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“Pants On Fire”: Not To Put Too Fine A Point On It, Mitt Romney Lies Quite A Bit

There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.

Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere.

Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.

“Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” Romney claims on his campaign Web site. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.

An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news Web site owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that “there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.”

Quite the contrary: Spending has increased at a yearly rate of only 1.4 percent during Obama’s tenure, even if you include some stimulus spending (in the 2009 fiscal year) that technically should be attributed to President George W. Bush. This is by far the smallest — I repeat, smallest — increase in spending of any recent president. (The Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded the spending increase figure should have been 3.3 percent.)

In Bush’s first term, by contrast, federal spending increased at an annual rate of 7.3 percent; in his second term, the annual rise averaged 8.1 percent. Reagan comes next, in terms of profligacy, followed by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and finally Obama, the thriftiest of them all.

The MarketWatch analysis was re-analyzed by the nonpartisan watchdogs at Politifact who found it “Mostly True” — adding the qualifier because some of the restraint in spending under Obama “was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans.” Duly noted, and if Romney wants to claim credit for the GOP, he’s free to do so. But he’s not free to say that “federal spending has accelerated” under Obama, because any way you look at it, that’s a lie.

Another example: Obama “went around the Middle East and apologized for America,” Romney said in March. “You know, instead of apologizing for America he should have stood up and said that as the president of the United States we all take credit for the greatness of this country.” That’s two lies for the price of one. Obama did not, in fact, go around the Middle East, or anywhere else, apologizing for America. And he did, on many occasions, trumpet American greatness and exceptionalism.

Romney offers few specifics, but the conservative Heritage Foundation published a list of “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies” — not one of which is an apology at all.

One alleged instance is a speech Obama gave to the Turkish parliament in 2009, in which he said the United States “is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history . . . [and] still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.” If the folks at Heritage and at the Romney campaign don’t know that this is a simple statement of fact, they really ought to get out more.

Romney does single out the following Obama statement from a 2009 interview: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Romney says this acknowledgment — that others might have as much national pride as we do — means Obama doesn’t really believe in American exceptionalism at all.

But in the same interview, Obama went on to say he was “enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world,” and to tout U.S. economic and military might as well as the nation’s “exceptional” democratic values. So he should be accused of chest-thumping, not groveling.

I could go on and on, from Romney’s laughable charge that Obama is guilty of “appeasement” (ask Osama bin Laden) to claims of his job-creating prowess at Bain Capital. He seems to believe voters are too dumb to discover what the facts really are — or too jaded to care.

On both counts, I disagree.

 

BY: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 28, 2012

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

A “No New Taxes” Pledge Is A Death Trap For Seniors

This has to be one of the funniest political stories of recent weeks: On Tuesday, 42 freshmen Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging President Obama to stop Democrats from engaging in “Mediscare” tactics — that is, to stop saying that the Republican budget plan released early last month, which would end Medicare as we know it, is a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Now, you may recall that the people who signed that letter got their current jobs largely by engaging in “Mediscare” tactics of their own. And bear in mind that what Democrats are saying now is entirely true, while what Republicans were saying last year was completely false. Death panels!

Well, it’s time, said the signatories, to “wipe the slate clean.” How very convenient — and how very pathetic.

Anyway, the truth is that older Americans really should fear Republican budget ideas — and not just because of that plan to dismantle Medicare. Given the realities of the federal budget, a party insisting that tax increases of any kind are off the table — as John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says they are — is, necessarily, a party demanding savage cuts in programs that serve older Americans.

To explain why, let me answer a rhetorical question posed by Professor John Taylor of Stanford University in a recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal. He asked, “If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of G.D.P. in 2007” — that is, just before the Great Recession — “why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021?”

Mr. Taylor thought he was making the case for not increasing spending. But if you know anything about the federal budget, you know that there’s a very good answer to his question — an answer that clearly demonstrates just how extremist that no-tax-increase pledge really is. For here’s the quick-and-dirty summary of what the federal government does: It’s a giant insurance company, mainly serving older people, that also has an army.

The great bulk of federal spending that isn’t either defense-related or interest on the debt goes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The first two programs specifically serve seniors. And while Medicaid is often thought of as a poverty program, these days it’s largely about providing nursing care, with about two-thirds of its spending now going to the elderly and/or disabled. By my rough count, in 2007, seniors accounted, one way or another, for about half of federal spending.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, there will soon be a lot more seniors around because the baby boomers have started reaching retirement age.

Here are the numbers: In 2007, there were 20.9 Americans 65 and older for every 100 Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 — that is, the people of normal working age who essentially provide the tax base that supports federal spending. The Social Security Administration expects that number to rise to 27.5 by 2020, and 31.7 by 2025. That’s a lot more people relying on federal social insurance programs.

Nor is demography the whole story. Over the long term, health care spending has consistently grown faster than the economy, raising the costs of Medicare and Medicaid as a share of G.D.P. Cost-control measures — the very kind of measures Republicans demonized last year, with their cries of death panels — can help slow the rise, but few experts believe that we can avoid some “excess cost growth” over the next decade.

Between an aging population and rising health costs, then, preserving anything like the programs for seniors we now have will require a significant increase in spending on these programs as a percentage of G.D.P. And unless we offset that rise with drastic cuts in defense spending — which Republicans, needless to say, oppose — this means a substantial rise in overall spending, which we can afford only if taxes rise.

So when people like Mr. Boehner reject out of hand any increase in taxes, they are, in effect, declaring that they won’t preserve programs benefiting older Americans in anything like their current form. It’s just a matter of arithmetic.

Which brings me back to those Republican freshmen. Last year, older voters, who split their vote almost evenly between the parties in 2008, swung overwhelmingly to the G.O.P., as Republicans posed successfully as defenders of Medicare. Now Democrats are pointing out that the G.O.P., far from defending Medicare, is actually trying to dismantle the program. So you can see why those Republican freshmen are nervous.

But the Democrats aren’t engaging in scare tactics, they’re simply telling the truth. Policy details aside, the G.O.P.’s rigid anti-tax position also makes it, necessarily, the enemy of the senior-oriented programs that account for much of federal spending. And that’s something voters ought to know.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Death Panels, Democrats, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Health Care Costs, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Seniors, Social Security, Tax Increases, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Irony Of Tax Day: The Dwindling, Victorious Tea Party

In case you didn’t notice, today is Tax Day, which means it’s also the second anniversary of one of the tea party movement’s biggest moments, April 15, 2009, when dozens, if not hundreds, of well-attended protests were held around the country.

It was a coming-out party of sorts for the movement. No one really knew what the tea party was at that point, and, as momentum built toward the Tax Day rallies, details began to emerge regarding just who they were, and who was organizing them.

Today, the movement seems to be dwindling.

Tax Day, 2011, came and has largely gone without the same kind of massive, irate throngs in every state and major city. We can attribute that, to some degree, to the scheduling shift of Tax Day to April 18 and the movement’s consequent dispersed focus, holding rallies on Friday, Monday, and over the weekend, rather than on just a single day. But you can’t deny that, as an activist movement, the tea party has lost some momentum, attendance-wise.

A Michele Bachmann rally in South Carolina Monday drew a measly 300 people. A few weeks ago, maybe a couple hundred showed up to a Capitol Hill protests held by Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party membership group, which once estimated its membership at over 15 million. It was hard to tell how many were there to participate and how many were there to spectate and the tea partiers were almost outnumbered by the reporters.

A Virginia tea party activist told me recently that members of his group are spread too thin. “We’re kind of saturated right now,” he said, explaining that different people and groups ask them to do too many things. He showed me a few of the emails sent around to members, asking various things of them. It’s a problem, he said.

As the activist infrastructure has built up, so have the demands on individual activists. With the initial fervor wearing off, it makes for a tired bunch of crusaders.

And yet the tea party seems to have accomplished its main goal: bending the will of the Republican Party.

Republican politicians widely cater messages and platforms to a tea party audience. Listening to what is said by Republican presidential contenders, House members, and candidates for office, it’s tough to argue the tea party hasn’t left its mark. It’s taboo not to talk about drastic cuts to federal spending, whether or not one has a plan for the specifics.

During the midterms, Republican candidates met with tea party groups, seeking their approval. It became impossible to distinguish a “tea party” candidate from a regular Republican.

That effect has carried over into 2012. The Tea Party Express will partner with CNN to host a GOP presidential debate, and the movement’s influence will finally be institutionalized in the 2012 primary contest.

Perhaps most significantly, Washington is now engaged in a serious discussion of how to reduce spending levels over the long term. While President Obama rejected the House GOP’s drastic 2012 budget proposal out of hand, it’s safe to say he was forced by November’s results and the tea-party-fueled GOP House takeover to propose a big number, $4 trillion, of cuts from the deficit over the next 12 years.

The tea party movement can legitimately take some credit for that. We’ll find out, as the 2012 election approaches, just how much gas is left in the tea party’s tank. It’s likely that the GOP 2012 contest and the tea party’s rallies will blend into one continuous political event, with candidates taking turns on stage and with lots of people turning out.

But the movement is in an ironic place now. Without an election this year and with attendance tapering off, it’s also become institutionalized as a fixture in American politics, having possibly swayed enough 2012 candidates to preempt the presidential primary from even being a flashpoint in the GOP’s identity.

Apparently what we’re seeing now is what victory looks like.

By: Chris Good, The Atlantic, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberty, Media, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, States, Taxes, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Budget Crises And The New Language of Deceit

For most of history, we had undebatable definitions of words such as “bailout” and “bankruptcy.” We understood the former as an undeserved public grant, and the latter as an inability to pay existing bills. Whatever your particular beliefs about these concepts, their meanings were at least agreed upon.

Sadly, that’s not the case during a deficit crisis that is seeing language redefined on ideological terms.

“Bailout” was the first word thrown into the Orwellian fire. As some lawmakers recently proposed replenishing depleted state coffers with federal dollars, the American Conservative Union urged Congress to oppose states “seek(ing) a bailout” from the feds. Now, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says, “Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven’t? No.”

Ryan, mind you, voted for 2008’s TARP program — a bank bailout in the purest sense of the term. But one lawmaker’s rank hypocrisy is less significant than how the word “bailout” is being used — and abused. Suddenly, the term suggests that federal aid would force taxpayers in allegedly “fiscally responsible” Republican states to underwrite taxpayers in supposedly irresponsible Democratic ones.

Aside from stoking a detestable interstate enmity, this thesis ignores the fact that state-to-state wealth transfers are already happening. According to the Tax Foundation, most Republican-voting states receive more in federal funding than they pay in federal taxes, while most Democratic-voting states receive less federal money than they pay in federal taxes.

That means traditionally blue states like California are now perpetually subsidizing — or in Ryan’s parlance, “bailing out” — traditionally red states like Indiana. Thus, federal aid to states could actually reduce the state-to-state subsidies conservatives say they oppose.

Congressional Republicans will undoubtedly ignore these facts. Their proposed solution to the budget emergency could instead be a Newt Gingrich-backed initiative letting states default on outstanding obligations by declaring bankruptcy. Again, the word is fraught with new connotations.

Whereas sick or laid-off individuals occasionally claim a genuine inability to repay debts and thus a need for bankruptcy protections, states can never legitimately claim such a need because they are never actually “bankrupt.” Why? Because they always posses the power to raise revenue. The power is called taxation — and destroying that authority is what the new bankruptcy idea is really about. It would let states avoid tax increases on the wealthy, renege on contractual promises to public employees and destroy the country’s creditworthiness.

Blocking state “bailouts” and letting states declare “bankruptcy” are radical notions, especially in a bad economy. One would result in recession-exacerbating public layoffs; the other would institutionalize an anti-tax zealotry that destroys tomorrow’s middle class in order to protect today’s rich. That’s why advocates of these ideas have resorted to manipulating language. They know the only way to make such extremism a reality is to distort the vernacular — and if we aren’t cognizant of their scheme, they will succeed.

By: David Sirota, Creators.com, Originally Published 3/4/11

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Actually Happens If The U.S. Hits The Federal Debt Ceiling?

Are you just now recovering from the migraine induced by months of partisan feuding over the 2011 federal budget? Looking forward to a lengthy reprieve before Congress tackles next year’s budget? Sorry, but you’re in for a rude awakening. (And you might want to reach for some aspirin.) Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned Congress last week that the United States — currently liable for more than $14 trillion of debt — will collide with the federal debt ceiling around May 16. Once the government hits the current limit of $14.3 trillion it will be legally prohibited from incurring any additional debt; problematic since the U.S. only takes in around 60 cents for each dollar it spends.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling 74 times since 1962. Ten of those increases occurred in the past decade. It’s a routine vote. However, the political calculus has shifted in the newly anointed “age of austerity.” House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that a failure to raise the ceiling could have calamitous implications. However, congressional Republicans appear unlikely to authorize an increase in the debt limit without significant Democratic concessions, setting up yet another high-noon scenario on Capitol Hill. 

This poses the question: What would happen if the U.S. hit the debt ceiling?

In the immediate aftermath of such an event, the Treasury Department can impose “extraordinary actions” to help pay the bills. Those measures include, “suspending investments in a savings plan for federal workers and pulling Treasury securities out of a trust fund for two federal retirement plans. In such cases, the Treasury must make the funds whole again once the ceiling is raised.” However, such stopgap measures would prove ineffective before long, and the government would have to either authorize an increase in the debt limit or cut $738 billion in federal spending in the span of six months, with severe consequences for the economy. Notwithstanding such a massive curtailing of government spending, the U.S. would default on some of its debt obligations. And the implications are frightening

For one, the government would grind to a halt — cutting off military salaries and retirement benefits, along with Social Security and Medicare payments. Worse still, default would also plunge the U.S. back into recession. Interest rates and borrowing costs would surge, while the dollar would plummet. In a worst case scenario, the markets would go into a death spiral as investors distanced themselves from the U.S.

At the very least, defaulting would call into question the true value of U.S. Treasury bonds — heretofore the gold standard of the bond market. Additionally, such an event would damage the country’s credit rating, and significantly hamper its ability to generate revenue necessary to keep government running. A default on government debt obligations could conspire to undermine the United States’ preeminent position in the global economy. Needless to say, all of this would swiftly end the recovery, as Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke pointed out.

As for the political repercussions, Nate Silver at the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog argues that the failure to raise the debt ceiling would equate to nothing less than political ruin for virtually every elected federal official.

This as close as you can get in American politics to mutually assured destruction. No matter how Machiavellian your outlook, it’s very hard to make the case that any politician with a significant amount of power would become more powerful in the event of a debt default.That in mind, it seems unlikely that the ceiling won’t be raised. It’s just a matter of when, and how, we get there.

By: Peter Finocchiaro, Salon, April 11, 2011

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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