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“The Big Liar’s Biggest Lies”: Mitt Romney Invents Impossible Numbers

“It’s not easy to debate a liar,” complained an email from one observer of the first presidential debate – and there was no question about which candidate he meant. Prevarication, falsification, fabrication are all familiar tactics that have been employed by Mitt Romney without much consequence to him ever since he entered public life, thanks to the inviolable taboo in the mainstream media against calling out a liar (unless, of course, he lies about sex).

Yes, President Obama ought to have been better prepared for Romney’s barrage of blather and bull. The Republican’s own chief advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, had glibly described the “Etch-a-Sketch” strategy they would deploy in the general election, to make swing voters forget the “severe conservative” of the primaries. Romney executed that pivot on Wednesday night, but he could do so only by spouting literally dozens of provably fraudulent assertions — which various diligent fact-checkers proceeded to debunk.

Knowing that he is vulnerable on taxation and the budget for many reasons, including his own peculiar and secretive tax history, Romney made several contradictory claims regarding his economic plan. He has no plan to lavish $5 trillion in tax breaks on the wealthy. He won’t cut taxes for the rich at all. He vowed to provide tax relief to the middle class and won’t increase their tax burden. He swore that his tax cuts would not increase the deficit.

Finally, he said that with all of that, he would grow the economy enough to shrink and eventually eliminate the deficit — without raising taxes on anyone. And he claimed that there are several studies proving he can fulfill all of these conflicting promises — even though he refuses to provide any specific tax proposals beyond a broad tax cut.

There is no study proving that Romney can do what he promised – and among his lies is his description of editorials in Tthe Wall Street Journal as “studies” of his plan. The most complete and unrefuted study of his claims remains the Tax Policy Center’s bipartisan report on the Romney plan, which shows that there is simply no way to pay for his $5 trillion, across-the-board tax cut without raising taxes on the middle class. None of the alternative studies he has cited proves otherwise – and some of them actually amass additional evidence that he is wrong.

Undoubtedly he knows all that. He knows that eliminating the estate tax, a mainstay of his plan, will benefit the rich enormously and almost nobody else.

He also knows that when he claims economic growth alone will erase the deficit, without raising taxes, he is inventing impossible numbers. As The National Memo’s Howard Hill demonstrated yesterday, the assumptions behind his claims are ridiculous. For the numbers to work, he would have to create not 12 million jobs, as he promised to do by 2016, but 162 million — more than the total current U.S. workforce. Or else the jobs created would have to pay more than $443,000 per year on average — which is even less likely than Rafalca winning the dressage medal at the next Summer Olympics.

At the same time, Romney accused the president of increasing the federal debt by an amount that is “almost as much…as all prior presidents combined.” This charge, which he leveled before, is patently false and by now Romney must know it. The prior debt, mostly run up by George W. Bush and his Republican congressional cronies, stood above $10 trillion when Obama took office. The debt is now just over $16 trillion, mostly due to costs incurred by Bush and by Obama’s successful effort to prevent a Depression.

Having essentially disavowed the health care reforms that were his sole significant achievement in his single term in elected office, the former Massachusetts Governor suddenly claimed ownership of Romneycare. Presumably, this will make him more appealing to swing voters, too. But he still wants to do away with Obamacare, except for the parts that are popular.

For this maneuver, he must misrepresent his own proposed federal health care overhaul. He says there will be no change to Medicare for current beneficiaries, but repealing the Affordable Care Act will deprive them of free preventive care, increase their costs for prescription drugs, and do irreparable harm to Medicaid, which provides assisted care for nine million destitute Medicare patients.

But Romney has been lying about the Affordable Care Act for years, according to his own former advisor Jonathan Gruber, the chief intellectual architect of Romneycare. Nearly a year ago, Gruber complained that Romney’s attempt to draw a sharp distinction between the Massachusetts legislation and Obamacare was phony. He told Capital New York in November 2011 that “they’re the same fucking bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying.”

Lying again? Indeed, the falsehoods flowed on every conceivable subject. Concerning energy, Romney claimed that “about half” of the renewable energy firms that received federal assistance under Obama administration programs went bankrupt — a claim that cannot be justified by any measure. Of the 28 firms that got federal loans or loan guarantees, three went under, representing under 11 percent — and less than 5 percent of the funds committed. (This assertion was so blatantly untrue that the Romney campaign withdrew it the next day.)

The examples cited above hardly exhaust the deep well of dishonesty in the Republican campaign. What Romney has done presents a fundamental challenge to the American political media. Will news outlets hold him accountable for baldly misleading voters? Are they capable of confronting his continuous mendacity with basic facts? Some have made a beginning, while others have scarcely tried. If that isn’t their responsibility, then they no longer have any purpose at all.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 5, 2012

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tomorrow Is Another Day”: Mitt Romney’s Ever-Changing Opinion On Health Care

Seeking to soften his image, Mitt Romney has this week taken — again — to touting the health care reform law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts, saying it illustrates his “empathy and care about the people of this country.”

While running for president in 2008, and the following year while the Affordable Care Act was still being crafted, Romney was actively evoking ‘Romneycare’ as a model for federal health reform. All that changed after President Obama signed the law in March 2010, at which point repeal became the Republican Party’s raison d’être. Romney quickly latched on to the cause.

That’s when the relationship between the now-Republican nominee and his signature achievement as governor grew complicated. Here’s a timeline.

April 12, 2006: Birth of Romneycare

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signs health care reform into law.

February 2, 2007: ‘Model for the nation’

Preparing to run for president, Romney touts Romneycare in a Baltimore speech. “I’m proud of what we’ve done,” he says. “If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.” He repeats this message in multiple media appearances throughout his presidential run.

January 5, 2008: ‘I like mandates’

In a Republican primary debate, Romney defends Romneycare and its individual mandate. “I like mandates. The mandates work,” he says. “If somebody — if somebody can afford insurance and decides not to buy it, and then they get sick, they ought to pay their own way, as opposed to expect the government to pay their way.” He continues to echo this message.

July 30, 2009: Adopt my plan, Mr. President

The national health care debate is raging. Romney takes to USA Today to call on Obama to embrace the tenets of Romneycare. “Obama could learn a thing or two about health care reform from Massachusetts,” he writes, making the case for an individual mandate: “Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”

The federal law enacted in March 2010 includes the three core planks of Romneycare: guaranteed insurance coverage, an individual mandate and subsidies to help people afford to buy their own policies on a regulated exchange.

March 30, 2010: ‘Different as night and day’

Reading the tea leaves, Romney proceeds to channel his party’s calls to unwind Obamacare and insists that it’s different from his plan.

“People often compare his plan to the Massachusetts plan,” he tells the Boston Globe. “They’re as different as night and day. There are some words that sound the same, but our plan is based on states solving our issues; his is based on a one-size-fits-all plan.”

After initially calling for partial repeal, Romney champions the GOP’s push to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, describing it as both unconstitutional and damaging to the nation.

May 12, 2011: No apology

Weeks before announcing his presidential bid, and under pressure from conservatives to disavow his greatest political accomplishment, Romney gives a speech defending his law but vowing never to impose it on the nation. “Our plan was a state solution to a state problem and his plan was a federal power grab,” he says.

“I also recognize a lot of pundits are saying I should stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake,” he says at the University of Michigan. “But there’s only one problem with that: It wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I felt was right for the people of my state.”

June 12, 2011: Obamneycare

One day after his Republican primary opponent Tim Pawlenty derisively conflated the two laws with the moniker “Obamneycare,” Romney defends his version in a debate.

“If I’m elected president I will repeal Obamacare,” he says. “And also, on my first day in office … I will grant a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare.”

Romney proceeds to avoid mentioning Romneycare for the rest of the primaries, but holds the line on the federal-state distinction each time he’s asked about it.

September 15, 2011: ‘One of my best assets’ against Obama

During a Republican primary debate in South Carolina, Romney explains how he will respond to Obama’s contention that he isn’t a credible critic of the Affordable Care Act.

“That will be one of my best assets if I’m able to debate President Obama,” he says, “as I hope to be able to do by saying, ‘Mr. President, you give me credit for what you’ve tried to copy in some ways. Our bill dealt with 8 percent of our population, the people who aren’t insured and said to them, if you can pay, don’t count on the government, take personal responsibility. We didn’t raise taxes, Mr. President. You raise taxes $500 billion. We didn’t cut Medicare.’”

December 7, 2011: ‘It’s not even perfect for Massachusetts!’

Looking to shore up his primary position, Romney puts more distance between himself and his Massachusetts law than ever before. In an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, he says he actually had serious concerns about his own bill. As for how many other states should mimic his signature law, he replies: “In its entirety, not very many.”

“It’s not even perfect for Massachusetts,” he says. “At the time we created it, I vetoed several measures and said these, I think, are mistakes, and you in Massachusetts will find you have to correct them over time. But that’s the nature of a piece of legislation of this nature. You’ll see what works, what doesn’t, and you’ll make the changes. But they have not made those changes, and in some cases they made things worse. So I wouldn’t encourage any state to adopt it in total.”

June 28, 2012: Upheld

The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, and by now Romney has locked up the presidential nomination. “Our mission is clear,” he says. “If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.” He does not mention Romneycare.

August 8, 2012: Romneycare revival

Accused in a vicious pro-Obama group’s ad of being responsible for the death of a woman by making decisions at Bain that cost her her health care, the Romney campaign seeks to soften his image by saying the Massachusetts law would have covered her.

“Obviously it is unfortunate when anyone loses their job,” says Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul on Fox News. “To that point, you know, if people had been in Massachusetts under Gov. Romney’s health care plan they would’ve had health care.”

Conservatives threw a fit, unleashing a torrent of criticism at their nominee’s campaign, with some fearing that Saul’s remarks would cost him the election. The criticism, it turns out, would not silence the campaign’s embrace of the law.

August 26, 2012: ‘Very proud’

Fending off Democratic claims that Republicans are waging a “war on women,” Romney says he’s “very proud” that his Massachusetts law gave health care to many women.

“I’m the guy who was able to get all the health care for all the women and men for my state,” he says on Fox News. “They were talking about it at the federal level. We actually did something and we did it without cutting Medicare and without raising taxes.”

September 8, 2012: I like parts of Obamacare — but not exactly

In an interview on NBC, Romney briefly signals support for two key provisions in Obamacare — guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions and letting young people remain on a parent’s policy until 26, which were also included in Romneycare.

“I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” he says. “Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.”

Soon, his campaign clarifies that he wasn’t expressing solidarity with the Affordable Care Act, but was reiterating support for different versions of the ideas. In the case of preexisting conditions, he wants laws protecting those who have maintained continuous coverage, but not first-time buyers. And he says insurers will adopt the under-26 provision on their own.

September 26, 2012: ‘Empathy and care’

Under fire again from the Obama campaign for his taped remarks deriding 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders, Romney cites Romneycare in a national TV interview as evidence of his compassion for ordinary people.

“Don’t forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” he says on NBC. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

On the same day, Romney touts Romneycare in a guest article for the New England Journal of Medicine contrasting his vision for health care reform with Obama’s. “Each state will have the flexibility to craft programs that most effectively address its challenges — as I did in Massachusetts,” he writes, “where we got 98 percent of our residents insured without raising taxes.”

 

By: Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo, September 29, 2012

 

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

“RomneyUseToCare”: Mitt’s New “I Care” Message Makes A Pretty Good Case For Obamacare

Mitt Romney, slipping in the polls after his bizarre dismissal of 47 percent of the American people as a “dependent” class with which he would not concern himself, has come up with a new tactic to revive his ailing campaign: compassion.

His message: “I care.”

“There are so many people in our country who are hurting right now,” says the Republican nominee for president. “I want to help them.”

And how does Mitt confirm his concern?

By embracing healthcare reforms that use the power of government to assure that Americans who have no insurance protection—or inadequate insurance—are provided with access to the coverage and the care they need.

“Don’t forget—I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney told NBC News while campaigning in Toledo, Ohio. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

Give Mitt his due.

As governor of Massachusetts, he did indeed establish a statewide program to expand access to healthcare. He was so associated with the program that it’s come to be known as “Romneycare.”

Just like President Obama’s association with the reasonably similar Affordable Care Act at the federal level led to it being dubbed “Obamacare.”

Both programs are imperfect, especially in the eyes of supporters of broader reform, such as the “Medicare for All” proposals advanced by Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives.

But let’s accept that working to enact them qualifies as evidence of at least some degree of empathy.

So Romney cares—or, at the least, he cared.

And Obama cares.

The political question that remains to be resolved is this: How does Mitt Romney argue that Americans should vote for him because he cared about those who needed healthcare in Massachusetts while Romney is, at the same time, arguing that Americans should not vote for Barack Obama because he cared about those who needed healthcare in the other forty-nine states?

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, September 27, 2012

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Grandfather Of Obamacare”: How Mitt Romney Paid For Romneycare With Federal Help

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Univison in an interview Wednesday that he did not mind when President Obama called him the “grandfather” of Obamacare when referring to the program Romney instituted when he was governor of Massachusetts. Quite the opposite. Romney thought other states might take a page from the Massachusetts playbook.

We didn’t have to cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn’t raise taxes on health companies by $500 billion, as the president did. We crafted a program that worked for our state. I believe the right course for health care reform is to say for each state we’re going to give you the Medicaid dollars you’ve had in the past, plus grow them by 1 percent. And you, as the states, are now going to be given targets to move people to insurance, and you craft programs that are right for your state. Some will copy what we did; others will find better ideas.

Romney is right: The state of Massachusetts did not cut Medicare to finance health care (nor could it have, as states don’t have a say in the federally financed entitlement budget). Whereas the Affordable Care Act levies a tax on insurance companies and makers of medical devices, the Massachusetts law has no similar provision.

But could a state with a capped Medicaid budget, as Romney has proposed, copy what Romney did in Massachusetts and end up with universal coverage? Romney’s own experience suggests probably not: His state a special pot of federal money, alongside a preexisting assessment on hospitals and insurers, to expand insurance coverage to 98 percent of its population.

Way back in 1985, under then-Gov. Michael Dukakis, Massachusetts set up a program called the Uncompensated Care Pool. Much like the name suggests, the pool is used to finance health care for those without insurance. Massachusetts financed the plan largely through assessments on hospitals and insurers. Under Romney’s administration In 2004, each industry paid in about $157 million to keep the pool running. That plan still operates today — under the name Health Safety Net – and covers health care needs that Massachusetts residents cannot afford.

Since the late 1990s, Massachusetts has also received additional Medicaid funds to enroll populations that other states traditionally do not cover. In 2005, when Romney was governor, the federal aid amounted to $550 million. As former Romney adviser John McDonough explains in his book “Inside Health Policy,” the funds were crucial to laying the foundation for universal health coverage. He takes us back to 2005, when the George W. Bush administration was getting ready to end that special funding arrangement:

“In Masachusetts, $350 million is a lot of money, and the news set off alarm bells. Governor Romney reached out and formed a partnership with Senator Kennedy to scheme how to keep the extra federal dollars coming. At that moment, the state’s mundane desire to retain federal dollars merged with the policy goal of universal coverage to create a new policy imperative. Romney and Kennedy proposed that Massachusetts keep receiving the extra payments and in return the state would shift the use of those dollars [to] subsidies to help lower-income individuals purchase health insurance coverage.”

Ryan Lizza recounts a similar version of events in his New Yorker article on Romneycare. That state ultimately secured three years of additional Medicaid funding, $1.05 billion, which largely financed the Massachusetts expansion. Both accounts suggest that it was a special commitment from the federal government, rather than a capped budget, that spurred Massachusetts’ success.

Since then, employers and individuals have chipped in to keep the universal coverage program afloat. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts saw spending by both of those groups increase in the year after Romneycare became law, which they attribute to rising medical costs and the insurance expansion.

Five years later, it’s largely federal funding that keeps Massachusetts’ universal coverage afloat. Since 2005, the state has twice renewed that federal waiver — the one Lizza and McDonough wrote about — to provide additional Medicaid dollars to the state.

The most recent renewal was last December 2011, when the state secured $26.75 billion in federal funds over the course of three years. It will, among other programs, continue to finance the universal coverage program.

“The milestone agreement also ensures the ongoing success of Massachusetts’ historic health care reform initiative, through which more than 98 percent of the Commonwealth’s residents, and 99.8 percent of children, have health insurance,” Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bixby wrote at the time. “The waiver fully funds our ongoing health care reform implementation.”

So Massachusetts used not just federal Medicaid money but federal dollars above and beyond that Medicaid money to finance their health reforms. It is difficult to see how Romney’s proposal to cut Medicaid spending and hand that reduced share over to the states would allow other states to follow Massachusetts’ example. It might not even permit Massachusetts to continue following Massachusetts’ example.

 

By: Sarah Kliff, The Washington Post, September 21, 2012

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

RomneyCare: Conservatives Attempt To Rescue Mitt From His Past

Now that Mitt Romney is well and truly inevitable, it is becoming imperative for conservatives to begin the arduous work of explaining why his Massachusetts health care plan is in no way similar to the evil, bureaucratic, freedom-destroying Obamacare monstrosity. Ann Coulter gives it a go, as do Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review.

The latter brush aside any purported similarities by quickly noting that “policy experts of various political stripes have claimed that Obamacare is essentially Romneycare taken national.” Right, one of those policy experts is Jonathan Gruber, the guy who designed Romney’s health care plan and then designed Obama’s. Let’s see what he has to say:

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney’s attempt to distinguish between Obama’s bill and his own is disingenuous.

“The problem is there is no way to say that,” Gruber said. “Because they’re the same fucking bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying.

Any attempt to explain why Romneycare is so vastly different than Obamacare really ought to explain why the economist who designed both plans thinks they’re the same fucking bill.

Coulter, Levin, and Ponnuru all defend Romney by arguing that he was operating within the constraints of a distorted federal system. “There’s not much governors can do about the collectivist mess Congress has made of health care in this country,” writes Coulter. But of course Obama was also operating within the confines of a distorted system, including many interest groups and voters deeply resistant to change.

Levin and Ponnuru urge Romney to vigorously press the argument that his plan has no resemblance to Obama’s. Their advice centers on the one area of difference:

So what, then, should Governor Romney say, if he is the nominee and President Obama suggests that his health-care plan is modeled on the one the Republican enacted? Something, we suggest, like the following:

“Nice try. Your health-care plan, Mr. President, spends a trillion dollars on yet another uncontrollable federal entitlement program and on a massive expansion of a failing Medicaid system. It has an unconstitutional rationing board cut hundreds of billions from Medicare without being answerable to the public, without giving seniors more options, and without using the money to shore up the program or reduce the deficit. It raises hundreds of billions in taxes on employment, investment, and medical research; and after all of that, it wouldn’t even reduce the growth of health-care costs, which is the heart of the problem. And your defense of all that is that it was based on a state program that doesn’t actually do any of those things?

But that is what Romney is already saying, right down to the “nice try.” And what it’s saying, basically, is that Obama was fiscally responsible. Romney, owing to a quirk of federal funding, was able to finance his plan with a windfall grant from Washington, meaning he didn’t need to come up with any painful cuts to cover his insurance expansions. Obama raised taxes and found inefficient spending within the Medicare system to finance covering the uninsured. And one of the biggest elements of his tax increase was a reduction in the tax deduction for expensive private plans – basically, the strongest version Obama could get through Congress of a staple idea urged by conservatives, which is to eliminate the tax code’s favoritism for employer-sponsored insurance.

Now, you could argue that this should go even further, and I’d agree. If you had Republicans willing to continue advocating the health care principles they used to advocate before Obama tried to implement them, you could form a stronger political coalition for tearing up the status quo and combining market pressure with universal coverage. But rational reform is pretty hard when the opposition party is able to convince itself that anything you do, including things they favored just the other day, are the death of freedom.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, February 2, 2012

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Health Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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