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“Economic Angel Of Death”: Mitt Romney, Non-Job-Creator

Back in August, the famous Reagan Budget Director David Stockman tore Paul Ryan a new one in an op-ed accusing his presumed doppelganger of great feats of mendacity and cowardice.

Now Stockman’s back with an enraged J’accuse! aimed at the very heart of Mitt Romney’s biography: the idea that he was a champion creator of “jobs” or “wealth” at Bain Capital. Stockman makes earlier critics of Bain look like Starbucks-addicted yuppie pikers. Here’s a sample:

Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise.

If you find Stockman’s rhetoric discredited by his hard-money biases, check out this:

Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.

Whether you find Stockman’s producerism persuasive or not, there’s no question he’s making an effective challenge to the idea that ol’ Mitt knows what ails Main Street and Wall Street, and how to fix them. Romney’s loyalties have always been with the latter, and he knows as much about the former as his campaign’s talking points explain to him when he alights in the heartland locales where people like Mitt Romney once appeared like an economic angel of death.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 15, 2012

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Completely Ignorant”: Senate Candidate Josh Mandel Offers Most Nonsensical Plan Yet To Cover Pre-Existing Conditions

Republicans who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act—that is, all of them—have a really difficult time explaining how they would preserve popular elements of the legislation, such as the provisions that ban insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, or requirements that young people remain covered for longer on their parents’ policy.

In a lunchtime debate on Monday, Josh Mandel, the Republican trying to unseat Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio, gave easily the most confusing “plan” we’ve heard so far:

Q: How would you, and with specificity please, how would you maintain those benefits without the requirement of people buying insurance?

MANDEL: Well you have to make cuts in the other part of the government. In order to pay to cover folks with pre-existing conditions, to your question, and for younger folks on their parents’ insurance, if there’s leaders in Washington want to do that without Obamacare on the books—you’ve got to make significant cuts. A lot of Republicans will say, don’t touch defense, don’t touch the military. Listen, if we’re going to have a good-faith conversation about strong health care, about a balanced budget, we need to actually make cuts in defense. I mentioned some of my ideas in respect to Europe. Another place I’d like to cut—I mentioned Pakistan but I’d like to get more specific. A few weeks ago, in Egypt, our embassy was overrun. In Libya our ambassador was killed. Why in the world is Sherrod Brown, and other politicians in Washington, voting to give our tax dollars to countries that harbor terrorists, when we need that money here to pay for healthcare, to protect Medicare, to protect Social Security. It doesn’t make any sense. They’re going to hate us without us paying them to do that. We don’t need to pay them to hate us.

Mandel’s answer, which somehow ends up on the embassy deaths in Libya, betrays a complete ignorance of what “Obamacare” does.

What it does not do is simply pay insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA has an individual mandate to buy insurance, which broadens the consumer pool for insurance companies, while also banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and using community ratings to ensure everyone is offered fair prices for coverage.

If you repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare, which Mandel indisputably wants to do, then how do you keep people from simply waiting until they get sick to buy coverage for which they cannot be denied—something that would send the health insurance industry into a fatal tailspin?

That’s what the moderator was clearly asking, and Mandel squares that circle by… cutting defense spending.

It’s a completely nonsensical response. (Brown wryly noted that “That was about a specific an answer on healthcare as he’s given throughout the whole campaign.”) Interpreted literally, it seems Mandel is actually proposing a new federal program that would directly subsidize insurers for covering those with pre-existing conditions and young people who want to stay on their parents’ plans—funded by cuts in defense and foreign aid to places like Libya and Egypt.

But since nobody anywhere has proposed anything like that before—most notably, Mandel hasn’t—what’s more likely is that he’s trading on the common misperception of Obamacare as a massive taxpayer-funded boondoggle that simply throws public money at various problems. Under that understanding of Obamacare, I suppose you could re-fund the “pre-existing conditions coverage” line in the federal budget with defense cuts—but that line doesn’t exist. It’s not how the law works.

Mandel either doesn’t understand that, or wants to willfully mislead voters about the legislation and what he could do for them if it’s repealed.

It’s a tough question for Republicans to answer—Mitt Romney has simply declared that he would magically cover people with pre-existing conditions without offering any details. (This lead an economist at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute to say last week that “It’s a complete mystery what [Romney]’s talking about. He’s clearly asserting that he’s got a new policy, but he hasn’t said what it is.”)

Given how ridiculous Mandel sounded while attempting to flesh out a plan, perhaps Mitt is onto something here. But the bottom line remains that Republicans like Mandel and Romney have no serious plan for maintaining coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 15, 2012

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dick Cheney With A Smile”: Paul Ryan Confirms That In The GOP, Neoconservative Fantasy Dies Hard

Never afraid to go against the crowd, or the facts, Dick Cheney found Paul Ryan’s performance in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate dazzling.

Following the debate, Cheney declared that ”there is no question in my mind when I look at Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on the stage there last night, I think Paul Ryan’s got what it takes to take over as president. I don’t think Joe Biden does.”

How did George W. Bush’s number-two see what so many mere mortals missed?

Cheney pays serious attention to Ryan.

Indeed, he says: “I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on.”

And no one should doubt Cheney’s sincerity.

The former Republican vice president adores the Republican vice presidential candidate because Ryan is a fresh, young Cheney.

Cheney moved to Washington as soon as he could and became a political careerist, working as a Capitol Hill aide, a think-tank hanger on and then a member of Congress. Ryan followed the same insider trajectory.

Cheney’s a hyper-partisan Republican with a history of putting party loyalty above everything else. Ryan’s an equally loyal GOP mandarin.

Cheney’s a rigid ideologue who has never let reality get in the way of cockamamie neocon theories about where to start the next war. And Ryan’s every bit as much a neocon as Cheney.

Americans should reflect on Ryan’s performance in Thursday’s vice presidential debate with Cheney in mind. When they do, they will shudder.

In the 2000 vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky, Cheney was asked if he favored using deadly force against Iraq. “We might have no other choice. We’ll have to see if that happens,” he replied. Why? He said he feared Saddam Hussein might have renewed his “capacity to build weapons of mass destruction.” “I certainly hope he’s not regenerating that kind of capability, but if he were, if in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you would have to give very serious consideration to military action to—to stop that activity.”

Two years later, Cheney was leading the drive to send US troops to invade Iraq. Three years later, US troops were bogged down in an occupation that would cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. No weapons of mass destruction were found and America’s international credibility took a hard hit.

Cheney didn’t care. He never apologized for leading America astray. And he never offered any indication that he had learned from the experience.

Thursday, in the 2012 vice presidential debate at Centre College, Ryan put a smile on the Cheney doctrine. But there was not a sliver of difference between the politics of the former vice president and the pretender to the vice presidency on questions of how to deal with foreign policy challenges in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran.

At the close of an extended discussion of Afghanistan, in which he repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration was insufficiently committed to fighting America’s longest war, Ryan actually suggested: “We are already sending Americans to do the job, but fewer of them. That’s the whole problem.”

On Iran, Ryan was so bombastic that an incredulous Biden finally asked: “What are you—you’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?”

Ryan did not answer in the affirmative Thursday night in Danville.

Neither did Cheney twelve years ago in Danville.

But Cheney signaled his inclinations in the 2000 vice presidential debate. And Ryan has signaled his intentions this year—confirming that the neoconservative fantasy, despite having been discredited by experience, dies hard on the neocon fringe of the Grand Old Party.

By: John Nichols, The Nation, October 14, 2012

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Kaiser Foundation Report Backs The Critics”: 60% Of Seniors Would Pay More For Medicare Under Romney-Ryan Voucher Plan

A new study out today by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation confirms what many have been saying for a very long time—the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan would result in six out of ten seniors paying substantially more for the same Medicare benefits they receive today.

The premium support approach to Medicare involves the government providing seniors with a set amount of money each year—pegged to the second lowest priced private health care plan available—in an effort to turn over health care for seniors to the private insurance market. While proponents of the approach believe that this will generate more competition in health care, make seniors more responsible for how they spend their health care dollars and result in less spending on seniors by the federal government, critics have argued that the sum of money the government would pay would be insufficient to cover the rising costs of health care, leaving seniors exposed to having to pay an ever growing portion of their health insurance coverage.

The Kaiser report backs up the critics.

According to Kaiser, the premium support approach (often referred to as a voucher plan) to Medicare—the hallmark of the Paul Ryan Medicare plan that has been endorsed and adopted by Governor Romney—would mean higher premium costs for more than half of beneficiaries currently enrolled in traditional Medicare—if such a program were in place today—while raising the costs for nearly all of those who participate in a Medicare Advantage program.

The study further found that the additional costs to seniors would vary from region to region, with areas of high per-capita Medicare spending seeing a cost boost for 80 percent of Medicare recipients.

While the Obama campaign was quick to trumpet the results of the study as further proof that the Romney-Ryan plan would mean dramatically higher costs to seniors when it comes to their healthcare, the Romney campaign fired back, noting that the Kaiser report says that it is not intended to model any specific proposal of either campaign.

The Romney troops are right to a point—but they somehow failed to fully quote what the Kaiser Family Foundation had to say, no doubt an inadvertent error that we shall seek to correct here—

“The analysis does not attempt to model any specific proposal, but is generally based on an approach included in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan (emphasis added), the proposal Chairman Ryan co-sponsored with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and; in the plan put forward by former Senator Pete Domenici and Dr. Alice Rivlin. In the first two proposals, people who are at least 55 years old, including current beneficiaries, would be exempt from the new system. Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney has supported a premium-support system along these lines. (emphasis added.)”

Here are the bullet points of the study results, including how you might be affected based on where you live:

  • Nearly six in 10 Medicare beneficiaries nationally could face higher premiums for Medicare benefits, assuming current plan preferences, including more than half of beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare and almost nine in 10 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Even if as many as one-quarter of all beneficiaries moved into a low-cost plan offered in their area, the new system would still result in more than a third of all beneficiaries facing higher premiums.
  • Premiums for traditional Medicare would vary widely based on geography under the proposed premium support system, with no increase for beneficiaries living in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, but an average increase of at least $100 per month in California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada and New York. Such variations would exist even within a state, with traditional Medicare premiums remaining unchanged in California’s San Francisco and Sacramento counties and rising by more than $200 per month in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
  • At least nine in 10 Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey would face higher premiums in their current plan. Many counties in those states have relatively high per-beneficiary Medicare spending, which would make it more costly to enroll in traditional Medicare rather than one of the low-bidding private plans in those counties. In contrast, in areas with relatively low Medicare per-capita spending, it could be more costly to enroll in a private plan.

For those who may not follow health care policy closely, the Kaiser Family Foundation is one of the few independent think tanks that neither side of the political aisle is likely to criticize for being partisan as the organization’s record for impartiality is so well established. This would explain why the Romney campaign has chosen to attempt to distinguish the report from their plan (although there is little to distinguish the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan from the model studied by Kaiser) rather than attack the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation report.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, October 15, 2012

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Medicaid Is the Real Target”: Mitt Romney’s Priorities, Aid For The Rich, Paid For By The Poor

Since August, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, the two campaigns have fought a fierce battle over who is the most stalwart protector of Medicare. In the first presidential debate, Romney assailed President Obama for his $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and Ryan did the same in last week’s vice presidential face-off. Likewise, the Obama campaign has hit Team Romney for the Ryan plan and its Medicare “premium support”—which, if implemented, would gradually replace traditional Medicare with subsidized, regulated private insurance.

The irony is that—in the short term, at least—Medicare will stay unchanged, regardless of who wins the election. Seniors are among the most mobilized voters in the electorate, and there’s too much political risk involved in making big, immediate changes to Medicare. For that reason, Medicare reform plans on both sides are backloaded and will take time to unfold.

The same isn’t true of Medicaid, the other major federal health-care program. The primary constituency for Medicaid—poor and working-class families—lacks the clout and influence of seniors. And while the Obama administration expanded the program in the Affordable Care Act, it has also made Medicaid a ripe target for conservative cuts to social insurance.

This means that, as Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum pointed out last week, Medicaid, not Medicare, is the actual flashpoint in this election. Romney has promised to “block grant” the program, giving states more flexibility in dealing with eligibility and benefits. Some states would use this as an opportunity to innovate. But as Drum notes, just as many would use it as an excuse to drop health coverage for poor people:

Lots of states, especially poor states in the South, don’t have much interest in experimenting. They just want to slash eligibility for Medicaid. Given the freedom to do it, they’d adopt what Ed Kilgore calls the “Mississippi model,” cutting off coverage for a family of three earning anything over $8,200. For all the talk of fresh thinking and new solutions, what they really want to do is simple: They want to stop providing medical care for poor people.

Admittedly, this is a little speculative. It’s possible—albeit, unlikely—that a future governor of South Carolina or Alabama might want to use the new flexibility to improve services for lower-income people. With that in mind, it’s also worth noting the extent to which Romney’s block-grant plan involves a massive cut to overall Medicaid spending. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that with a Paul Ryan-style block grant in place, overall Medicaid spending would decline by one-third over the next decade. When you put this in the context of Romney’s budget proposals—which include new defense spending and a promise to protect Medicare—and his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the result is a $1.5 trillion reduction in Medicaid spending by 2022. These cuts would add an additional 14 to 19 million people to the ranks of the uninsured, on top of the 30 million people who would lose coverage as a result of full Obamacare repeal.

It’s his approach to Medicaid, more than anything else, that reveals Mitt Romney’s priorities—aid for the rich, paid for by taking relief from the poor.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, October 15, 2012

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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