mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Heartland Election”: Ultimately Determined By “Makers” Quite Different From The Ones In Paul Ryan’s Speeches

When Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell talks about the importance of manufacturing to this friendly Michigan town with a name that lends itself to song, he doesn’t reel off the usual list of heavy industries typically associated with the word “factory.”

He speaks of Kalsec, the Kalamazoo Spice Extraction Company founded in 1958 that produces and markets natural herbs and spices for food manufacturers. He mentions Fabri-Kal, a 62-year-old packaging company that describes itself as “the seventh-largest plastic thermoformer in North America.” Think of products in drug stores encased in heavy plastic. And he doesn’t leave out the pharmaceutical industry, long vital to his city’s economy.

Yes, we still make a lot of stuff in the United States of America, and one of the good things about this election is that it is likely to be decided in the nation’s industrial heartland — in the towns and cities of Ohio above all, but also in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

President Obama almost certainly needs these states to win reelection, and if he does, manufacturing is destined for a larger role in the American economic conversation. Many promises have been made this year to the people and the communities whose ability to thrive has long depended upon manufacturing. The campaign’s thrust should move them to the heart of our efforts to seek a path up from the financial catastrophe that engulfed the country in 2008.

For two decades now, we have acted as if nearly all of us are destined to work in the tech industry or health care — or to survive on money that trickles our way courtesy of the world of finance. But while Hopewell is proud of the part played in his city by universities and those engaged in work involving what he calls “intellectual property,” he adds: “We are major makers in the region.”

When Hopewell is asked if he used the term “makers” in the way Paul Ryan does in drawing a distinction between “makers” and “takers” — between those who produce and those who get government aid — this Democrat laughs heartily. No, he says, his views have little in common with Ryan’s. The mayor is talking about manufacturing, pure and simple.

Leaders of traditional factory towns are by no means interested in a stagnant world in which members of each generation follows their parents into the same old factory job. On the contrary, this city is proud of “The Kalamazoo Promise,” the remarkable initiative of anonymous local donors who have established a fund that pays for a college education for every graduate of the city’s schools.

In Parma, Ohio, the industrial suburb of Cleveland where both Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton recently campaigned on Obama’s behalf, Mayor Tim DeGeeter said the top priority of the city’s blue-collar workers is a college education for their children. Parma and places like it, he adds, also want the sort of economic development that creates higher-end jobs so graduates can stay in the area, “and not have to move to Phoenix or Charlotte.”

What both mayors are saying (there are many like them) is that they want the market system to work for their communities, but do not want to leave their citizens utterly at the mercy of decisions made by economic actors far away, or of economic forces that no one controls.

This is why the rescue of the auto industry has been such a defining campaign issue in the Midwest. In Parma, DeGeeter notes that the auto revival means that GM recently made a $20 million investment in its stamping plant in the city. “That helps me sleep at night,” he says.

Hopewell says that even though the auto industry is not as important to Kalamazoo as it is in the Detroit area, “you can’t be a Michigander and not understand the importance of the auto industry, and not understand what it has done for our state.” The Republican sweep in Michigan in 2010 suggested it might be open to the GOP’s presidential candidate this year. But so far, it has remained anchored in Obama’s camp.

More broadly, white voters without college educations are voting for Obama at nearly twice the rate in the Midwest as in the South. In the Midwest, Obama is drawing 41 percent of their votes, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll, compared with only 24 percent in the South. If Obama prevails, “makers” of a sort quite different from the ones in Ryan’s speeches will have played a central role.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Logic, Fairness, And Common Sense”: The Final Days, The Biggest Issue, And The Clearest Choice

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded — and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down — the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes.

President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring that the richest 1 percent pay no less than a third of their income in taxes, the so-called “Buffett Rule.”

Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates on the rich by 20 percent, extending the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reducing or eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains.

Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their share of total taxes remains the same as it is now, although he refuses to specify what loopholes or deductions. But even if we take him at his word, under no circumstances would he increase the amount of taxes they pay.

Obama is right.

America faces a huge budget deficit. And just about everyone who’s looked at how to reduce it — the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, and almost all independent economists and analysts — have come up with some combination of spending cuts and tax increases that raise revenue.

Just last Thursday, executives of more than eighty large American corporations called for tax reform that “raises revenues and reduces the deficit.”

The practical question is who pays for those additional revenues. If Romney’s view prevails and the rich don’t pay more, everyone else has to.

That’s nonsensical. The rich are far richer than they used to be, while most of the rest of us are poorer. The latest data show the top 1 percent garnering 93 percent of all the gains from the recovery so far. But median family income is 8 percent lower than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation.

The gap has been widening for three decades. Since 1980 the top 1 percent has doubled its share of the nation’s total income — from 10 percent to 20 percent. The share of the top one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled. The share of the top-most one-one hundredth of 1 percent — 16,000 families — has quadrupled. The richest 400 Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.

Meanwhile, the tax rates paid by the wealthy have dropped precipitously. Before 1981 the top marginal tax rate was never lower than 70 percent. Under President Dwight Eisenhower it was 93 percent. Even after taking all the deductions and tax credits available to them, the rich paid around 54 percent.

The top tax rate is now only 35 percent and the tax on capital gains (increases in the value of investments) is only 15 percent. Since so much of what they earn is from capital gains, many of the super-rich, like Mitt Romney himself, pay 14 percent or less. That’s a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans pay.

In fact, if you add up all the taxes paid — not just on income and capital gains but also payroll taxes (which don’t apply to income above incomes of $110,100), and sales taxes — most of us are paying a higher percent of our income in taxes than are those at the top.

So how can anyone argue against raising taxes on the rich? Easy. They say it will slow the economy because the rich are “job creators.”

In the immortal words of Joe Biden, that’s malarky.

The economy did just fine during the three decades after World War II, when the top tax rate never fell below 70 percent. Average yearly economic growth was higher in those years than it’s been since, when taxes on the rich have been far lower.

Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich and the economy did wonderfully well. George W. Bush cut them and the economy slowed.

The real job creators are America’s vast middle class, whose spending encourages businesses to expand and hire — and whose lack of spending has the opposite effect.

That’s why the recovery has been painfully slow. So much income and wealth have gone to the top that the vast majority of Americans in the middle don’t have the purchasing power to get the economy moving again. The rich save most of what they earn, and their savings go anywhere around the world where they can get the highest return.

It would be insane to compound the damage by raising taxes on the middle class and not on the rich.

Logic, fairness, and common sense dictate that the rich pay more in taxes. It’s the key to avoiding January’s fiscal cliff and coming up with a “grand bargain” on taming the budget deficit. And it’s central to getting the economy back on track.

 

By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Choice Is Clear”: President Barack Obama For Re-election

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the “fiscal cliff” battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama’s many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Health Care

Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.

It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans’ propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.

That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.

Mr. Romney has no plan for covering the uninsured beyond his callous assumption that they will use emergency rooms. He wants to use voucher programs to shift more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and block grants to shift more Medicaid costs to the states.

The Economy

Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints everyone), thanks in large part to interventions Mr. Obama championed, like the $840 billion stimulus bill. Republicans say it failed, but it created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. Poverty would have been much worse without the billions spent on Medicaid, food stamps and jobless benefits.

Last year, Mr. Obama introduced a jobs plan that included spending on school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. It was stymied by Republicans. Contrary to Mr. Romney’s claims, Mr. Obama has done good things for small businesses — like pushing through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

The Dodd-Frank financial regulation was an important milestone. It is still a work in progress, but it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. Mr. Romney wants to repeal it.

If re-elected, Mr. Obama would be in position to shape the “grand bargain” that could finally combine stimulus like the jobs bill with long-term deficit reduction that includes letting the high-end Bush-era tax cuts expire. Stimulus should come first, and deficit reduction as the economy strengthens. Mr. Obama has not been as aggressive as we would have liked in addressing the housing crisis, but he has increased efforts in refinancing and loan modifications.

Mr. Romney’s economic plan, as much as we know about it, is regressive, relying on big tax cuts and deregulation. That kind of plan was not the answer after the financial crisis, and it will not create broad prosperity.

Foreign Affairs

Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda’s leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq. Mr. Romney, however, has said he would have insisted on leaving thousands of American soldiers there. He has surrounded himself with Bush administration neocons who helped to engineer the Iraq war, and adopted their militaristic talk in a way that makes a Romney administration’s foreign policies a frightening prospect.

Mr. Obama negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. Mr. Romney likes to say the president was ineffective on Iran, but at the final debate he agreed with Mr. Obama’s policies. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Arab Spring. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there. At the last debate, Mr. Romney talked about funneling arms through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funneling arms to jihadist groups.

Mr. Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the Libyan uprising, and kept American military forces in a background role. It was smart policy.

In the broadest terms, he introduced a measure of military restraint after the Bush years and helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation in many countries from the low levels to which it had sunk by 2008.

The Supreme Court

The future of the nation’s highest court hangs in the balance in this election — and along with it, reproductive freedom for American women and voting rights for all, to name just two issues. Whoever is president after the election will make at least one appointment to the court, and many more to federal appeals courts and district courts.

Mr. Obama, who appointed the impressive Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, understands how severely damaging conservative activism has been in areas like campaign spending. He would appoint justices and judges who understand that landmarks of equality like the Voting Rights Act must be defended against the steady attack from the right.

Mr. Romney’s campaign Web site says he will “nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito,” among the most conservative justices in the past 75 years. There is no doubt that he would appoint justices who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Civil Rights

The extraordinary fact of Mr. Obama’s 2008 election did not usher in a new post-racial era. In fact, the steady undercurrent of racism in national politics is truly disturbing. Mr. Obama, however, has reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and has fought laws, like the ones in Arizona, that seek to turn undocumented immigrants into a class of criminals.

The military’s odious “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule was finally legislated out of existence, under the Obama administration’s leadership. There are still big hurdles to equality to be brought down, including the Defense of Marriage Act, the outrageous federal law that undermines the rights of gay men and lesbians, even in states that recognize those rights.

Though it took Mr. Obama some time to do it, he overcame his hesitation about same-sex marriage and declared his support. That support has helped spur marriage-equality movements around the country. His Justice Department has also stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges.

Mr. Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports the federal act, which not only denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples but allows states to ignore marriages made in other states. His campaign declared that Mr. Romney would not object if states also banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.

Mr. Romney has been careful to avoid the efforts of some Republicans to criminalize abortion even in the case of women who had been raped, including by family members. He says he is not opposed to contraception, but he has promised to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, on which millions of women depend for family planning.

For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, October 27, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Publisher Made Us Do It”: The Des Moines Register’s Practical Joke

This Romney endorsement editorial, if you actually bother to read it, is little more than a practical joke. First of all, it has all the hallmarks of having been ordered by the publisher over the objections of the editorial board. Normally, a sentence like “the Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement,” translated into blunt English means: “Our idiot publisher forced this tripe down our throats, and we’re counting on you the more knowledgeable readers to understand this.”

The argument, such as it is, is as substanceless as meringue. Mitt Romney could “forge compromises with Congress” to get the economy rolling again? The first part of that might actually be true, but only because the Democrats in Congress aren’t nearly as ideologically hidebound and politically obstreperous as their GOP counterparts.

But the second part, fixing the economy, creating jobs, tackling the deficit? Romney has been ridiculously vague on all these things. The editorial doesn’t so much as gesture in that direction. And then bam, the editorial ends. Just when you think it might start mounting such “arguments,” it ends. I actually hit the refresh button three times, as I couldn’t believe the entire editorial had loaded properly. It’s as Potemkin Village-ish a piece of journalistic writing as I’ve seen in a long time.

Sadly, it probably will make a small difference, although I’m sure the politically inside elite out in Iowa is laughing about it this morning. Most polls indicate that Obama has a couple of points to spare in the state. We’ll see. You can ask Hillary Clinton how much good the DMR did her in January 2008.

Meanwhile, Obama has been endorsed by: Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Miami Herald, Las Vegas Sun, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Raleigh News & Observer. I’ll grant that this is more newsworthy because it’s a flip since 2008, but that doesn’t make it more important in Iowa than the Sun is in Nevada.

Anyway, go read it. You’ll see what I mean. It reads like a practical joke, and a half-baked one at that. DMR: You still have time to publish your serious endorsement, you know, the one that lists actual reasons why you support the guy!

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Libyan Head Fake”: GOP Pretends No One Cares About Abortion

With a major storm and presidential election arriving within a week of each other, the penultimate batch of Sunday morning political talk shows before the election were dominated by talk of how Hurricane Sandy might impact the election. But abortion and Libya also made appearances. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson wins our award for hackiest political analysis of the week (and there’s a lot of competition) for saying people care more about the GOP’s pet Libyan conspiracy theory than about abortion.

As for the storm, everyone of course said their focus is on the well-being of people in the storm’s path, but pundits couldn’t help but try to find the political angle as well. There seem to be two main theories: One is that the race will essentially be frozen in place as the media and everyone else shifts focus away from the election for the next few days. Since Obama remains slightly ahead in key swing states, this scenario is seen as helping him by preventing Romney from gaining traction. Obama could also earn points by “looking presidential” while leading a successful federal response to the disaster, pundits said.

On the other hand, Obama is crushing Romney in early voting, which is already going on in key states, especially Ohio, and any obstacle to getting people to the polls this week could be bad for the president. Likewise, if the storm lowers turnout in general on election day, that’s also seen as hurting Obama, since he needs strong support from demographics that tend to vote in lower numbers, like young people and Latinos.

But here’s how the storm will actually affect the election: No one knows. Anything else is pure speculation, but apparently both the Obama and Romney campaigns are concerned. For what it’s worth, Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of battleground Virginia, which is expected to get hammered, said on CNN that they’re prioritizing election infrastructure in their response to the storm, so everything should be normal by election day.

Leave it to Newt Gingrich to politicize the storm to an almost comical degree. “You’ll notice he’s canceling his trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi. And so you have to wonder, between Benghazi, the price of gasoline, and unemployment, just how much burden the president’s going to carry into this last week,” Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos on ABC. From there, it was quick jump to: “I think [Romney’s] actually going to end up winning around 53-47.”

Benghazi, of course, refers to the attack on American diplomats in the Libyan city, over which Republicans have been hammering Obama. It almost sounds like Gingrich doesn’t think Obama should cancel trips to deal with the hurricane, but it’s also unclear why Obama would have canceled a trip to deal with Benghazi, as the whole incident lasted a matter of hours, not days like the hurricane will. As for Newt’s political forecast, it seems only slightly more plausible than a moon base. Real Clear Politics’ polling average has Romney less than a percent ahead of Obama nationally. Nate Silver projects Obama squeaking out a two point popular vote victory over Romney on November 6. It’s entirely possible that Romney wins the popular vote, but not by six points, sorry Newt.

But Benghazi did come up a lot today, suggesting the GOP has decided to concentrate its fire on the topic. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, on CBS’ Face the Nation today, suggested it was even worse than Watergate. “This tragedy turned into a debacle and massive coverup or massive incompetence in Libya is having an effect on the voters because of their view of the commander in chief,” he said. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘This is as bad as Watergate.’ Nobody died in Watergate,” McCain added.

While there’s no doubt officials made some tragic errors around the attack, the Republican narrative against Obama just isn’t based in reality, as Candy Crowley’s real-time fact check of Romney in the second debate demonstrated. Their smoking gun is an erroneous bit of early intelligence that ended up being wrong and it’s not even clear what they’re accusing Obama of doing anyway. Mostly, their obsession with the topic comes off as little more than party-endorsed conspiracy theorizing that seems to be dog whistling that the president actually wanted the Americans killed, or at least didn’t mind much that they died.

It’s interesting that Romney surrogates and allies are going all in on Libya considering that the man himself has been largely avoiding it. Libya disappeared from Romney’s stump speeches in recent days. And in last week’s foreign policy debate, he completely passed on every opportunity to slam Obama on the attack. In that debate, moderator Bob Schieffer’s first question was on “the controversy over what happened” in Libya. But Romney’s response almost completely ignored Libya, spending more time on Syria and Mali instead.

Which brings us to our Sunday Best, which has to do with the intersection of Benghazi and abortion, which apparently exists somewhere. A frequent topic of discussion today was Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments on how a pregnancy from rape is actually a “gift from God.” But according to the (almost all male) representatives of the Republican Party on TV today, no one cares. “I think the reality is, Candy, overwhelmingly, I promise you, people out there are not talking about what Richard Mourdock said,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus assured CNN’s Crowley.

Gingrich again gets the prize for going too far. Asked by Stephanopoulos to respond to Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter’s comments on Mourdock, Gingrich told Cutter to get over it. “OK, so why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it? We all condemn rape,” Gingrich helpfully explained. As we’ve noted, conservatives seem to have a thing for dismissing Cutter in personal ways.

But Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson won the day. Abortion is “not even an issue here in Wisconsin,” Johnson said on Fox News Sunday after being asked about Mourdock’s comments. “It doesn’t even move the radar at all… What people are concerned about, like I said yesterday — it was amazing how many people are coming up to me demanding answers on Benghazi,” Johnson said.

Considering that barely half the country even knows about Benghazi, according to a recent Pew poll, that seems hard to believe. The Pew survey found that 56 percent said they were following news about the attack, and that almost 30 percent had no opinion about the administration’s handling. Contrast that with polling on abortion, which regularly shows that upwards of 97 percent of Americans have strong opinions on the issue.

Abortion is by far the “most important issue for women in this election,” according to women polled by Gallup. A plurality of 39 percent listed it as their top issue, while jobs came in a distant second at 19 percent, followed by healthcare at 18 percent. Not even one percent of women listed national security as their top concern. Among men, just 4 percent did.

By the way, after a week dominated by talk of abortion in the wake of Mourdock’s comment, who did the Romney campaign and the GOP send onto the major Sunday shows? About a dozen Republican men and just one woman. The one woman was Carly Fiorina, the former HP exec and former California GOP Senate candidate. On Meet the Press, she denounced Murdock’s comment, but said they don’t really matter. “Women care about the role of government. Women care about their children’s education,” she said.

That’s all true, according to the polls, but they care about abortion more and it will only hurt Republicans as long as they pretend that’s not true.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: