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“New Wrapping, Same Contents”: Re-Packaging Mitt Romney As A Compassionate Conservative

“My heart aches for the people I’ve seen,” Mitt Romney said, on the second day of his Ohio bus tour. He’s now telling stories of economic hardship among the people he’s met.

Up until now, Romney’s stories on the campaign trail have been about business successes – people who started businesses in garages and grew their companies into global giants, entrepreneurs who succeeded because of grit and determination, millionaires who began poor. Horatio Alger updated.

Curiously absent from these narratives have been the stories of ordinary Americans caught in an economy over which they have no control. That is, most of us.

At least until now.

“I was yesterday with a woman who was emotional,” Romney recounts, “and she said, ‘Look, I’ve been out of work since May.’ She was in her 50s. She said, ‘I don’t see any prospects. Can you help me?’”

Could it be Romney is finally getting the message that many Americans need help through no fault of their own?

“There are so many people in our country that are hurting right now,” Romney says. “I want to help them.”

Later in the day, Romney told NBC that because of his efforts as governor of Massachusetts, “one hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

But the repackaging of Mitt as a compassionate conservative won’t work. The good citizens of Ohio — as elsewhere — have reason to be skeptical.

This is, after all, the same Mitt Romney who told his backers in Boca Raton that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and unwilling to take care of themselves.

It’s the same Romney who was against bailing out GM and Chrysler. One in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the automobile industry. Had GM and Chrysler gone under, unemployment in Ohio would be closer to the national average of 8.1 percent than the 7.2 percent it is today.

This is the same Romney who has been against extending unemployment benefits. Or providing food stamps or housing benefits for families that have fallen into poverty. Or medical benefits. To the contrary, Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, turn Medicare into vouchers, and turn Medicaid over to cash-starved states.

This is the same Mitt Romney who doesn’t worry that Wall Street financiers — including his own Bain Capital — have put so much pressure on companies for short-term profits that they’re still laying off workers and reluctant to take on any more.

And the same Mitt who doesn’t want government to spend money repairing our crumbling infrastructure, rebuilding our schools, or rehiring police and firefighters and teachers.

Romney says he feels their pain but his policy prescriptions would create more pain.

Mitt Romney’s real compassion is for people like himself, whom he believes are America’s “job creators.” He aims to cut taxes on the rich, in the belief that the rich create jobs — and the benefits of such a tax cut trickle down to everyone else.

Trickle-down economics is the core of Romney’s economics, and it’s bunk. George W. Bush cut taxes — mostly for the wealthy — and we ended up with fewer jobs, lower wages, and an economy that fell off a cliff in 2008.

In Ohio Romney is repeating his claim that, under his tax proposal, the rich would end up paying as much as before even at a lower tax rate because he’d limit their ability to manipulate the tax code. “Don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to be closing loopholes and deductions,” he promises.

But Romney still refuses to say which loopholes and deductions he’ll close. He doesn’t even mention the “carried interest” loophole that has allowed him and other private-equity managers to treat their incomes as capital gains, taxed at 15 percent.

What we’re seeing in Ohio isn’t a new Mitt Romney. It’s a newly-packaged Mitt Romney. The real Mitt Romney is the one we saw on the videotape last week. And no amount of re-taping can disguise the package’s true contents.

By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, September 26, 2012

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Compassionless Conservatism”: A Gaffe Is When A Republican Tells The Truth

This Sunday, I attended a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival in which moderator Ta-Nehisi Coates started out with a question for the panelists: Does this campaign season matter? Are we learning anything about the candidates? I was in the audience, but my response would be: Yes, it matters, and we’re learning a great deal. But it’s mostly about what the Republican Party really thinks.

While this election season may appear gaffe-tastic, the most viral moments weren’t misspoken words. Rather, they reveal what’s deep in the conservative heart—opinions that many had warned existed for a long time (and had even appeared in real-life legislation) but have now been put into stark relief for the general public. This election season has been highly instructional about deep-seated beliefs on the right.

The latest and perhaps most viral—nabbing Mother Jones, which broke the story, over 8 million visitors—was Romney’s now-infamous hidden camera 47 percent comment. Here’s what he said:

There are 47 percent of the people…. who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax…. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Romney has stood by his comments, with his economic adviser swearing to “triple down” on them. And in fact the ideas he expresses are nothing new to the party. Worse, given the candidness of the moment, Romney expressed what can only be characterized as unabashed disdain for half of the country. It’s not just that he’s worried, as the conservatives who cling to the 47 percent figure explain, that this constituency won’t vote for tax cuts and instead will vote for higher social safety net payouts. He dismisses them entirely because he can “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

What that sentiment leaves out, of course, is that while these Americans didn’t pay income taxes (thanks to many policies pushed into law by Republicans themselves), it doesn’t mean they don’t pay any taxes. Over 60 percent of them paid payroll taxes, which means that they also held jobs. Nearly everyone pays sales tax. Another 22 percent of this group was elderly. Add that up, and what he’s mostly talking about are the working poor and low-income older Americans. These are the people that Romney dismisses as taking no responsibility for their lives.

Far from an outlier, Romney’s statement has a long, long history. As my colleague at the Roosevelt Institute Mark Schmitt pointed out last week, this narrative around the 47 percent was hatched in the lab of the American Enterprise Institute. It’s been spouted by the likes of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Republican VP pick Paul Ryan himself. But Romney’s remarks revealed an even more deep-seated disdain for the working poor than is normally expressed. It’s not just about taxes; it’s a belief that those at the bottom are worth less of his attention and care than the rest of the country. So much for compassionate conservatism. Romney’s remarks revealed once and for all that there is a deep disrespect for working-class and low-income people struggling to get by thriving at the heart of the Republican Party.

And it sheds light on another comment of his that blew up not so long ago: “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” At the time, the quote seemed a bit out of context, because Romney continued, “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” Yet in his hidden-camera moment, he makes it clear just how much he despises the safety net he says should catch the poor. He scoffs at those who require assistance for healthcare, food and housing, some of the most basic provisions that this country is supposed to ensure those who are at the bottom of the income scale. Yet another moment of clarity, made even clearer by his recent comments.

We’ve seen some other very telling moments from the Republican nominee this cycle. There was “Corporations are people, my friend,” an unabashed and straightforward articulation of the conservative ethos that fueled the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. Then there was the telling, fully five-second silence from Romney aides when asked whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, exposing discomfort with equal pay legislation.

But it’s not just the presidential candidate who has haphazardly revealed truths. Just last month, before we were talking about the 47 percent, we were talking about “legitimate” rape. Remember Todd Akin? Who could forget? On a random Sunday in the middle of August, Akin told a TV interviewer, “[F]rom what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Just like Romney, Akin refused to apologize for the meaning behind his words, explaining he merely meant to say “forcible rape,” not “legitimate rape.”

But this wasn’t the first time he—or the Republican Party—used the word “forcible” to categorize rapes that count and those that don’t. Akin co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in early 2011, which would have tightened the definition of rape for abortions that are covered by the federal exception to only “forcible” ones. While some noticed this at the time, Akin’s remarks made it crystal clear to anyone half tuned in that the Republican Party thinks some rapes count and others don’t. In particular, if you weren’t roughed up when you were raped—if you were drugged, or date raped, or the victim of incest—you weren’t “really” raped.

There are other truths that surfaced about the conservative view of reproductive health. Primaries are often a process of learning, as more marginal candidates push the mainstream ones to address issues they normally wouldn’t. And right on cue, Rick Santorum made birth control, an issue many thought was settled, a debate point. Perhaps his views were made clearest by an interview with the Christian site Caffeinated Thoughts, in which he warned of “the dangers of contraception,” calling it “not okay.”

Shortly after, Irin Carmon summed up his position thus: “Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control.” In fact, conservative opposition to not just abortion, which continues to be a polarizing topic, but birth control, which does not, has been building for quite some time. But many have been in denial—Carmon herself got a wave of pushback for the title of her piece. And yet months later, contraception was once again in the news as the Catholic bishops came out swinging against the Obama administration’s decision to mandate co-pay-free coverage of contraception as part of the ACA. And we all remember what happened next—the fight devolved into Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut for talking about (her friend’s) contraception needs. The cat is out of the bag: the GOP thinks using contraception, which virtually every woman will do in her lifetime, makes you a dirty whore and doesn’t support increased access.

These awkwardly worded statements and admissions of belief in what candidates assumed were safe spaces are hugely important. It may seem ridiculous that a hidden camera video can fuel three weeks of the news cycle. But what Romney revealed was more than an ability to keep putting his foot in his mouth. Republicans, perhaps more than ever, have exposed long-held beliefs this campaign season. They’re just finally going viral.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, September 25, 2012

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Ethical Morass”: The Wall Street Journal Won’t Acknowledge Its Karl Rove Ties

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal continues to trip over its Karl Rove conflict of interest, with the paper’s newsroom routinely failing to mention that the man who helped found an anti-Obama super PAC is also a Journal employee. Time and again this election season the Journal has reported on Rove’s campaign work with American Crossroads, and time and again the newsroom has neglected to acknowledge Rove works for the Journal as a political columnist.

The disclosure failure, and the obvious lack of transparency, is just part of the paper’s ongoing ethical morass with regards to Rove. As Media Matters has reported, scores of editorial page editors have criticized the paper for failing to disclose in its opinion pages where Rove’s anti-Obama columns appear, that Rove is closely associated with an anti-Obama campaign group.

The very fact that the Journal hired Rove, a GOP fundraiser, to write columns about the races Rove is trying to win for the GOP represents a glaring ethical lapse. The Journal’s refusal to disclose those ties only compounds the problem; a problem that extends from the opinion pages to the newsroom.

Today’s front-page Journal article examines whether conservative super PACs have been effective in denting the president’s re-election chances. Rove’s Crossroads group is featured as the pivotal conservative super PAC in the article. Yet nowhere in the piece is it reported that Rove also works for the newspaper.

That transparency failure has become commonplace. On September 6, the newspaper published an article about super PAC fundraising efforts by liberal and conservative groups and noted, “By contrast, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two Republican groups founded with the help of Karl Rove, have spent $67 million combined.”

There was no mention that Rove’s a Journal employee.

On Sept. 5, the Journal focused on the surprisingly tight U.S. senate race in North Dakota, and the amount of outside money pouring into the campaign:

Crossroads GPS, a Republican campaign fund co-founded by Karl Rove in 2010, and Majority PAC, a group that aims to protect Democrats’ Senate majority, have spent heavily and run negative ads in the state.

No mention that Rove’s a WSJ employee.

And back on July 19, the newspaper reported that Crossroads was coming to the aide of Romney with new television ads designed to defend the candidate’s career at Bain Capitol. The Journal noted the super PAC “was founded with the help of Bush White House aide, Karl Rove.”

No mention though, that Rove’s a Journal employee.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Sr. Fellow, Media Matters, September 24, 2012

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Silence Them!”: Romney On Teachers And Their Unions

Mitt Romney has absolutely no problem with billionaires buying elections. In fact, had it not been for billionaires’ buying elections, he would not be the Republican nominee for president.

But Romney has a big, big problem with working people’s participating in the political process. Especially teachers.

America’s primary proponent of big money in politics now says that he wants to silence K-12 teachers who pool their resources in order to defend public education for kids whose parents might not be wealthy enough to pay the $39,000 a year it costs to send them to the elite Cranbrook Schools attended by young Willard Mitt.

“We simply can’t have a setting where the teachers unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interest of the kids. I think it’s a mistake,” the Republican nominee for president of 53 percent of the United States said during an appearance Tuesday with NBC’s Education Nation. “I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It’s the wrong way for us to go.”

That’s rich.

So rich in irony, in fact, that it could be the most hypocritical statement uttered by a candidate who has had no trouble scaling the heights of hypocrisy.

If Romney wanted to get money out of politics altogether and replace the current crisis with a system where election campaigns were publicly funded, his comments might be taken seriously. But that’s not the case. Romney just wants “reforms” that silence individuals and organizations that do not share his antipathy for public education.

Romney is troubled that unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association voice political opinions. But he is not troubled by Bain capitalists’ pooling their resources in Super PACs and buying election results.

Indeed, if it had not been for massive spending by the lavishly funded Romney Super PAC “Restore Our Future” on Republican primary season attack ads—which poured tens of millions of dollars into the nasty work of destroying more popular rivals for the nomination.

When he was facing a withering assault by “Restore Our Future” in Iowa, Gingrich said Romney would “buy the election if he could.”

Romney could. And he did.

Never in the history of American presidential elections has so weak and dysfunctional a candidate as Romney been able to hold his own as a presidential contender solely because of the money donated by very wealthy individuals and corporations to the agencies that seek to elect him.

Yet he now attacks teachers who are merely seeking to assure that—in the face of frequently ridiculous and consistently ill-informed media coverage, brutal attacks by so-called “think tanks” and neglect even by Democratic politicians—the voices of supporters of public education are heard when voters are considering the future of public education.

Romney is the most consistently and aggressively anti-union candidate ever to be nominated for the presidency by a major American political party. His disdain for organized labor has been consistently and aggressively stated. He’s an enthusiastic backer of moves to bust public sector unions, he supports so-called “right-to-work” laws as a tool states can use to bust private-sector unions and he wants to do away with guarantees that workers on construction projects are fairly compensated and able to negotiate to keep job sites safe. The Republican platform on which Romney and Paul Ryan are running goes so far as to call for the “enactment of a National Right-to-Work law,” which would effectively undo more the seventy-five years of labor laws in this country.

That’s extremism in the defense not of liberty but of plutocracy. But there are points where Romney goes beyond extremism.

When it comes to the role of teacher unions, the Republican nominee’s royalist tendencies come to the fore. Unable to recognize the absolute absurdity of a nominee who would not be a nominee were it not for the support he has received from billionaires and millionaires seeking to prevent kindergarten teachers from pooling small donations to defend their schools, his message is the modern-day equivalent of the monarch of old sneering at the rabble and ordering his minions, Silence them!

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, September 26, 2012

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No, We Can’t All Get Along”: As Long As There Are Republicans, It Really Doesn’t Matter If We Do

Mitt Romney seems to have decided to run an entire presidential campaign on quibbling semantic arguments, which is certainly a novel approach, but not one I’d recommend for future candidates. It’s not that every campaign doesn’t spend way too much time complaining about the words their opponent says, but he really has taken it to a totally different level; every day seems to bring a new expression of feigned outrage at something Barack Obama said.

Over at MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” blog, I have a new piece about one of these inane back-and-forths that happened last week, when Obama said he learned you couldn’t change Washington from the inside, and Romney got really peeved and promised he would change it from the inside. My point was essentially that if I hear one more pundit talk about the good old days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill would argue during the day, then share a beer and bellow some old Irish sea shanties in the evening, I think I’m going to lose it:

Let’s look at the biggest accomplishment of Barack Obama’s first term, the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In that Univision interview, Obama tried to describe this as a triumph of change from the outside, as the American people exerted pressure on their representatives. But that’s not really what happened. There was some outside organizing, but it probably didn’t carry the day. The reform that one president after another failed to accomplish didn’t happen because Barack Obama and his supporters changed Washington. It happened because Obama wrestled with Washington, struggled with it, and finally overcame roadblocks both institutional (the filibuster) and personal (the narcissistic cynicism of characters like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson). And today, almost everything about those processes remains the same. If Obama tries to do something else as ambitious in his second term, it’ll be just as difficult.

What matters isn’t whether Washington was transformed, but that because of Obama’s health care victory, 30 million more Americans will have health insurance, and that starting in 2014 none of us will be denied coverage because of our pre-existing conditions, and all of the other positive results of the ACA. If you’re the parent of a child with leukemia who can now get insurance, that’s change you can believe in.

Guess what: if Barack Obama wins a second term, things are going to be just as unfriendly as they were during the first term. Yes, Barack Obama failed in his promise to bring Republicans and Democrats together, just like George W. Bush failed in his promise to bring Republicans and Democrats together and Bill Clinton failed in his promise to bring Republicans and Democrats together. But while it would certainly be nice if everybody could get along, in the end that’s about one-zillionth as important as what they do or don’t do for the public.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 25, 2012

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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