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“Don’t Overdo The Iowa Analysis”: There Are Probably Plenty Of Surprises To Come In The 2016 Race

The press seems to be “feeling the Bern.” And certainly feelin’ the Cruz.

First, Hillary vs. Bernie.

Be careful not to overdo the results from last night. Young, first-time caucus goers came close to carrying the day over the traditional, older attendees. According to the Des Moines Register poll Hillary Clinton was getting 65 percent of the older demographic (65+) and Bernie Sanders was getting 63 percent of the under 35 voters. Younger voters turned out, but the Clinton organization produced a narrow victory.

The “enthusiasm factor” was certainly important but remember this: Of all voters, 81 percent were still favorable to Clinton, while 82 percent were favorable to Sanders. Thus, Democrats were extremely positive towards both candidates.

But let me address the elephant in the room when it comes to Iowa. And it isn’t just the lack of diversity in the voting population, which many have mentioned. It is the fact that in the last Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses, 68 percent agreed with the following statement: “It would be OK to have a President who describes himself as a democratic socialist.”

Now, somehow I question whether that number – two-thirds of Democratic voters – will hold in many of the other primary states, especially the South and West.

In an earlier Des Moines Register poll this year, 43 percent of Democratic caucus goers identified themselves as socialist and 38 percent as capitalist. Again, such a large number certainly did bode well for Sanders. But despite the high turnout of young people and despite the very liberal bent of the caucus, Clinton still managed to emerge with a win. No small feat.

Will this allow Sanders to raise more and more money? Of course. Will it guarantee that this race will go on for several months? Probably. Will there be a lot more debates between these two candidates? Surely. Does this mean the Democrats are going to resemble a warring faction? Doubt it.

The spring primaries will give the Democrats a real chance to show the difference between a forward looking, progressive agenda that embraces economic fairness, tolerance of all citizens, openness to solving the immigration problem, serious education reform, equal rights and women’s rights – all in contrast to a Republican party that will take America backward.

A Clinton-Sanders contest will be good for the party, good for the general election and good for the country.

And, at the end of the day, Clinton will be nominated because she represents the mainstream of the Democratic party and can win in November and govern in January. Also, as the Gallup poll last year indicated, 50 percent of Americans said that “if their party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a socialist” they would not vote for him. This is a much higher “no vote” than someone who is gay or lesbian (24 percent), Muslim (38 percent), even an atheist (40 percent).

Socialism, big government and new taxes is not a viable platform despite the appeal of Sanders’ message. Convincing Americans to buy that platform would be like getting them to abandon their cell phones. Bernie would have to talk a lot more about entrepreneurship, innovation, capitalism and investment if he were to stand any chance.

The Republican upset of Donald Trump, meanwhile, proved the value of a superb and sustained statewide organization, plus the importance of motivating very conservative, evangelical, outsider voters. Cruz turned anger into action; Trump didn’t.

The conventional wisdom was that a huge Republican turnout – which is what happened – would benefit Trump. More than 180,000 Republicans turned out; in 2012 the turnout was 121,503. That is a huge jump and, though it was close, Cruz was victorious with 28 percent.

Big rallies, as was the case with the Democrats too, don’t necessarily translate into big victories. And Trump’s temper tantrum with the last Fox News debate was probably a bad move – the spoiled child syndrome doesn’t work too well in politics.

But don’t count Trump out and don’t think that this is going to be a particularly civil affair between Trump and Cruz. One big potential story coming out of the Iowa aftermath is that Cruz precinct captains allegedly announced in a number of the caucuses that Ben Carson was about to drop out and that they should look for another candidate. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Cruz’s chairman, even tweeted that out on Monday night. Doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do to me.

So fasten your seat belt for this donnybrook. We will see what happens in New Hampshire, but Sen. Marco Rubio may be the big winner of the night for the Republicans. If he can emerge soon as the alternative to Trump and Cruz, he may be able to raise the funds and carry on into Super Tuesday and beyond. Remember that there are a host of winner-take-all states starting in mid-March that Rubio could position himself to sweep (Florida, for example) if he is the lone so-called “establishment” candidate to take on Trump and Cruz. In many, he wouldn’t need a majority of the vote and assuming Bush, Christie and Kasich are out after Super Tuesday there is a big, wide opening to fill.

Rubio did much better than the polls predicted and his seizing the national news with his speech before anyone else was a tactical coup. And for some, like poor Jeb Bush, who spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa, this was a night he would love to forget.

On to New Hampshire and beyond, with more surprises I’m sure!

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, February 2, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney’s “Sense Of Entitlement”: He Believes He “Deserves” To Be President

If he weren’t so smug, it would almost be possible to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. Beyond the flip-flopping, has any worse actor ever attempted the role of presidential candidate? It’s beyond Romney’s powers to persuade most people of his sincerity about things he does believe, much less the many tenets of contemporary GOP faith he probably doesn’t share — assuming for the sake of argument that anybody, including himself, knows which is which.

There’s little doubt, however, that Romney believes he deserves to be president, in rather the way the fictional Lord Grantham deserves to preside over Downton Abbey. It’s his inability to conceal that sense of entitlement that makes him such an awkward politician.

The candidate’s cringe-inducing attempts to present himself as a Regular Joe almost invariably end in boasting. Campaigning in his native Michigan, he assured voters that his wife drives not just one $50,000 Cadillac, but two — one at their Boston home, the other at their seafront mansion near La Jolla, Calif., as aides subsequently clarified. No word how Mrs. Romney gets around at their New Hampshire lakeside compound or their Park City, Utah, ski palace.

Visiting the Daytona 500, Romney admitted he’s not a keen NASCAR fan, but does have friends who own racing teams. Defending himself on CNN from the perception that his wealth leaves him “out of touch,” he allowed as how, “If people think that there is something wrong with being successful in America, then they better vote for the other guy, because I’ve been extraordinarily successful and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.”

On the “Today” show, Romney explained that people concerned with income inequality are simply jealous. “You know, I think it’s about envy,” he said. “I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent—and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1 percent — you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country, which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Got that, peasants? God’s behind the 13.9 percent tax rate Romney paid on $43 million he earned in 2010 while technically unemployed. Anybody who thinks differently is merely eaten up with resentment. In my experience, the more money people inherit, the more they’re tempted to lecture others about talent and hard work. And to cry the blues about the indignity of paying taxes.

Romney’s air of personal superiority appears to be the one topic about which the poor dork is absolutely sincere. That’s what makes him such a terrible liar. He’s almost frantic with it, like a golden retriever with his ball. Even with the mute button on the TV pressed, you can almost hear him panting.

Look — modest, humble people don’t run for president. President Obama often appears to have trouble restraining his bemusement at the antics of less intelligent people. Nevertheless, Romney’s unrestrained egotism is the reason I think Paul Krugman (among others) has made far too much of an offhand remark the candidate made seemingly renouncing the central tenet of GOP economic dogma.

“If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting [government] spending,” Romney told a group of Michigan voters, “as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.”

Well, no kidding.

To Krugman, Romney’s slip of the tongue revealed him as a “closet Keynesian” who “believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal.” The columnist added that, after all, “Mr. Romney is not a stupid man. And while his grasp of world affairs does sometimes seem shaky, he has to be aware of the havoc austerity policies are wreaking in Greece, Ireland and elsewhere.”

Oh no he doesn’t.

Or, to be more precise, Romney can be perfectly aware and blithely unconcerned. Krugman left off the next sentence where Romney stipulated that cutting spending alone wasn’t enough. “You have to, at the same time, create pro-growth tax policies.”

Translation: even lower taxes for multimillionaires.

But I’d never presume to argue economics with professor Krugman. My point is that Romney’s tycoon capitalism has only partly to do with jobs, money and the real economy. It’s also about cultural revanchism, putting the right people back firmly in charge and the lower orders back in their place.

Tycoon capitalists like Romney see a prolonged slump as an opportunity to render the workforce more docile and grateful. Remember, this is the same guy who opposed government loans to save Chrysler and General Motors. Better to crush the Auto Workers Union. Who said the best way to resolve the national foreclosure crisis would be to speed it up, so that “investors” could buy people’s houses cheaply and rent them out.

In the end, it’s all about No. 1.

 

By: Gene Lyons, Salon, February 29, 2012

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Echoes Of Ayn Rand: How The GOP Came To View The Poor As Parasites And The Rich As Our Rightful Rulers

Last week the Republican Party sounded two distinct voices. First we heard the angry demands of the Tea Party, speaking through its hardline conservative allies in the House, pushing the government to the brink of a shutdown. But then emerged the soothing tones of Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, who fashions himself the intellectual leader of the party, unveiling a budget manifesto he calls the “Path to Prosperity.”

Ryan portrays his goals in reassuringly pecuniary terms—he’s just the friendly neighborhood accountant here to help balance your checkbook. “I have a knack for numbers,” he chirps. ABC News compared him to a character in Dave, the corny 1993 movie about an average Joe who mistakenly assumes the presidency and calls in his CPA buddy—that would be Ryan—to scour the federal budget and bring it into balance. If he has any flaw, he just cares too much about rescuing the country from debt, gosh darn it!

In fact, the two streams—the furious Tea Party rebels and Ryan the earnest budget geek—both spring from the same source. And it is to that source that you must look if you want to understand what Ryan is really after, and what makes these activists so angry.

The Tea Party began early in 2009 after an improvised rant by Rick Santelli, a CNBC commentator who called for an uprising to protest the Obama administration’s subsidizing the “losers’ mortgages.” Video of his diatribe rocketed around the country, and protesters quickly adopted both his call for a tea party and his general abhorrence of government that took from the virtuous and the successful and gave to the poor, the uninsured, the bankrupt—in short, the losers. It sounded harsh, Santelli quickly conceded, but “at the end of the day I’m an Ayn Rander.”

Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.

John Galt, the protagonist of her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”

In 2009 Rand began popping up all over the Tea Party movement. Sales of her books skyrocketed, and signs quoting her ideas appeared constantly at rallies. Conservatives asserted that the events of the Obama administration eerily paralleled the plot of Atlas Shrugged, in which a liberal government precipitates economic collapse.

One conservative making that point was Ryan. His citation of Rand was not casual. He’s a Rand nut. In the days before his star turn as America’s Accountant, Ryan once appeared at a gathering to honor her philosophy, where he announced, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He continues to view Rand as a lodestar, requiring his staffers to digest her creepy tracts.

When Ryan warns of the specter of collapse, he is not merely referring to the alarming gap between government outlays and receipts, as his admirers in the media assume. (Every policy change of the last decade that increased the deficit—the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—Ryan voted for.) He is also invoking Rand’s almost theological certainty that when a government punishes the strong to reward the weak, it must invariably collapse. That is the crisis his Path to Prosperity seeks to avert.

Viewed as an effort to reduce the debt, Ryan’s plan makes little sense. Many of its proposals either have nothing to do with reducing deficits (repealing the financial-reform bill loathed by Wall Street) or actually increase deficits (making the Bush tax cuts permanent). It relies heavily on distant, phantasmal cuts. During the debate over health-care reform, Ryan insisted that Medicare cuts used to finance universal coverage might add up on paper but they’d never stick—they were too far down the road, and Congress would just walk them back when people complained.

But Ryan proposes identical cuts in his own plan. What’s more, he saves trillions of dollars from Medicare by imposing huge cuts on anybody who retires starting in 2022. So not only has he adopted the cuts he claimed would never come to pass because they’re too harsh and too distant, he imposes far harsher and more distant cuts of his own. Indeed, Alice Rivlin, the fiscally conservative Democratic economist who endorsed an earlier version of his Medicare plan, called his new plan unrealistic. (Ryan nonetheless continues to imply that she supports it.)

Ryan’s plan does do two things in immediate and specific ways: hurt the poor and help the rich. After extending the Bush tax cuts, he would cut the top rate for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent. Then Ryan slashes Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing. These programs to help the poor, which constitute approximately 21 percent of the federal budget, absorb two thirds of Ryan’s cuts.

Ryan spares anybody over the age of 55 from any Medicare or Social Security cuts, because, he says, they “have organized their lives around these programs.” But the roughly one in seven Americans (and nearly one in four children) on food stamps? Apparently they can have their benefits yanked away because they were only counting on using them to eat.

Ryan casts these cuts as an incentive for the poor to get off their lazy butts. He insists that we “ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.” It’s worth translating what Ryan means here. Welfare reform was premised on the tough but persuasive argument that providing long-term cash payments to people who don’t work encourages long-term dependency. Ryan is saying that the poor should not only be denied cash income but also food and health care.

The class tinge of Ryan’s Path to Prosperity is striking. The poorest Americans would suffer immediate, explicit budget cuts. Middle-class Americans would face distant, uncertain reductions in benefits. And the richest Americans would enjoy an immediate windfall. Santelli, in his original rant, demanded that we “reward people [who can] carry the water instead of drink the water.” Ryan won’t say so, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.

By: Jonathan Chait, Senior Editor, The New Republic

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, Federal Budget, Financial Reform, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Health Reform, Ideologues, Income Gap, Journalists, Media, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Tea Party, Uninsured, Wall Street, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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