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“Fiorina And Trump”: Rivals Who Deserve Each Other

Republicans always say nobody respects America anymore. No kidding. Given that CNN televised last week’s GOP presidential debate to a waiting world, it’s no wonder we don’t command respect.

After all, it’s one thing to see the most powerful nation on Earth choosing its leaders via a television game show. It’s quite another to contemplate the parade of grotesques and mountebanks enlisted as contestants.

The spectacle was enough to induce dread that’s less political than downright existential. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” Shakespeare wrote. “They kill us for their sport.”

The good news is that former Treasury official under Ronald Reagan, Bruce Bartlett, is probably correct when he says: “Any Republican who can win the White House can’t win the nomination, and no Republican who can win the nomination can win the White House.”

There the 11 candidates stood in front of the sainted Reagan’s presidential airplane with massive wildfires roaring only a few miles away — climate change deniers every one of them. Marco Rubio, supposedly one of the smart ones, made a dumb joke about bringing his own water.

That would be the same President Reagan who sent a birthday cake to Iran’s Ayatollah and sold him guided missiles. Today’s GOP unanimously opposes President Obama’s multinational arms control agreement with Iran.

Of course, Reagan also once claimed to have taken part in liberating the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald, although the closest he got to Europe during WWII was a French restaurant in Beverly Hills.

But why be churlish? Pundits and voters have always judged politicians by varying standards. Reagan probably got a pass because people believed his emotional response to newsreel footage of concentration camps was sincere. Yet Al Gore got lampooned for something he never actually said about inventing the Internet.

Besides, by the standard of last week’s GOP debate, Reagan was a veritable apostle of truth. You thought Donald Trump was a braggart and a blowhard? Then you probably cheered to see Carly Fiorina take him on.

Look at that face!” Trump told Rolling Stone. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

Of course he came under fire for saying that. Why he didn’t simply say the reporter misunderstood him is hard to guess. It’s not as if people take Rolling Stone at face value. Maybe there’s a tape. But pretending he was talking about her grating personality didn’t fool anybody.

During the GOP debate, Fiorina’s deadpan response was a perfectly timed masterpiece of understatement.

“Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”


“She’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman,” Trump replied. Yeah, right. Did anybody watching believe him?

But then being Donald Trump means never being able to say you’re sorry. I’d estimate his emotional age at 12.

So now Carly Fiorina is the newest GOP sensation, whose secrets of corporate success she put fully on display. Fiorina gives a great interview, having mastered the art of appearing decisive even when she has no clue what she’s talking about.

Certitude’s easily faked with memorized talking points. For example, Fiorina vowed to shake a fist in Vladimir Putin’s face by holding military exercises in the Baltic. Evidently she was unaware that the U.S. and NATO have conducted joint maneuvers there yearly since the 1970s. The most recent 17-nation Baltic war games ended last June. The Russians complained.

Virtually everything she said about national defense was similarly nonsensical — not that GOP game-show viewers knew.

But when things start to go bad — as they did during her doomed tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO — Fiorina evidently begins making things up. Who could not be moved, for example, by her horrifying description of a videotape supposedly exposing Planned Parenthood?

“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” she said. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Terribly dramatic, but also, as Michael Hiltzik documented in the Los Angeles Times, purely imaginary. No such Planned Parenthood video exists. Challenged on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fiorina simply doubled down, challenging her critics to prove a negative, which ain’t how it works.

Similar stonewalling, accompanied by personal attacks on her questioners’ motives, ultimately resulted in Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors voting unanimously to give Fiorina a $21 million “golden parachute” and show her the exit. Trump appears mostly right about Fiorina’s dubious business record, just as Fiorina was correct about the casino tycoon’s multiple bankruptcies.

It’s a mystery why Trump failed to mention that Fiorina’s whole rags-to-riches, secretarial-pool-to-executive-suite story is also totally bogus. Her father was Dean of the Duke School of Law and a Nixon-appointed federal Appeals Court judge.

It’s possible Trump’s saving ammunition for the next exciting GOP matchup. Alternatively, he may be reluctant to have Fiorina bring up his inheriting $200 million from his real estate mogul father.

Either way, the two GOP frontrunners clearly deserve each other.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tax Cuts Pay For Themselves”: Behold, The Magic Kingdom Of Dynamic Scoring

While most citizens were distracted by the holidays, the enlarged Republican majority in Congress was laying golden pavers for its magical kingdom — a fabulous place where taxes are cut, military spending is not, and budgets balance effortlessly. The coat of arms reads, “Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves.”

And to think the rubble has hardly been cleared from the ruins of the most recent magical kingdom, ruled by George W. Bush. Not only did the Bush tax cuts not pay for themselves but tax revenue as a share of the economy today isn’t even close to what it was in 2000.

So how can Republican leaders restore the realm? For starters, they’ve launched a campaign to replace Doug Elmendorf, the economist overseeing the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is the nonpartisan agency that estimates the cost of legislation.

Let it be noted that prominent conservative economists — among them Gregory Mankiw, chairman of W.’s Council of Economic Advisers — have called for Elmendorf’s reappointment. Elmendorf “is a superb economist and, over the past six years as CBO director, has shown himself to be scrupulously nonpartisan,” Mankiw said.

But nonpartisan may not be partisan enough for tax cut activists. They want the bean counters to make the numbers work for them through the powers of “dynamic scoring.”

The idea that reducing taxes could unleash new economic activity, generating new tax revenues, is not without merit. Dynamic scoring factors in those revenues. Count them, Republicans insist, and the burden of finding painful ways to pay for tax cuts is lightened. That makes tax cutting easier.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, calls dynamic scoring “reality-based scoring.”

The problem is the ease with which politicians can make their own reality. Dynamic scoring is a dark art, producing wildly different estimates, depending on the choice of economic model and other assumptions. For example, some kinds of tax cuts raise more revenues than other kinds.

Another nonpartisan office, the Joint Committee on Taxation, did apply dynamic scoring to the tax reform plan submitted by retiring House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. The result was eight scenarios, some considerably rosier than others. At the low end, the Camp plan would raise only $50 billion in additional revenue over 10 years. The high-end estimate was $700 billion — 14 times the low one.

Furthermore, the optimistic $700 billion figure included deficit reductions that future Congresses might make. Some of the assumed policy changes weren’t even mentioned in the Camp plan.

Bruce Bartlett, an economist in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, points to another flaw in the Republicans’ approach: the highly selective use of dynamic scoring on some elements of their proposals but not others.

“Republicans want to use dynamic scoring only for tax cuts,” Bartlett wrote me in an email. “They refuse to acknowledge that spending, such as public works spending, also has dynamic effects. They should either do it for spending and taxes or not at all.”

Bartlett added that “spending cuts can have negative dynamic effects that Republicans also never acknowledge.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation’s models are themselves problematic, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. For example, they count the economic benefits of investments in new machinery but not investments in worker training. Human capital doesn’t get much attention.

But even when score makers do their darnedest, they’re working with numbers pulled from the air. So Republicans can use butterfly nets to catch those guesses that produce the conclusions they want. Bear in mind, the last time they performed their tax cut magic trick, things didn’t work out too well.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, December 25, 2014

December 26, 2014 Posted by | Federal Budget, Republicans, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CNN Sustains Tea Party Myth

CNN Online has publisheda story titled an “angry electorate helps sustain tea party,” ignoring the clear evidence the “movement” is only sustained by thinly-veiled religious zeal and wealthy funders like the Koch brothers.

Perhaps in an effort to avoid accusations of liberal bias, CNN Online parrots Tea Party spin, concluding the article by quoting a GOP strategist who states “The tea party is an organic movement that was largely created by people who were frustrated by Washington. . . There’s not much you can do about something that’s genuine, something that grew organically.” On the contrary, the tea party has been funded since its inception by the billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy ideologues, and its events and gatherings have been orchestrated by corporate lobbyists.

Koch-funded Christian Right

Studies show that most people who now identify with the Tea Party were already highly partisan Republicans and identified with the religious right before the “movement” began. In the August 2010 New Yorker article lifting the veil on Tea Party funding, conservative economist Bruce Bartlett explained that “the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement,” and that they are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” Tea Party handlers, then, harness the religious zeal of its members, allege they are motivated by Ayn Rand-inspired economic populism, and run candidates like Michele Bachmann who play down their extreme social conservatism in favor of an economic platform. And news outlets like CNN apparently continue to take the “grassroots movement” at face value.

Clearly Partisan Agenda

Matt Kibbe, longtime Republican operative and president of tea party group FreedomWorks, told CNN “we’re not a protest movement anymore; we’ve morphed into something else. We’re a get-out-the-vote machine. We’re organizing at the community level.”

Recently released recordings from the Koch brothers’ donor retreat in June, though, demonstrate that Tea Party events have always been aimed at electing Republicans. As Think Progress notes, Koch Industries executive and lobbyist Kevin Gentry described being “on the road” in 2010 for the Koch-funded “Americans for Prosperity’s last minute kind of get out the vote tours,” which he said was “a Tea Party AFP event designed to help in the Congressional races.” The specific “get out the vote” event Gentry referenced was in Congressman Paul Ryan‘s district.

CNN is co-sponsoring a GOP presidential debate with the Tea Party Express tonight.


By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Koch Brothers, Media, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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