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“Reverse Bain Pain For Mitt”: The Right Completes Its Hostile Takeover Of Romney

Romney-Ryan constitutes, very possibly, the best-looking ticket in American political history. Mitt Romney is so textbook handsome that he resembles a toy action-figure president. Paul Ryan’s youthful, chiseled face and piercing blue eyes are already making hearts flutter around the political world. And no doubt Romney’s bold choice for veep – which has made most people forget, for the moment, Bain Capital and his undisclosed tax returns– will give the Republican presumptive nominee some pop in the polls. For the moment.

But once the excitement surrounding Ryan subsides, the long, ideological slog of this presidential race will resume, and with greater force than before. The stakes will be, once again, about the stark conceptual choice that American voters now face. Romney’s selection of Ryan must be seen as part of a continuum of hard-line positions that the GOP candidate, under constant pressure from an often hostile right, has laid out on everything from immigration to health care to foreign policy.

And with his veep choice Romney is sending a message to the American electorate, more forthrightly than ever, that he won’t be moving to the middle after all. He seems to be affirming that he is just about as ideologically conservative and as captured by the GOP base as Obama has been painting him.

Judging from the Obama campaign’s line of attack since his speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors last April, this is just what the president wanted: an election that turns, to a very great extent, on the radical nature of Ryan’s budget–not so much on the numbers it lays out but on the vision it represents. The plan embodies a fiercely pared-down, pre-New Deal (or at least pre-Eisenhower) concept of government that the Congressional Budget Office (which analyzed the plan at Ryan’s request) concluded would effectively eliminate, by 2050, funding for education, highways, veterans’ programs, foreign aid, medical and scientific research, national parks, food and water safety, and most programs for low-income families and individuals other than Medicaid, as well as partially privatize Medicare. Ryan’s tax proposal would also clearly deepen the already wide gulf in income.

Thus, this is an election that also turns on the still-lingering question: Who’s really in charge in the GOP? Is it Romney or the Orthodoxicrats of the tea party/Grover Norquist crowd? Bob Schieffer sought to tackle this question on Sunday in his 60 Minutes interview of the dynamic duo. “Some people are saying you are making it [the election] a referendum on Paul Ryan’s budget plan,” Schieffer asked Romney. Romney responded that “I have my budget plan, as you know, that I’ve put out. And that’s the budget plan that we’re going to run on.”

But in fact, there is no full-blown Romney budget plan, not anything that has the operational detail of the Ryan plan. And until there is, voters will no doubt be justified in assuming that Romney still endorses Ryan’s plan as he did last spring, when he called it “marvelous” — which, as Obama himself sardonically noted in his April speech, “is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget.”

Well before the veep choice was announced, Obama had been linking Romney directly to Ryan in a strategy that appeared to emulate Bill Clinton’s successful 1996 takedown of Bob Dole, as I wrote in April. Just as Clinton successfully tied the center-right Kansas senator to the then-far-right Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House, and warned voters that “Dole-Gingrich” would cost them “large parts of their Social Security and Medicare,” Obama jumped on Romney’s seeming endorsement of Ryan’s budget last spring.

Recall the president’s April speech: “Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down, and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract With America look like the New Deal,” Obama said to laughter. “In fact, that renowned liberal, Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget ‘radical’ and said it would contribute to ‘right-wing social engineering.’ ”

For Clinton, the charges in ’96 stuck not least because Dole decided to run with a zealous supply-sider, former Rep. Jack Kemp.

Romney is as welded now to Ryan as Dole was to Kemp. Still, he does have one big factor in his favor that Dole didn’t: an economic crisis and record-high unemployment, all of which may give him and his vision of government the sort of validation that Dole lacked in a generally healthy economy.

Romney’s problem is that he has persistently failed to get himself over the 50 percent mark in national polls that he needs to win. He’ll have to capture at least some of the middle to do that, including the broad mass of white, middle-class voters who depend on Medicare and other government programs. It’s not clear that Paul Ryan, no matter how handsome and winning he may be as a personality, is the pick who’s going to do that for him.


By: Michael Hirsh, National Journal, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lest We Forget”: Medicaid, Not Medicare Is Biggest Target For Conservatives

At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this subject, I devoutly hope that in their rush to tie Mitt Romney to Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal, progressives don’t forget that there has never been much space between the two running-mates on the national health care program Ryan’s budget would really destroy: Medicaid. Wonkblog’s Suzy Khimm has a reminder today:

Paul Ryan’s Medicare overhaul may be the most controversial part of his budget.But the proposed cuts to the program are not the biggest cuts in the plan.

As Ezra notes, Ryan’s cuts to Medicare “are only 60 percent as large as the cuts to Medicaid and other health-care programs.” What’s more, his biggest change to Medicare wouldn’t kick in until 2023—the start date for his voucher-based premium support program. By comparison, Ryan’s cuts to Medicaid are more drastic, and they start sooner: Between 2013 and 2022, it would make nearly $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid that “would almost inevitably result in dramatic reductions in coverage” as well as enrollment, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Over the next 10 years, the Ryan plan would cut Medicaid by $642 billion by repealing the Affordable Care Act and by $750 billion through new caps on federal spending—a 34 percent cut to Medicaid spending over the next decade, according to Edwin Park of the Center and Budget and Policy Priorities.

Who would that impact? First, by overturning the ACA, the Ryan plan would prevent 11 million people from gaining Medicaid coverage by 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimates….

If states maintained their current level of spending for each Medicaid patient, 19 million more people would have to be cut from the program in 2021 because of Ryan’s block-grant reform, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If states managed to curb health-care spending growth in Medicaid, 14 million beneficiaries would still lose Medicaid coverage under the Ryan plan. And that’s on top of the 11 million Americans who would lose Medicaid coverage because the Ryan plan would repeal Obamacare. So all in all, Ryan’s cuts could mean as many as 30 million Medicaid beneficiaries lose their coverage.

Yeah, yeah, I know, old folks vote and in the last two cycles a majority have voted Republican, and po’ folks don’t vote so much, and far more already vote Democratic. But Lord a-mighty: 30 million people potentially losing their health insurance because Romney and Ryan think they need to show more moral fiber. Given Romney’s support for the entire Ryan Budget, that doesn’t even get into the damage wreaked on efforts to help the poor escape from total dependence on cash assistance or private charity by the combined cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and the earned income tax credit that budget contemplates. And on top of all that, many millions of indigent seniors depend on Medicaid for nursing home care.

So before progressives decide to devote all their time to endless arguments over exactly which term to use for what the Ryan Budget proposes to do to Medicare—vouchers, cost-shifts, abandonment, abolition-of-Medicare-as-we-know it—don’t forget about Medicaid. That’s the Great Society safety net program with the biggest bullseye painted on it.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Phony Hawkery”: Paul Ryan Is A Conservative Ideologue Who Couches “Right Wing Social Engineering”

This is something that other people have mentioned, and Jamelle brings up in his extremely helpful post about Paul Ryan, but it really needs to be emphasized: Paul Ryan is not a “deficit hawk.” No matter how many times the news media tell us, it doesn’t make it true. As I’ve said before, you can’t call yourself a deficit hawk if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don’t like anyway. Show me someone who’s willing to cut programs he favors (Ryan isn’t), and would actually take potentially painful measures to balance the budget (Ryan wouldn’t), and that’s a deficit hawk. Ryan, on the other hand, is a conservative ideologue who couches what Newt Gingrich appropriately called “right-wing social engineering” in a lot of talk about making tough choices. But I’ve never actually seen Paul Ryan make a “tough” choice, at least one that was tough for him. There’s nothing “tough” about a conservative Republican who tells you he wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, increase defense spending, and cut taxes for the wealthy. That’s like Homer Simpson telling you he’s making the tough choice to skip the salad and eat three dozen donuts instead.

But oh boy, have the media ever bought into the idea of Ryan as the courageous budget-cutter. “A Beltway Budget Hawk Gets a Chance to Sell Vision” says The Wall Street Journal. “Paul Ryan: Hawk on Budget and Tea Party Darling” says the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We know Paul Ryan is a budget hawk. But what about other issues?” says the Christian Science Monitor. And that’s just a few headlines; there are hundreds of stories referring to Ryan as a “fiscal hawk,” a “budget hawk,” and a “deficit hawk.”

So why does he get described this way so often? I think it’s because the establishment media have become devoted to a particular narrative, which says that the country is deeply threatened by the future growth of Social Security and Medicare, and anyone who has the “courage” to propose cuts to those programs is a hero (Time‘s Michael Grunwald did an excellent examination last year of all kinds of people weirdly praising Ryan’s courage). And even if, like Ryan, you also want to slash taxes and increase the deficit, you’re still a hero.

It’s strange how you never see the members of the congressional Progressive Caucus, who want to cut defense spending and bring in more tax revenues than Ryan does, described as “deficit hawks,” or, heaven forbid, “courageous.” Representative Jan Schakowsky, for instance, put out a plan that balances the budget in a much shorter amount of time than Paul Ryan’s plan, but does so primarily through a combination of tax increases and defense cuts. Nobody calls Schakowsky a “deficit hawk” or praises her “courage” on fiscal issues, even though her proposal is far more realistic and less cruel than Ryan’s. Could it have something to do with the fact that your average Washington 1 percenter actually thinks slashing programs for the poor and cutting taxes for the wealthy is a smashing idea?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Conspiracy Of Thousands”: How The GOP Plans To Block The Black Vote

I can’t identify too many threads that connect every single election I’ve ever covered. But one feature has been a constant through every election I’ve seen up close, from New York City Council elections to mayor to governor to senator to president: efforts to suppress the black vote, and, often enough, the Latino vote. I’ve seen the fliers, heard the robocalls, been at the polling places with the mysterious malfunctioning machines. No one ever knows exactly who does these things, and yet everyone generally knows. Republicans. And now we may be getting some proof. Former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer said for the first time on national television Thursday—to Al Sharpton, no less!—that his party is up to its neck in denying citizens the right to vote.

Greer—and I should say up front he’s under indictment; more on that later—was deposed by lawyers for the state GOP in late May for a civil case that will likely be heard after his criminal trial. He was specific. At a December 2009 meeting, “the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.” They also discussed—and this is lovely—how “minority-outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party.” But with Sharpton, he really cut loose: “There’s no doubt that what the Republican-led legislature in Florida and Governor Scott are trying to do is make sure the Republican Party has an advantage in this upcoming election by reducing early voting and putting roadblocks up for potential voters, Latinos, African-Americans to register and then to exercise their right to vote. There’s no doubt. I was in the room. It’s part of the strategy.”

He also shot down the rationale for the new Florida law, this ginned-up “voter fraud” business: “In three and a half years as chairman in Florida, I never had one meeting where voter fraud was discussed as a real issue effecting elections. Never one time…It’s a marketing tool. That’s clearly what it is. There’s no validity to it. We never had issues with it. The main purpose behind it is to make sure that what happened in 2008 never happens again.”

The party’s current leaders, whom for good measure he called “whack-a-doo, right-wing crazies,” say he’s lying, and naturally they note that his credibility is open to question. He’s accused of funneling party money to himself, about $125,000. He’ll stand trial sometime this fall. Obviously, we don’t know whether he’s guilty of that. But we do know that in every single election in this country where the black vote matters, these mysterious things happen in African-American neighborhoods in the run-up to the election and on Election Day itself. We never know exactly who does it, but it’s pretty self-evident that it isn’t Democrats.

Conservative pundits like to whine from time to time about how blacks “reflexively” or “unthinkingly” pull the Democratic lever. Well, what exactly do they expect? Yes, yes, some Republicans in Congress supported the civil-rights and voting-rights acts. Fine. But those Republicans don’t exist anymore. The racists left the Democrats and joined the GOP, and that’s when—in the late 1960s—these voter-suppression efforts began.

The more you wrap your mind around it, the more astonishing the moral deficiency becomes. Think about it. Every election come the warnings that if you haven’t paid your telephone bill yet or what have you, you won’t be permitted to vote. Something that like, which I saw all the time in New York City, can be pulled off by a handful of ne’er-do-wells, and the party leaders themselves can maintain plausible deniability.

But what’s going on around the country this year requires the assent of officialdom. This is a conspiracy of thousands of people, Republican Party operatives in every state in the country (except those where the black vote is small enough not to matter), all of them agreeing that denying the most fundamental civic right to a group of citizens because they vote the wrong way is a good idea—and knowing that they can get away with it because, after all, it’s “just” “those people.” Imagine that Democrats had decided to proceed along these lines in America’s rural precincts. Something tells me that the country’s great law-enforcement agencies and media institutions would have managed to get to the bottom of it then—and that the Democratic Party would have ended up all but destroyed.

Just lately, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky have been promoting their new book claiming to document vast treachery at the polls. The meme has developed on the right in the last few days that felons elected Al Franken to the Senate. Hennepin County (Minneapolis) Attorney Mike Freeman rebutted their charges this week. I can’t swear that Freeman is correct, but look—that was the most contested and pored-over election recount in the modern history of this country. It took nine months to determine the winner. Does it really seem likely that if massive fraud existed, state election officials (representing both major parties, by the way) weren’t able to ferret it out in nine months?

It’s a sick and sickening situation, and it delegitimizes everything else about the Republican Party. I can understand how someone believes in limited government or low taxes. I can understand how someone could oppose affirmative action. I cannot understand how any individual can be anything other than abjectly ashamed to be associated with a political party so thuggish as to try to rig elections like this and then at its conventions have the gall to invoke Abraham Lincoln and hire lots of black people to sing and dance and smile, to make up for their absence among the attendees. A black mark indeed.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Simply A Number Decreed As Necessary”: Romney’s Budget Plan Requires Even Deeper Cuts Than Ryan’s

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will hit the campaign trail today in his first week as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Deservedly, much of the attention on Ryan so far has been regarding his radical budget, which hugely shifts taxation down the income scale and guts important government investments.

But Romney’s budget also includes substantial reductions to key federal investments and the social safety net, in order to cut taxes for the wealthy and maintain sky-high defense spending. In fact, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, Romney’s budget would require even deeper cuts to spending that Ryan’s, in order to keep defense spending at an arbitrarily set percentage of the economy:

– Under the Ryan plan, core defense spending (the defense budget other than war costs and some relatively small items such as military family housing),[11] would total about $5.7 trillion over the ten-year period 2013-2022. The Romney plan would increase core defense spending to $7.9 trillion. The Ryan plan increases core defense funding modestly relative to the existing BCA caps, but core defense would nevertheless decline to 2.6 percent of GDP by 2022. In contrast, Governor Romney would increase core defense to 4 percent of GDP.

– The Ryan plan would cut entitlement and discretionary programs (outside of core defense and net interest) by $5.2 trillion over ten years.[12] The Romney proposal would cut this spending by between $7.0 trillion and $9.6 trillion, depending upon whether the budget is balanced. Thus, Governor Romney’s ten-year cuts would range from one-third deeper than those in the Ryan budget to almost twice as deep as the Ryan cuts.

These cuts would have severe consequences for individual programs, including potentially throwing 13 million people off of the food stamp program.

As Bloomberg News noted, Ryan’s tax plan involves giving slightly more away to the wealthy than does Romney’s, but Romney more than makes up for it with his budget’s gutting of programs that aid the middle-class and low-income Americans. And he does it in order to preserve a level of defense spending that has nothing to do with defense priorities, but is simply a number that Romney decreed is necessary.


By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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