonder Obama deadpanned at the dinner that Romney “asked if he could get some equal time on The Merv Griffin Show.” Romney isn’t even sure whether to accept an invitation from SNL.

All this is reminiscent of a controversial ad that John McCain ran against Obama in 2008, dubbing him the world’s biggest celebrity and likening him to Paris Hilton. (Today I guess it would be Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan, both of whom were at the correspondents’ dinner.) The Republican National Committee has posted a web ad cutting between clips of Obama riffing with Fallon and Romney giving a serious speech, with the tag line #notfunny.

There’s a larger problem here for the Romney camp. Obama, whether you think he’s cool or condescening, is widely seen by the public as a likable guy. Mitt is widely seen as a stiff. That is not going to change. So in a classic case of political ju-jitsu, the conservatives are trying to turn the president’s strength into a liability: Yeah yeah, he’s hip, he’s happening, but what has he really accomplished? Wouldn’t you rather go with the boring businessman who might fix the ailing economy?

I’m not sure that works. But it may be the best card his team has to play if Romney wants to be performing at next year’s White House Correspondents Dinner.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Pair Of Briefs”: Senate Democrats Plan To Give Mittens A Wedgie

The Hill is reporting that Senate Democrats are planning to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the floor this week. The PFA, which is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the G.O.P. (and come to think of it, have you ever seen those two institutions in the same place at the same time? just sayin’), would expand the protections enshrined in the Equal Pay Act by, among other things,

allowing employees to compare the pay of male colleagues not only within the same office but also with colleagues in other local offices. A female employee could allege wage discrimination if she is paid less than a male working the same job for the same employer across town.

Unsurprisingly, women’s groups are strongly supportive of the proposed law. It’s a popular piece of legislation, especially among female voters, a group that, in a political season that has been defined by the G.O.P.’s ever-escalating war on women and a widening gender gap between to the two parties, Romney needs to court. So the upcoming vote puts him in a difficult position: he “will either have to split with Republicans and an important business group or take a position that could further erode his support among women.”

The Dems, for once, are playing very smart politics with this. What I don’t understand is why they don’t do this sort of thing more often. One of the signature failures of Harry Reid and the Obama administration has been their reluctance to bring popular legislation to the floor and force Republicans to go on the record opposing it. Using wedge issues to pry apart a political coalition and appeal to swing voters is a tried and true technique. The Bush administration did this kind of thing all to time to Democrats, with great success. Even if there is no possibility that the legislation will pass, political points are scored.

Supporters of the Obama administration certainly have a point when they argue that the President’s effectiveness has been severely hampered by an extraordinarily hostile and recalcitrant Congress. But the President has other powers to move his or her agenda forward, such as appointments, executive orders, and working with Congressional leaders to bring votes to the floor that will put the opposing party on the defensive. My biggest disappointments with the Obama administration have been its failures in these kinds of areas, where the President really does have a lot of control. Which is why I despair when I read about things like this. Or this.

That said, I don’t want to dwell on the negative here. I heartily applaud what the Dems are doing with the Paycheck Fairness Act vote, and I strongly encourage them to wield the wedge a lot more often. Among other things, it help builds morale amongst the base — it’s fun to nail those bastards to the wall and observe their obvious discomfort as they squirm and try to weasel their way out of going on the record. More like this, please!

By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 29, 2012

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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