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“Sham Plan For The Privileged Elite”: Mitt Romney’s Cruel Joke On The Middle Class

The Republican presidential nominee has stopped trying to hide his allegience to the wealthy and privileged.

In response, it seems, to criticism of his economic plan—which will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers—Mitt Romney has released a one-page “plan for a stronger middle-class.” The provisions are what you would expect:

  • Increase domestic drilling, reduce regulations on the coal industry, and complete the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Sign new trade agreements and “curtail the unfair trade pracices of countries like China.”
  • Devolve federal programs, like Medicaid, to the states, cut spending on an existing agencies and social programs, and institute a larger, long-term cut by capping federal spending at below 20 percent.
  • Cut taxes, repeal the Affordable Care Act, reduce regulations, and make it more difficult for unions to organize.

Romney’s cuts to Medicaid, Pell Grants and other social services—the inevitable outcome of capping federal spending while drastically reducing revenue—would shred the social safety net and make financial security an impossible prospect for millions of Americans. His promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deprive countless people of health insurance, and force them to shoulder the burden of an expensive and dysfunctional health care system. His promise to drastically reduce regulations would allow unscrupulous corporations to mislead consumers, and pollute our air, water, and soil with dangerous chemicals. His promise to take on unions—which are already in decline—would make it even harder for workers to negotiate and stand up for themselves.

It’s a cruel joke to describe this as a plan to strengthen the middle class, when in reality, it would destroy opportunity, eliminate security, and place vulnerable Americans at the mercy of employers who lack a commitment to anything other than profits.

Even more galling than the plan itself is the fact that it’s wrapped in a promise to create 12 million jobs over the next four years. As Greg Sargent points out at the Washington Post, the economy is already projected to create 12 million jobs.

In other words, Romney is peddling a sham plan that does nothing for the economy and nothing for ordinary people. Instead, it drains our shared resources, and diverts them to “job creators”—the privileged elite that has jettisoned any and all concern for the public good.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, August 3, 2012

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Deeply Troubling Ramifications”: Climate Change Is Here And Worse Than We Thought

When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 , I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.

But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic.

My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.

In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.

These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills.

Twenty-four years ago, I introduced the concept of “climate dice” to help distinguish the long-term trend of climate change from the natural variability of day-to-day weather. Some summers are hot, some cool. Some winters brutal, some mild. That’s natural variability.

But as the climate warms, natural variability is altered, too. In a normal climate without global warming, two sides of the die would represent cooler-than-normal weather, two sides would be normal weather, and two sides would be warmer-than-normal weather. Rolling the die again and again, or season after season, you would get an equal variation of weather over time.

But loading the die with a warming climate changes the odds. You end up with only one side cooler than normal, one side average, and four sides warmer than normal. Even with climate change, you will occasionally see cooler-than-normal summers or a typically cold winter. Don’t let that fool you.

Our new peer-reviewed study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, makes clear that while average global temperature has been steadily rising due to a warming climate (up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century), the extremes are actually becoming much more frequent and more intense worldwide.

When we plotted the world’s changing temperatures on a bell curve, the extremes of unusually cool and, even more, the extremes of unusually hot are being altered so they are becoming both more common and more severe.

The change is so dramatic that one face of the die must now represent extreme weather to illustrate the greater frequency of extremely hot weather events.

Such events used to be exceedingly rare. Extremely hot temperatures covered about 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of the globe in the base period of our study, from 1951 to 1980. In the last three decades, while the average temperature has slowly risen, the extremes have soared and now cover about 10 percent of the globe.

This is the world we have changed, and now we have to live in it — the world that caused the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed more than 50,000 people and the 2011 drought in Texas that caused more than $5 billion in damage. Such events, our data show, will become even more frequent and more severe.

There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time. We can solve the challenge of climate change with a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs. It is a simple, honest and effective solution.

The future is now. And it is hot.

 

By: James E. Hansen, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, The Washington Post Opinions, August 3, 2012

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Climate Change | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney Unveils Agenda”: His “Five-Point Plan” Is Vastly Less Specific Than His “One-Point Plan”

Ask and it shall be given, Mitt Romney’s campaign seems to be saying today to critics Left and Right. Need a positive campaign message? Want an agenda? Well, here you are, per Byron York:

[O]n Thursday, the campaign rolled out “Mitt Romney’s Plan for a Stronger Middle Class,” which boiled down nearly every domestic policy proposal Romney has made to just five points: energy independence, education, trade reform, deficit cutting and a plan to “champion small business.”

And on Thursday afternoon, there was Romney, addressing supporters in Golden, Colo., in front of a giant banner that said ROMNEY PLAN. In his remarks, Romney criticized Obama; nothing wrong with that. But he laid out his larger purpose at the very beginning. “Today, I come to talk about making things better,” Romney said, laying out his plan. “If we do those five things, those simple five things … you’re going to see this economy come roaring back.”

“This is the path to more jobs and more take-home pay and a brighter future for you and your kids,” Romney added. “And I know that because I’ve seen it.”

Romney was clear, sharp and focused. If he stays that way, he’ll likely quiet some of his GOP critics, at least for a while.

Well, that’s nice, and clearly more substantive than just touting his own success and rugged good looks as a sufficient agenda. But Lord a-mercy, this five-point plan raises a few follow-up questions, eh? I mean, would Barack Obama dispute any of these five goals? I don’t think so.

The funny thing about this “five-point plan” is that it’s vastly less specific than what you might call his “one-point plan:” the Ryan Budget, which shows in detail how Romney and a Republican Congress would go about achieving those five goals. Until Romney is willing to talk about that, then he can call his vague talking points a PLAN all he wants, but it’s about as accurate as taking photos of a city from an airplane window at 40,000 feet, and proclaiming it all neat and pretty.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 3, 2012

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Race-Bait For Rich Wingnuts”: GOP Benefiting From Racist Sentiments It Arouses Without Complicity

One of the fears that may instill the occasional bout of night terror among American pols is the possibility that “friendly” SuperPACs who don’t agree with the strategy, tactics, or message they ostensibly support will fall into a giant vat of unregulated cash and do something stupid and counter-productive.

We may be about to see how effectively Republicans can keep that from happening, via a new Super-PAC created by the shady oppo researcher Stephen Marks that’s already released a web ad which is a small masterpiece of racism-posing-as-anti-racism.

As ThinkProgress’ Josh Israel reports:

FightBigotry.com, a new Super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission this week, makes no bones about its aim. It intends to run an attack ad that it says will hit President Barack Obama for “his disturbing, yet crystal-clear pattern of tacitly defending black racism against white folks before and since being elected president.”

Marks is one of those Breitbartian heroes who is proud of being a nasty piece of work, and who specializes in racial appeals. Check out his ad, if you have a strong stomach: http://youtu.be/MYcGui5JrQg

Interesting, eh? Every single human image in this 120-second ad is of African-Americans, with the exception of (a) a white man who is apparently being bullied by a finger-pointing Eric Holder; (b) a white cop who is leading Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to the hoosegow in handcuffs; and (c) white people in a 2008 Obama campaign audience who have (the voiceover suggests) been betrayed and mocked by the black racist president and his black racist administration. You got your Jeremiah Wright. You got your New Black Panther Party thugs. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, who is quoted as championing the anti-racist sentiments Obama and company have betrayed, comes across as loud and threatening.

Now this is just a web ad, but the two questions it raises are whether (a) some rich wingnut might decide it’s exactly what white voters in battleground states need to see and hear, and gets it on the air regardless of what the official GOP says it wants, or (b) it goes viral without any paid broadcasting. In the latter event, Republicans can benefit from whatever racist sentiments it arouses without complicity (unless progressives loudly demand they denounce it); and even in the former event, Mitt Romney, for one, has been known to refuse any blame for nasty ads run by others—even by his own pet Super-PAC.

I sincerely hope this crap gets buried in the slag-heap of ephemeral political communications. But I would not be the farm on it.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 3, 2012

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Debt, Depression, DeMarco”: How Economic Policy Has Been Crippled By Unyielding, Irresponsible Republican Opposition

There has been plenty to criticize about President Obama’s handling of the economy. Yet the overriding story of the past few years is not Mr. Obama’s mistakes but the scorched-earth opposition of Republicans, who have done everything they can to get in his way — and who now, having blocked the president’s policies, hope to win the White House by claiming that his policies have failed.

And this week’s shocking refusal to implement debt relief by the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency — a Bush-era holdover the president hasn’t been able to replace — illustrates perfectly what’s going on.

Some background: many economists believe that the overhang of excess household debt, a legacy of the bubble years, is the biggest factor holding back economic recovery. Loosely speaking, excess debt has created a situation in which everyone is trying to spend less than their income. Since this is collectively impossible — my spending is your income, and your spending is my income — the result is a persistently depressed economy.

How should policy respond? One answer is government spending to support the economy while the private sector repairs its balance sheets; now is not the time for austerity, and cuts in government purchases have been a major economic drag. Another answer is aggressive monetary policy, which is why the Federal Reserve’s refusal to act in the face of high unemployment and below-target inflation is a scandal.

But fiscal and monetary policy could, and should, be coupled with debt relief. Reducing the burden on Americans in financial trouble would mean more jobs and improved opportunities for everyone.

Unfortunately, the administration’s initial debt relief efforts were ineffectual: Officials imposed so many restrictions to avoid giving relief to “undeserving” debtors that the program went nowhere. More recently, however, the administration has gotten a lot more serious about the issue.

And the obvious place to provide debt relief is on mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders that were effectively nationalized in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration.

The idea of using Fannie and Freddie has bipartisan support. Indeed, Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard, a top Romney adviser, has called on Fannie and Freddie to let homeowners with little or no equity refinance their mortgages, which could sharply cut their interest payments and provide a major boost to the economy. The Obama administration supports this idea and has also proposed a special program of relief for deeply troubled borrowers.

But Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the agency that oversees Fannie and Freddie, refuses to move on refinancing. And, this week, he rejected the administration’s relief plan.

Who is Ed DeMarco? He’s a civil servant who became acting director of the housing finance agency after the Bush-appointed director resigned in 2009. He is still there, in the fourth year of the Obama administration, because Senate Republicans have blocked attempts to install a permanent director. And he evidently just hates the idea of providing debt relief.

Mr. DeMarco’s letter rejecting the relief plan made remarkably weak arguments. He claimed that the plan, while improving his agency’s financial position thanks to subsidies from the Treasury Department, would be a net loss to taxpayers — a conclusion not supported by his own staff’s analysis, which showed a net gain. And it’s worth pointing out that many private lenders have offered the very kinds of principal reductions Mr. DeMarco rejects — even though these lenders, unlike the government, have no incentive to take into account the way debt relief would strengthen the economy.

The main point, however, is that Mr. DeMarco seems to misunderstand his job. He’s supposed to run his agency and secure its finances — not make national economic policy. If the Treasury secretary, acting for the president, seeks to subsidize debt relief in a way that actually strengthens the finance agency, the agency’s chief has no business blocking that policy. Doing so should be a firing offense.

Can Mr. DeMarco be fired right away? I’ve been seeing conflicting analyses on that point, although one thing is clear: President Obama, if re-elected, can, and should, replace him through a recess appointment. In fact, he should have done that years ago. As I said, Mr. Obama has made plenty of mistakes.

But the DeMarco affair nonetheless demonstrates, once again, the extent to which U.S. economic policy has been crippled by unyielding, irresponsible political opposition. If our economy is still deeply depressed, much — and I would say most — of the blame rests not with Mr. Obama but with the very people seeking to use that depressed economy for political advantage.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 2, 2012

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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