With Mitt Romney on the attack on Medicare, President Obama personally engaged in the fight on Wednesday as the popular public health program catapulted to the top of the presidential campaign agenda.On the last day of his three-day bus tour of Iowa, sensing an opening to paint a contrast with his opponents, Mr. Obama sharply attacked Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, for advocating budget cuts that he said would curtail Medicare benefits.
Mitt Romney's selection of running mate Paul Ryan has launched the Wisconsin congressman's controversial budget plan to the forefront of political contests across the country -- sometimes to the chagrin of more moderate Republican candidates.
The latest example: In New York's 27th district, House hopeful Chris Collins declined Tuesday to say whether he supports the Medicare overhaul proposed by his party's presumptive vice presidential nominee.
Collins is challenging Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) in what had been one of that state's most conservative districts until Hochul's unexpected election two years ago.
"I'm saying I'm going to be part of one of 435 members of the Congress that's going to debate the next budget that's going to be put forth by President Romney," Collins told a WGRZ reporter who pressed him about whether he would support significant changes to Medicare.
Under Ryan's Medicare outline, the program would offer a fixed amount of money to senior citizens in the future, an approach that the Congressional Budget Office says will hike out-of-pocket contributions from those same recipients down the road.
Collins' reluctance to embrace Ryan's budget plan is not without political foresight.
In 2010, Hochul pulled off an upset victory over Republican opponent Jane Corwin after attacking Corwin for her support of the Ryan plan.
The surprising outcome of the special election was widely viewed as a warning sign that Ryan's Medicare proposals could be more of a political liability than an asset heading into the next round of congressional races in 2012.
Democrats have not been shy about their intention to make Medicare a central issue of this year's contests, especially with Ryan on the ticket. On Tuesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that it will begin calling up the constituents of 50 GOP lawmakers who voted for the Ryan budget.
10 more election stories from beyond the presidential field:
U.S. House Candidate Announces Plan To Ensure FEMA Funding [Vermont Public Radio]
Republican Candidates Push For Term Limits In Washington [GoLocalProv]
Gay Candidate Wins Democratic Primary In Wis. Congressional Bid [Washington Blade]
Angus King Vows To Help New Balance By Halting Talks To Eliminate Duties On Imported Shoes [Kennebec Journal]
Kaine Uses Ryan To Attack Allen On Entitlements [Washington Examiner]
McAleer Hails Dem Stance On Gay Marriage [Salt Lake Tribune]
Candidate Smith Stands With Gatsas On Civil Rights Issue [Union Leader]
Gregg Releases Campaign's First TV Commercial [Statehouse File]
Eric Stewart Creates Website Calling For 4th District Debate [Nooga.com]
Tarkanian Seeks Court Help In Fight Against $17 Million Judgment [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Stephanie Cutter: Says Paul Ryan's budget relies on the same $700 billion in savings from Medicare that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have been attacking Democrats about.
Mitt Romney’s pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has rekindled a heated debate over Medicare. Ryan, R-Wis., is the head of the Budget Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and the architect of a plan to dramatically restructure Medicare. Today, Medicare operates as a government-run health insurance plan for Americans over age 65. Ryan’s idea is to eventually move Medicare toward private insurance companies by giving people a set amount to buy their own health insurance plans. The new system would be for people who ...>> More
The announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate late last Friday sent a shockwave through the political and media world. The snap judgment of what passes for conventional wisdom among the chattering class is that the Ryan pick was bold (as opposed to safe), and that the election will henceforth be all about wonky details from the Ryan budget plan. "A campaign of Big Ideas!" the pundits excitedly gasped. "Just what we've always wanted!"
Well, we'll see, won't we? I tend to think that -- even given the opportunity -- most of the media will quickly get tired of actual budgetary issues and return to what they do best: shallow speculation about the horse-race aspect of the contest, focusing on meaningless trifles and shiny distractions because they are so much more fun to "report" on than digging through budgets and doing actual math. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, though. Maybe they'll surprise me.
Cynicism aside, Ryan's choice is going to make for an interesting election dynamic. Mitt Romney really has three choices now: run on the Ryan budget, come up with his own just-as-detailed budget, or try to have things both ways by running away from Ryan's budget while refusing to say what he would do differently as president. Right now it appears Romney really would like to take that third route, but my guess is that the first option is going to be forced upon him by default. Ryan's budget is now going to be (Democrats are already leaning hard on this phrase) "the Romney/Ryan budget."
What is interesting is that this election will be the opposite of the 2008 election, in that everyone's cards will be on the table. By that, I mean that in 2008 we held an "open" election, as neither candidate was a sitting president or vice president. Meaning both John McCain and Barack Obama didn't have budgets of their own for the media to scrutinize. They both released plans (some fuzzier in the math department than others), but were given a pass on nitty-gritty details of those plans. Both candidates were free to use sweeping generalizations about what it was they would be attempting if elected.
Not so, this time around. Barack Obama has sent a budget proposal to Congress every year he's been in office. None of these were voted straight into law, but this is not unusual -- a president's budget is virtually never adopted without major tinkering by both houses. I doubt it's ever happened, or at least not in the past 50 or 60 years. Regardless, the Obama budget documents still exist, and they map out exactly what the president's budget priorities are for the future. So Obama is constrained by what he's already proposed, in a way he wasn't when he was merely Candidate Obama.
Paul Ryan likewise has two budget documents which the Republican House has passed. Neither of these made it into law either, because their purpose was much the same as Obama's budgets -- a political document which laid down a bargaining position for later negotiations between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate. These negotiations never really took place, which means neither document was tested by the fire of necessary compromise.
But they do -- for the first time in a long time -- allow for a straight-up apples-to-apples comparison. Presidents, of course, don't write budgets, the Constitution gives this task to Congress. The Obama budget proposals and the Ryan budget can be seen as equals in both political positioning and in level of detail.
The level of detail won't even be enough for the wonkiest of the inside-the-Beltway crowd. Both men's budget plans were merely for the budget "overview" that Congress is supposed to pass before they get down to the much-harder task of the appropriations bills where every last dollar is accounted for. Ryan's budgets, for instance, say that they're going to get rid of undefined "loopholes" in the tax code -- but never state exactly what this means. Obama's budget has similar wiggle room, as do all budget proposals of this nature.
Still, this is more hard data than the media and the public usually gets from both candidates in a presidential election. The question is what will they do with it?
The most amusing reaction in the political and media world has been outright joy at the selection of Paul Ryan -- from both sides. Republicans are happy because Ryan is loved by the Tea Party base, and Democrats are thrilled at the prospect of putting the Ryan budget into some hard-hitting ads.
There are risks for both sides in this approach. One risk for Democrats is that they decide the race is all but over, that Obama is going to win in a landslide, and that they can relax and not stress out too much about the rest of the election. But the bigger risk for Democrats is underestimating Ryan's ability to defend his own budget plan. Ryan, to put it starkly, is not Sarah Palin. He's not a pit bull in lipstick (or a Mama Grizzly, take your pick). He's a pit bull with a brain. And the ability to make everything he proposes sound not only reasonable but in fact the only possible answer to what ails America. I've already seen some Democrats act entirely too dismissively of Ryan's ability to think on his feet, and articulate his vision. This could be a fatal flaw. Ryan is no lightweight, and Democrats would be wise to realize it now.
The risk for Republicans is that they may have just brewed up some partisan Kool-Aid which is so strong it is simply going to prove to be too unacceptable to large swaths of the American electorate (such as seniors and independent voters). Ryan is a true believer -- of his own genius, among other things. He, quite obviously, believes that if he just explains his plans well enough, that everyone will then quite naturally agree with them. The light will dawn over the electorate, and they'll all be logically forced to conclude that his plan is the only real way to solve any of our problems.
If you'll excuse me for saying so, Ryan (in this respect) sounds like a whole lot of misguided Democrats on this front. Democrats are usually the ones to fall into this fallacy, so it'll be interesting to see the Republican version of "if you'd just listen to my reasoning, I'm sure you'll have to agree with all my conclusions."
Maybe Ryan can pull it off -- who knows? As I said, I certainly do not sell his speaking abilities short. Seeing him interviewed is an interesting experience. He's got his ducks in a row, he's on the "Bill Clinton" level of wonkitude on detail, and he is a perfect interview for cable television because he talks fast and makes his point so overwhelmingly that few media types can even follow his logic well enough to challenge him on any one particular point. In other words, I'm not looking for the David Gregorys of the media world to really dent Paul Ryan in any way. Ryan, to be perfectly honest, appears much more intelligent than almost any of the folks sitting in the anchor chair.
What this means is that the biggest question in the election may be one of messaging. Who can frame the Ryan budget with the voters better? Now, I'd be willing to be that at least 90-95 percent of the people reading this column would have known all about the Ryan budget even before last Friday's announcement. I could have used the phrase "the Ryan budget" in a sentence, and not had to provide any details for readers to understand what I was talking about.
Hard as it is for me to admit, though, the vast, vast majority of the American public simply does not read this column. Or (more to the point) any political columns like this. An enormous segment of the American voters have never even heard of the Ryan budget (or Paul Ryan) before now. They are about to, in a big way.
The Obama camp's challenge is to present all the negatives of the Ryan budget to the American public in a way they can relate to. Democrats see this (as the military calls it) as a "target-rich environment." Picture yourself duck hunting, and a flock flies by that is so enormous it blocks out the sun. Pretty much any direction you aim, you're going to score a hit. This is why there's so much glee in the Democratic camp right now.
The Romney camp chose to meet the challenge head-on. If Mitt Romney is going to be attacked over the Republican budget plan, what better person to make the case for it than the plan's author? Ryan will be spending a lot of time making this case to American voters who have never even heard of him before now.
That article I linked to above has a cautionary tale for both sides, though. The New York Times reported on focus groups set up by Democrats to test how attacking the Ryan budget's actual details would play with the public. Here's what happened:
According to the Times report, the attacks had little impact. The participants "simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing."
As I said, this is cautionary for both sides. When people do find out what is in the Ryan budget, they mostly don't like it. But the American public shows an enormous ability (as always) to come to the wrong conclusion, as well.
Who frames this issue best in the next month is going to win the election.
Look past the boyish, small-town Wisconsin charm, the incredible commitment to physical fitness, and the impressive clarity in communicating fiscal conservatism, and what does America get with the Paul Ryan vice president pick? Having served as a senior policy advisor to one of Chairman Ryan's colleagues on the House Budget Committee, US Congressman Michael Honda, I know the picture Ryan is trying to paint all too well. And it is a grim one.
When Paul Ryan first painted his so-called "Path to Prosperity," not only were progressives in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) utterly shocked at how regressive the legislation was, but so too were moderate Democrats. In the Ryan's roadmap, the only group of Americans bound to prosper under Ryan's plan were the "haves". If you were an American "have-not", forget about it, you were screwed.
Ryan's budget was so bad for the majority of America that people turned out en masse to resist it. Helping Honda, who serves as the CPC's Budget Taskforce Chair, put forth a "People's Budget" on behalf of the Progressive Caucus, we received laudations and endorsements from credible economists and analysts at The Economist, The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, among others. Even Paul Krugman and Jeff Sachs came out swinging for us. There was a palpable hunger for some sane voice in the House Budget Committee and the CPC clearly struck a nerve in Congress.
That chord was so resonant that one Congress later the CPC came out again with a "Budget for All," a budget that protected American families, put Americans back to work, provided for a fair tax policy, and brought our troops home, all while implementing fiscal discipline. Yes it is possible, Mr. Ryan.
Now, a couple congresses after the CPC's initial alternative budget offering, reporters are writing on Ryan's roadmap in fairly glossary terms. Very few are highlighting how damaging his policies would be to the majority of America. So some clarification is needed.
Do Americans realize that under a Ryan economic regime, education spending would be cut by 45 percent, despite the fact that our educational performance in reading, science and math continues to fail to rank in the top ten of the OECD's rich world countries? Or that infrastructure spending would be cut by 24 percent, despite the fact that the American Society of Civil Engineers are calling for over $2 trillion in new monies to simply bring our roads and bridges up to standard after maintenance has been underserved for decades? Counter-intuitively, and at a time when America's economic competitiveness needs help the most, Ryan's House budget plan slashes nearly $1 trillion in investments in education, job training, scientific research and transportation infrastructure over the next decade.
Do Americans realize that under a Ryan economic regime, tens of millions of our poor neighbors, families, brothers and sisters, would be dropped categorically and coldly to the curb, with no support whatsoever from the very system that our forefathers and mothers set up to ensure that America would prosper? Does America realize that health insurance protections would be thrown to the private sector wind with no guarantee of a patient-centric approach at all? All the while keeping corporate tax loopholes and giving huge tax breaks to the very, very wealthy, totaling $3 trillion.
Do Americans realize that beyond the campaign trail charm, there is another side to Ryan, which was witnessed in the House Budget Committee hearing room? Often dismissive and even disrespectful of his Budget Committee colleagues on the Democratic side, Ryan is no naïve, small-town boy whose principles will prevent him from turning a profit off his policymaking position. That he pocketed $60,000 from a now-convicted campaign contributor in exchange for trucking-friendly legislation is indicative of how he's no stranger to how policymaking works for the one percent. Make no mistake: Ryan is uncomfortably close to K street. Hardly a charming disposition for our democracy.
Hopefully Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney will not adopt Ryan's voucher-centric and overly voucher-reliant approach to doing government business, but Romney's private sector preference may well predispose him toward a vouchered Medicare and Medicaid world, at the disregard of America's most needy seniors, poor and disabled. This would be so far outside the ethos of this country's founding and from the Statue of Liberty's liking that the country may well be unrecognizable in this Republican regime. Without question, this is a contest for a completely different vision of, and future for, America.
Michael Shank is an adjunct professor at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, serves on the board of the National Peace Academy, and is an associate at the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.
WASHINGTON -- Since Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Republicans in competitive congressional races have tried to strike a balance between praising the ticket, and emphasizing that they disagree with the fundamental premise of Ryan’s budget.
Almost immediately after the presumptive GOP presidential nominee announced Ryan's candidacy Saturday, Democrats revived an old attack line against the Wisconsin congressman over his budget, introduced in 2010. Opponents' argument that the budget would “end Medicare as we know it" seemed to trickle down to both Republican congressional candidates who voted for the budget, and those who opposed it but didn't want to impair Romney’s presidential bid.
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), who is in a heated contest with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, was one of the first to be targeted in a web video released Monday morning by Warren’s campaign. The video tried to tie Brown to the proposed economic policies of both Romney and Ryan, featuring video of the incumbent senator saying “thank God” Ryan's budget proposal would tackle the nation’s crippling debt.
The video doesn't mention that Brown voted against the Ryan budget twice, in 2011 and 2012, a point his campaign sought to clarify without undermining Ryan. “Senator Brown believes Paul Ryan is an impressive individual with innovative ideas on how to tackle the problems of spending and debt,” Colin Reed, a spokesman for Brown, said in an emailed statement. “They’ve had their differences on policy issues."
His staff pointed The Huffington Post to an op-ed the senator penned for Politico in May, “Why I Won’t Back Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan.” Brown wrote at the time that he did not think changes to Medicare were necessary and expressed his concern for seniors having to take on a disproportionate burden, a position his campaign said he maintains.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also voted against the Ryan plan this year, a decision his reelection campaign said he hasn’t reconsidered.
Like Brown, Amash authored an op-ed to justify his stance on the budget, writing on local Michigan site MLive that he could not “in good conscience” support it.
As a conservative, I applaud the GOP budget for presenting good ideas about reforming health care costs, simplifying the tax code and changing spending priorities. But beyond the good ideas, the budget accomplishes little now while making lofty promises about what we hope to address in the future.
“He hasn’t changed his view on that,” Amash spokesman Will Adams told The Huffington Post, adding that Amash “has a great relationship with Paul Ryan and considers him one of the brightest minds in politics.”
Amash stated on his Facebook page Sunday that he already endorsed Ron Paul for president and “will not be making any other endorsements for President.”
Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg attracted widespread attention for openly campaigning against the Ryan budget this summer. An ad paid for by the Montana Republican Party and released in July, boasted how Rehberg “refused to support a Republican budget plan that could harm Medicare programs so many of Montana’s seniors rely on."
Following Saturday’s announcement, Rehberg, who is challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), praised Ryan as a “public servant of the highest order,” but mentioned there were “occasions where we haven’t [agreed].”
At the time of his vote against the Ryan budget, Rehberg was more straightforward: “I simply won’t support any plan until I know for a fact that Montana’s seniors will be protected."
A spokesman for Richard Tisei, who is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. John Tierney in Massachusetts, also doubled down on his candidate’s opposition to the Ryan plan Monday.
“Like Simpson-Bowles, Richard said [the Ryan plan] is a good start,” Tisei spokesman Paul Moore told HuffPost. “Richard doesn't agree with certain aspects of it,” adding that the budget may not be as clear and stark as everyone wants.
But when asked if Tisei would have voted for the Ryan budget, Moore was vague. “Richard would have taken a good hard look at it,” he said. “If it was appropriate to vote for it he would have, if it was not appropriate he wouldn't have.”
The list of Republicans seeking to distance themselves from the Ryan budget keeps growing.
Linda McMahon’s campaign said in a statement that the Senate candidate from Connecticut “will never support a budget that cuts Medicare, after her Democratic opponent Rep. Chris Murphy posed the question “Mitt Romney Picks Paul Ryan – Does Linda McMahon?”
Rhode Island congressional hopeful Brendan Doherty lauded Ryan as “articulate, intelligent, and open-minded” but added, “I do not agree with his proposals on Medicare and his opposition to the Simpson-Bowles Plan.”
North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory ducked questions on whether he supported the newly minted vice presidential nominee’s budget proposals, simply stating that he would “support the Romney plan.”
But with Ryan’s name attached to Romney, it is unlikely that Ryan’s budget will not be associated with Romney's plan, or seen as a liability. Democrats already are likening the Ryan budget to steps outlined by Romney, comparing across-the-board tax cuts, including steep ones for the wealthy, at the expense of investments in health care, education, job training, and other domestic programs.
Republicans are now left to determine how to defend that vision, without weakening support among voters who hold a mostly negative view of the proposal.
Medicare is not just any program. It's a program that saves lives and helps older Americans stay healthy. Since 1965, the Medicare system has successfully and efficiently provided millions of seniors in Nevada and across the country with the quality health services that they have paid for all their working lives. In addition to Social Security, the Medicare program is one of the most important social safety nets this country has ever known.
Unfortunately, 47 years after Medicare's creation, the program is under assault by Washington politicians who don't understand just how much Nevada's senior citizens depend on these guaranteed healthcare benefits.
My opponent in the campaign for the United States Senate is one of those politicians.
On April 15, 2011, then Congressman Dean Heller voted for a budget proposal put forward by Wisconsin Republican Congressman and now vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan that would essentially end Medicare.
Then, on May 25, 2011, following his appointment to the U.S. Senate after the resignation of Senator John Ensign, Heller had the opportunity to vote for the proposal once again. Not only did he take that opportunity, he relished it. He said he was "proud" to be the only member of Congress that voted for the Ryan plan twice.
Why is that significant? Because according to the conservative, pro-business Wall Street Journal, the Ryan budget proposal would "essentially end Medicare" and turn the program over to the private insurance industry.
Heller's proposal would end guaranteed benefits for seniors by providing a voucher to buy insurance on the private market. This would make the system less efficient and more expensive for older Americans compared to traditional Medicare. In fact, while health care costs would increase for all those who receive vouchers, the vouchers would not increase in value to keep up with the costs.
Independent analysts such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have shown that this plan would dramatically increase the average premium for Medicare beneficiaries in Nevada and across the country. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the increase would be approximately $6,000 a year for the same coverage they currently receive under Medicare! The average senior on Social Security receives nearly $15,000 a year in benefits, $6,000 is almost half the income many seniors live on. If the Ryan-Heller budget became law, where would our seniors find the additional $6,000 to pay for their health care? To add insult to injury, if Ryan and Heller had it their way, seniors in Nevada would also have to pay $15 million more for prescription drugs starting this year.
Some politicians and so-called fact checkers claim the proposal I just described doesn't technically "end" Medicare. They are wrong. The seniors' healthcare system that Senator Dean Heller proudly voted twice to implement is unrecognizable to the Medicare program that Nevada seniors depend on today.
Instead of relying on guaranteed benefits to take care of their healthcare needs, seniors would be at the mercy of private insurance company bureaucrats who for the first time would be allowed to come between patients and their doctors.
Seniors would be forced to pay thousands of dollars more a year for the coverage they are already receiving. And if the voucher doesn't cover the service and you can't pay? Tough luck. You're on your own.
You can call that Medicare if you want -- but that's not the program created 47 years ago.
The reality is that Senator Heller's plan terminates the Medicare program and creates a whole new system where private insurance companies are in charge.
That is not Medicare.
Just because some people claim that Atlantic City is like Las Vegas, that doesn't make that town in New Jersey anything close to the Entertainment Capital of the World.
I oppose Senator Heller's plan, but I also recognize that we need to take actions to address the long term solvency of the current Medicare system.
We must make improvements to strengthen the program like reducing waste, fraud and abuse in the program; saving billions of dollars in administrative spending by adopting forward thinking measures like electronic records; allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices just like the VA does, allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs, and actively promote accountable care organizations that integrates coordinate health care services.
Republicans and Democrats must work together to implement common sense solutions to save the program.
However, what we must not do is dismantle the system altogether, while keeping the same name and pretend that's Medicare. Ending Medicare is not something to be proud of.
Paul Ryan's looks are often compared to an actor's, and that's no accident: He's being groomed for the role of a lifetime. When Mitt Romney accidentally introduced Ryan as "the next President" he may have been displaying the same predilection for accidental honesty - for truth-telling as political gaffe - that he showed when he praised Israel's socialized health system.
And Romney may be right. The most likeable and electable extremist in the country just became the GOP's 2016 front-runner. That's no accident either.
All the signs suggest that the economy will struggle for years unless progressive steps are taken. Worse, another steep decline into recession or depression could occur at any time. If Obama's re-elected and we're still suffering in 2016, as now seems likely, our "electable extremist" will be in the perfect position to become the next President.
Heads we win, says Corporate America, and tails you lose.
The Long Game
Even that doesn't tell the whole story. The Ryan choice reflects something much bigger than an election or two. Corporate America and those who serve it have been playing a Long Game for political power, displaying formidable qualities yet to be seen in its electoral opponents: a clearly-articulated vision, concrete goals, and the ability to plan and execute long-range strategies.
Under their ideal of Corporate Statism, the President is no longer "the Decider." He or she increasingly serves as Corporate America's employee, a hireling who serves as its sales rep, its celebrity spokesperson, as a flesh-and-blood avatar for faceless financial power.
Who's better suited for that job than Paul Ryan?
The game plan was laid out in the infamous Lewis Powell memo of 1970, which encouraged corporations to take control of all major US institutions. And their game was already well underway when Powell sketched his strategy on the chalkboard.
Far from being a blunder, the Ryan nomination can be seen as the next step in a decades-long plan to capture this country's political institutions for the ideology of radical corporate statism. The left would be wise to stop celebrating it and start coming up with a Long Game of its own.
We Don't Do Windows
The Corporate Right's leadership may have already concluded that this year's Presidential election is likely unwinnable. Ryan then becomes the perfect choice for VP: With one move, the nation's most genuinely radical national politician became the leading contender for the 2016 nomination. Ryan will turn out the GOP base and give it a lift in down-ticket races. And most importantly, a far-right radical has been given four months to preach an extreme vision of America on a national platform.
And let's not forget: If the unexpected happens and the GOP ticket wins, this radical will also be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
If Uriah Heep were the leading man on a daytime soap opera, he'd be Paul Ryan. Ryan's half-suave, half-goofy style puts an avuncular smiley-face on the corporatists' brutal ideology. He'll move the "Overton window" of political acceptability even further to the Right every time he appears on television. And he'll appear on television a lot. Let's face it, liberals: The camera loves those eyes.
Until this weekend, nobody in the Presidential race was articulating a clear political vision. But Paul Ryan will.
Ryan's is an extreme Randian vision of the economic landscape as painted by Hieronymus Bosch, where corporate colossuses strive above a ragged population struggling to survive in their shadows. Why is this ideology frightening, if it's so unpopular and dystopic? To paraphrase John Goodman in The Big Lebowski: Say what you like about the tenets of corporate statism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos.
The Corporate State
The phrase "corporate statism" describe the GOP's new ideology far better than "conservatism" does. The corporate statists don't share traditional conservatism's abhorrence of fiscal deficits, for example, despite all their rhetoric to the contrary.
In fact, the Ryan budget would actually increase the deficit from its current $10 trillion to $22 trillion over a ten-year period, so that by 2022 the nation would be paying more in interest payments than it would in Medicare payments. That's much higher than the deficits projected under President Obama's plan, which leads to reduced indebtedness over time.
The only genuine conservative in this year's race, at least where government deficits are concerned, is Barack Obama.
The Rand/Ryan/Romney ideology is "corporate statist" because it places the institutions of government at the disposal of, and in the service of, a few dozen mega-corporations. We saw the corporate-statist agenda in action when Rep. Spencer Bachus, in another "truth as gaffe" moment, told Wall Street executives that "Washington exists to serve the banks."
We've also seen the corporate-statist agenda in massive government giveaways to corporations through bank bailouts. We've seen it in the movement to privatize government functions, a policy failure that has helped some executives get very, very rich. We've seen it in the push to "private Social Security accounts." And we''re seeing it in the soaring expenditures for military purchasing in the supposedly "cost-cutting" Ryan/Romney GOP budget.
Who will promote that radical agenda this year? Paul Ryan will.
The Great Plundering
The endgame for the Corporate State is ever-increasing wealth transfer from the vast majority to a tiny minority. That happens on the aggregate level through deregulation and political corruption, and on the individual level through a series of increasingly greater tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. That costs money, of course, so this agenda subsidized through a program of economic warfare on most Americans that includes:
- Deep cuts in government services for lower-income people;
- Deep cuts in some social insurance programs (Social Security) and the outright elimination of others (Medicare) for the middle class;
- An immediate tax increase for 95 percent of Americans; and,
- Even more drastic longer-term tax increases for most Americans through the elimination of "tax expenditures" - that is, deductions for home mortgage interest, employer health coverage, and child care.
The corporate-statist movement has a vision, all right. It's the vision of a nation where most people live in financial uncertainty and deprivation, a harsh environment which accomplishes two goals for corporatists: It adds to the pool of low-cost employees who will tolerate degrading working conditions, and it ensures that the public will be too frightened to mount any real resistance to corporate abuse.
Why do you think more underwater homeowners haven't walked away from their mortgages? They know that low credit scores would deprive them of the ability to borrow, which they may desperately need to make ends meet, and that it could even render them unemployable. That's just a small taste of what life wil be like under Corporate Statism. If people are too frightened to refuse to pay usurious interest on deceptively obtained loans, they'll certainly be too frightened to Occupy the Corporate State.
And that's the plan.
Yes, the Corporate Right has a vision. It's the vision of a classically oligarchical nation controlled by a tiny and extremely wealthy ruling class. It's a vision of deregulated corporations who have the unrestrained freedom to endanger lives, jeopardize the global economy, and despoil the environment. It's a vision of unfettered corporate control over our politics, our media, and even our private lives.
Say what you will about these tenets, dudes and dudettes, but at least it's an ethos.
Is there a counter-ethos?
Not so far. It was encouraging to hear our centrist-leaning President accurately characterize Ryan's approach as "social Darwinism," but his message and his deeds continue to blend old-school conservatism with rhetorical populism. Even erstwhile liberal firebrand Nancy Pelosi says she'd vote for the right-leaning, anti-government Simpson Bowles plan in a heartbeat.
The Democrats will be tempted to use Ryan as an excuse to stick to their destructive (and self-destructive) strategy of articulating a DC-centric version of "centrism" that's far to the right of American public opinion. That would weaken turnout and enthusiasm among their base, without impressing very many undecideds.
Democrats aren't going to win against an anti-Social Security, anti-Medicare agenda with nuanced arguments about cutting them a little less, or a little differently, than their opponents would. Sure, Obama may eke out a Presidential victory, but the Democratic message will have received another damaging blow. And the Corporate Right's message will have validated by a wave of dithering, hair-splitting, "we're the real Simpson Bowles'" deficit reduction rhetoric from the Dems.
A coherent story is usually much more persuasive than an incoherent story one - even if it happens to be insane.
That's never more true than in hard times like these. As many as 24 million voters live in homes with "underwater" mortgages. Fifteen million of them are un- or under-employed. Most of them are feeling the agony of long-term wage stagnation, cuts to vital government services, and an economy that's in permanent recession.
If they only hear one clear story to explain what's going on, a clear story is the story they'll remember. Who'll tell a clear story this year? One thing's for sure: Paul Ryan will.
Randian social theory, like conservative economic theory, has been conclusively disproved by events. What's more, polls show that most Americans support government's role in their daily lives - in Medicare and Social Security, in police and firefighting efforts, in education, and in the construction and maintenance of our national infrastructure.
But if the Democrats don't articulate a clear vision of their own, this campaign season will shift public consciousness further to the right. The idea of a nation "of the people, by the people, and for the people" will recede even further into the dim recesses of public memory. "President Ryan" - or another smiling cipher - will be that much closer to attaining power on behalf of his or her sponsors. And Corporate America's frightening plan to own our future and everyone in it will be that much closer to becoming reality.
To anyone with a basic grasp of policy and numbers, Paul Ryan's charts and graphs are empty and meaningless. He's a salesman, not a leader. He "didn't build that" - but he can sell it. He can't write the story, but he can tell it. And, however crazy it may sound to some of us, the Corporate Right does have a story to tell.
If the Democrats don't, do it, then somebody who opposes the Corporate Right needs to articulate a vision for the future - and then fight for that vision with everything they've got. Because one thing's for certain:
Paul Ryan will.
* Tearful homecoming in Wisconsin
* Romney shows flash of anger at Obama
* Ryan's stance on Medicare could hurt vote among seniors
By Steve Holland and Sam Youngman
WAUKESHA, Wisc., Aug 12 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan home to a tearful welcome in Wisconsin on Sunday in a celebratory event that produced a flash of anger from Romney over what he considers dishonest campaigning by President Barack Obama.
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman elevated to Romney's No. 2 on Saturday, wiped away tears and choked up as he and Romney made a dramatic entrance on stage in front of a crowd of around 8,000 to the theme song of the movie, "Air Force One."
Clearly reveling in the moment as the native son come home, Ryan told them: "I'm a Wisconsinite through and through."
"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow ... and some Millers," he said to laughter. "I like to hunt here, I like to fish here, to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting."
The Nov. 6 election is more than two months away, but Sunday's rally had the intensity of a typical late-October campaign event. It showed how Romney's selection of the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate has injected new energy into a campaign that had struggled to move beyond Democrats' efforts to cast Romney as a wealthy former private equity executive who cannot relate to middle-class Americans.
Romney hopes the enthusiasm produced by the No. 2 pick will generate a spark that will help him erase a lead Obama has produced in recent polls of voters.
"What a homecoming for a terrific guy," Romney told the Waukesha crowd. "I guess you think I made the right decision, the right choice? I know I did."
When a heckler tried to disrupt the event, Romney unleashed frustrations at the Obama campaign over a television ad produced by a pro-Obama group that all but suggested Romney shared some of the blame for the death of the wife of a steelworker, who lost his job and health insurance when Romney's Bain Capital bought the company.
The ad has been roundly condemned by independent fact-checkers, but the Obama campaign has not called for the ad to be pulled. While the Romney campaign has engaged in negative tactics as well, his aides felt the ad crossed a line.
"There's no question but if you follow the campaign of Barack Obama, he's going to do everything in his power to make this the lowest, meanest negative campaign in history. We're not going to let that happen. This is going to be a campaign about ideas about the future of America," Romney said angrily.
"Mr. President, take your campaign out of the gutter," he said. "Let's talk about the real issues that America faces."
Romney, 65, seemed relieved to have a sidekick to end what he has called the "two against one" dynamic of the race, with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on one side and Romney on the other.
"It's a far more compelling dynamic than just being out there on my own," Romney told reporters late Saturday.
But it also was evident that Romney's selection of Ryan - who is known for his sweeping budget plan to reduce government spending and debt by trimming taxes and revamping Medicare and other social programs - is going to raise a series of hurdles for his campaign as it sprints toward Election Day.
In choosing Ryan, Romney is all but attaching himself to Ryan's controversial budget plan, which has been blasted by Democrats who say it would dismantle popular social programs that help the elderly and the poor.
Ryan's selection also suggested that Romney is tackling a prickly task during an intense, nasty and likely close race for the White House. He is asking Americans to consider tough questions about the future of Medicare, the government-backed health insurance program for the elderly, and a range of other government programs.
During an interview that Romney and Ryan gave to CBS's Bob Schieffer on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Ryan responded to criticism of his Medicare plan by noting that it would apply only to those younger than 55.
"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan said. "Our point is, we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger. And we think these reforms are good reforms."
Romney and Ryan will now head off in different directions, Romney to resume bus tour in Florida and Ryan goes to Iowa on Monday.
SEEKING A NATIONAL DEBATE?
In previous elections, candidates who have started a not-so-popular conversation with American voters have run into problems.
In 1984, for example, Democrat Walter Mondale emphasized the need for higher taxes and was swamped at the ballot box as voters re-elected Republican Ronald Reagan.
If Romney's campaign wants to foster a national debate over social programs and government entitlements, the big challenge will be doing so under the white-hot glow of the final weeks of a presidential campaign that so far has been defined by sound-bite messaging and out-of-context attacks by both sides.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus cast Romney's campaign as the one being honest with Americans about the nation's fiscal future and said Obama's team is more interested in attacking Romney.
Selecting Ryan shows that Romney "has the leadership and courage to present to the American people a real contrast and a real debate that the American people deserve," Priebus said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Even so, Romney's campaign stressed that the presumptive Republican nominee would propose his own fiscal plan, suggesting it did not want the former Massachusetts governor to be tied to everything in Ryan's budget.
"The thing you have to remember about these campaigns is that Governor Romney is at the top of the ticket, and that Governor Romney's vision for the country is something that congressman Ryan supports," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said.
DEMOCRATS TAKE AIM
Democrats' efforts to cast Ryan - and, by extension, Romney - as a threat to Medicare could be key in the election.
Ryan's plan calls for an end to the guaranteed benefit in Medicare and replaces it with a system that would give vouchers to recipients to pay for health insurance.
The risk in such a plan is that if healthcare costs rise faster than the value of the vouchers, seniors would have to pay the difference.
Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said on "Meet the Press" that the Medicare changes supported by Ryan would send the healthcare program, which polls indicate most Americans do not want changed, into a "death spiral."
Independent groups that typically support Democrats have been more dramatic in their criticism.
Romney rejected the notion that Ryan's plan would kill Medicare.
Ryan "has a plan ... to make sure we can save Medicare," Romney said. "And guess what, he's one of two sponsors - and guess what, the other is a leading Democrat," a reference to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
Wyden, however, disagreed with Romney's characterization of his work on the Medicare issue, saying that he has voted against Medicare changes proposed in Ryan's budget.
Wyden told The Huffington Post that he merely had worked on a "policy paper" with Ryan that was designed to "start a conversation about how Democrats and Republicans might work together to uphold the Medicare guarantee."
The man charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives boasted on Saturday that the party had higher hopes for taking back the majority now that Mitt Romney had tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential candidate.
"Mitt Romney this morning may have just become the most recent DCCC majority maker," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel in an interview with The Huffington Post. "It's no question, we have been slogging uphill to get the majority. We needed a national breeze at our backs, and Mitt Romney may have given us that breeze this morning."
Israel isn't the only Democrat waxing optimistic about the benefits the party stands to gain from Romney's choice of Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican is best known for his budget proposal, which includes steep cuts to federal spending and aggressive entitlement reforms, such as turning Medicaid into a block grant program and Medicare into a voucher-like system. Polling has shown that these prescriptions aren't all that popular.
Unlike other Democrats, however, Israel has first-hand experience in seeing how the Ryan budget can play in an election. He helped engineer victories for Rep. Kathy Hochul in upstate New York and for Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona, both of which hinged largely on using the Medicare proposal to the Democrats' advantage. "We know it works," he said, "and it works well."
Now, he predicted, the party could apply the same tactic nationwide.
"The Ryan budget is a debate we know we win, and Mitt Romney has just nationalized the debate," he said. "We have needed a nationalized election on priorities, and we now have a clear contrast between two national brands."
It's difficult to assess just how much the selection of Ryan as VP will turn the election into a referendum on his budget. Romney, after all, moved swiftly to distance himself from the proposals, releasing talking points that said he would craft his own approach to tricky issues like entitlement reform. But even before the VP selection, Democrats were working hard to tie him to the Ryan plan.
"The choice of the plan's author as a running mate makes that task seemingly much easier," Israel said. He said he believes Democrats chances of taking back the house are much improved. "It is still an uphill battle, but we now have a wind at our backs. And I will say this, if we win the majority and the pundits look back at where it turned, I think they are going to look at August 11, with this announcement."
Liberal pundits are already fanning out in force to attack and discredit Paul Ryan. Michael Tomasky, who recently wrote a Newsweek cover story calling Mitt Romney a “wimp,” has now decided that Romney’s bold move is “a terrible choice” because Ryan has proven himself to be an extremist on budget issues.No doubt there are many Democrats rubbing their hands in glee in contemplation of reviving some version of the ad that featured an actor playing Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff. But the smarter ones are...
"One of the things that the White House is also focusing on is dropping everything that they have on the Paul Ryan budget plan - the Democrats, the media, the White House - all piling up on the Ryan budget plan," Sykes said to Romney. "You have embraced that plan. You've endorsed that plan. The Democrats think that the Republicans have handed them a weapon because they're now going to say that you conservative Republicans, you want to balance the budget on the backs of the frail, the elderly and the poor. How will you respond to that?"Romney answered, first, by...
WASHINGTON-- The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), a Catholic faith-based advocacy and civic engagement organization, is strongly criticizing Mitt Romney's recent ads and rhetoric regarding welfare programs and welfare recipients, urging him to spend some time in low-income communities.
"Our Christian tradition teaches that we are to treat the poor with dignity and to prioritize the poor in our policies as a society," the organization said in a press release on Thursday. "At a time when millions are struggling financially, it is degrading to talk about the "dependency" of people hurting in this economy, as Gov. Romney did recently."
Rhett Engelking, a secular Franciscan in Milwaukee and member of FAN, has even personally invited Romney to visit with the low-income people he assists. “Political leaders would not talk about the poor in demeaning ways or cut job training programs if they spent more time with the people they are affecting with their policies," he said.
While faith-based anti-poverty and charity organizations have often criticized candidates and lawmakers for a perceived unwillingness to highlight and tackle issues affecting the very poor, FAN claims Romney's rhetoric goes a step further, unfairly using welfare recipients as political props.
FAN spokesman Lonnie Ellis told The Huffington Post that what Romney is doing is "worse than ignoring" poor people. He said Romney is essentially criticizing President Barack Obama for helping out low-income individuals. "It's saying look, 'President Obama is actually supporting poor people too much, or he's just giving a free ride to poor people,'" Ellis said. "So it's actually using poor people in a really bad way."
FAN's criticism, however, goes beyond the Romney campaign's rhetoric on welfare by condemning cuts to Pell Grants, Medicaid and Head Start programs put forth in the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and supported by Romney.
“With the political conversation now on ensuring that low-income people are working, the most blatant affront is that the Romney-Ryan Budget actually cuts job training programs for low-income people,” FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan said in a statement.
The Romney campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
While many Catholic groups have generally been supportive of Romney and Republicans on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, FAN joins several other prominent Catholic organizations in their harsh criticism of the Romney campaign's stance on welfare and the Ryan budget.
As ThinkProgress reported, NETWORK, a Catholic social justice advocacy group, has supported the national "Nuns On A Bus" tour, which is aimed at highlighting the negative effects of Ryan's proposed cuts, and invited Romney to spend a day with Catholic nuns helping the poor in their communities.
In April, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a series of letters to congressional lawmakers criticizing the Ryan budget, saying that fair budget solutions "must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs."
"The House-passed budget resolution," the Bishops said in the letter, "fails to meet these moral criteria."
Ohio Democrats are criticizing the Republican nominee for the state's U.S. Senate seat over what they call a misleading annual report sent out by his state office.
The state Democratic Party said that state Treasurer Josh Mandel is trying to boost his performance by including a full list of his state duties, including his role as chairman of the state Board of Deposit, in the Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report issued by the treasurer's office. Mandel came under fire from Democrats earlier this year for missing 14 months of Board of Deposit meetings and delegating the chairman's role to a top aide. Mandel is locked in a competitive Senate race with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).
"In this desperate attempt to rebrand their absentee boss, it appears the treasurer's office forgot to scrub chairing the billion-dollar Board of Deposit, which Josh blew off for fourteen months straight, from a ridiculous list of official duties Mandel's supposed to fulfill that they embarrassingly attempted to brag about. Oops," Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker told HuffPost in an email. "Ohioans need look no further than Josh Mandel's latest misleading report, which embarrassingly boasts that under Ohio law he's supposed to chair the billion-dollar investment meetings he blew off for more than a year for proof that he's just another politician who can't be trusted."
Mandel also outlines his roles as the state's chief banker and a series of other boards he sits on including the Agricultural Financing Commission, and the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board.
The report issued by the treasurer's office touts Mandel's achievements including saving state funds through new investment and banking practices and cuts to the budget. He highlights an almost $1 million savings to his office budget, including the cancellation of temporary contracts, cuts to cell phone purchases and a moratorium on buying new office furniture. He also touts a growth in the state's rainy day fund and liquidity portfolio since taking office in January 2011.
"In the midst of the “Great Recession,” Ohioans expect their elected officials to practice fiscal responsibility and to safeguard and stretch their hard-earned tax dollars," Mandel writes in the report. "Our global, national and state economies are being adversely impacted by financial uncertainty and volatile markets. That is why in the State Treasurer’s office I remain committed to tightening the belt on government spending, conservatively managing state investments, and streamlining and consolidating bureaucracies to achieve efficiencies."
Seth Unger, the treasurer's office spokesman, could not be reached for immediate comment.
Everyone supports "open government." And it seems, these days, that most elected officials enjoy talking about how they support open government and transparency. But how many of us are really doing everything we can to do so?
Here are a couple of easy ways we are helping to bridge the gap between citizen and government in South Orange that I hope can serve as perhaps a starting point for others looking to do the same -- as well as for citizens who want to push their local officials to embrace the benefits of new technology.
But before I get started, it's important to note that these ideas (and plenty more) for the most part save taxpayer money and make government more transparent at the same time. Using the right technological platforms, you don't need to sacrifice lots of money to be more transparent, and no longer do governments have to sacrifice transparency to save money.
Open Budget data: In South Orange this year, for the first time (and one of the only municipalities to even do so), we released our $32 million municipal budget in a downloadable, editable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which allows the data to not only be understood and manipulated by anyone, but, being in a standard format, can be tied into other software or applications. We kept the formulas embedded in the spreadsheet so people could manipulate the numbers and see the impact on the total budget as well as each household. I joked at our 2012 State Of The Village that it allows someone to play Village administrator for a day, and it's really true.
We need to set a new standard for municipal government transparency in New Jersey -- helping citizens have access to easy budget info, and governments easy access to people's ideas and priorities about how their taxes are to be spent. Making a budget available online in one of a wide variety of interactive formats could allow residents to submit their own idea budgets, which helps us as elected officials know what a broader range people want (helping mitigate Squeaky Wheel Syndrome), and also helps educate people about our budget process and the tough decisions we are faced with.
Public Document Accessibility: Many municipalities are facing historic numbers of Open Public Records Act requests that can cost a lot of staff time and divert resources away from municipal or statutory responsibilities of Clerk's Offices (especially in the not infrequent cases of corporations/people taking advantage of the system). Instead of trying to implement some regulations that could inhibit the flow of public information to citrizens, there is another way to help mitigate the costs of this.
In South Orange, we have done this by having more than five years of meeting videos online, along with a searchable database of all of our minutes, agendas, resolutions, ordinances, proclamations (and more) that allows citizens very easy access to a wealth of public documents, which cuts down on the taxpayer expense of having staff find documents, and also provides information instantly to anyone interested. Anytime a special committee is created to research an issue, all of the minutes, reports and peripheral information is placed online. When we reviewed our Village Charter, hundreds of pages of documentation (that otherwise would surely have been OPRA'd numerous times) was put online to help anyone instantly understand the process. This is the bedrock to greater participation, and helps pave the way for rolling out even more participatory processes, like online voting platforms that allow the public to weigh in on any number of issues.
To further help with the OPRA requests, we are looking into implementing an online form that would help residents file records requests, help us manage it (and give us some analytics) and also make every prior request searchable and instantly available. So if someone files a duplicate request, it is filled instantly online (giving easier access and reducing taxpayer expenses). One such example of a form is written with open source software at Open Up NYC.
Partnerships. Helping bring some of the bigger open data initiatives from cities, around public transit schedules, water/utility usage, etc., to the smaller level that towns can adapt and adopt is key. There are a lot of open data initiatives happening around the country (StreetsBlog, San Francisco Data, Open 311, Code for America) and ensuring small towns are working with larger cities to share resources is key. I'm working with the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and others to try and facilitate as many of those connections as possible -- there are so many great ideas out there, the best thing we can do is learn from each other.
Communication: Being an elected official, especially at the municipal level, and truly actively communicating is actually not as easy as it originally seems, and a number of legal grey areas make it difficult for elected officials who don't have a large staff to really use media the right way.
There is a legal wall you need to put up between public and political, and that means a lot of duplication. I have separate email lists, for example, from people who have emailed my municipal email account, versus emails collected politically or personally. I've found it incredibly helpful to use a piece of cloud-based software called NationBuilder, that inexpensively consolidates my website management, events, fundraising, blog, email blasts, voter file, social media and more into one online campaign dashboard. Using my campaign email list of a few thousand people, I'm able to stay in touch with residents and the larger community easily, help people understand the issues that are going on in town and spread the good news when we do have it. However, supporting these types of initiatives requires either self-funding (which as an unpaid, student loan debt ridden elected official, I simply cannot do) or constantly raising money. Fortunately, some of these tools are much more inexpensive now, and this reduced cost means that its easier than ever to build a semi-professional communication platform, even if its just you and a few volunteers.
And staying active on social media is one of the easiest (and cheapest) things you can do as an elected official, though yet again, is disincentiviezd because of the unclear legal issues. Pretty much anything regulating social media for public officials is based off evolving case law, not clear and defined statutory guidelines. But for example, during the storms last year, I had hundreds of interactions with residents looking for information, giving me information and discussing, over both Facebook and Twitter. Although this wasn't through an official village social media platform, I can use my personal Facebook and Twitter to connect with people quickly, but have to take precautions as well -- for example, redirecting all people who ask questions about municipal business through private message to my municipal email account.
Sending out short video updates over social media and email (for example: State of Village Video and my latest video update) and writing up thorough but approachable summaries of larger issues has garnered a lot of positive feedback from people who feel as though they have more information about what's happening than they ever have. And to a quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."
I think part of the takeaway here is that not everything constructive to more transparent government has to literally happen through the government bureaucracy, but rather it's up to us, as public officials to work within the confines of the system we are part of, and figure out the best way to do it for the people we serve.
Municipalities range in size and the amount of resources they can allocate to working on an issue like this, and even range on their interest to do so. However, if we can bring smaller towns together, sometimes with the support of larger cities, make available the failure and success stories of initiatives we've tried, and show those officials less enthusiastic about these innovations that the people support it, we can lower the barrier of entry into it and do our part in helping to truly turn Government into Government 2.0.
Last week, I wrote about the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s effort to run the numbers on Mitt Romney’s base-broadening, rate-lowering tax reform plan. The numbers, as you may have guessed, didn’t add up. And that’s not just a problem for Romney. It’s a problem for anyone committed to the idea of tax reform.As polarized as Washington is over tax and budget issues, a base-broadening, rate-lowering tax-code overhaul has become the one policy every wonk in town can agree on.
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza provides a profile of Rep. Paul Ryan, with a rich discussion of his vision for limited government.It's a good read, but it left me thinking about what it is that troubles me most about Rep. Ryan, an earnest guy who's come a long way and influenced a lot of people at a relatively young age. The problem is his numbers don't add up. And that's a particularly big problem for a celebrated budget wonk.
Those decrying the adverse economic consequences of looming budget cuts are often the very same people who claim that the 2009 fiscal stimulus didn't add jobs.
For example, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have held a series of public meetings this week designed to highlight what they call "the profound negative consequences" of the defense budget cuts scheduled to take place next January. These automatic cuts will occur because the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion. The spending cuts will harm the economy and "put one million jobs at risk," the senators say.
In contrast, Senator McCain has contended that the stimulus "didn't work. It added to our debt and deficit, and we lost jobs." Senator Graham claims, "The Obama stimulus has pretty much been a bust. Very few benefits or jobs created."
Others have been equally inconsistent. But both arguments can't be true. If cutting government spending in a time of economic slack reduces employment, then increasing government spending must increase employment. That's why an overwhelming majority of leading economists surveyed by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business agreed that the stimulus reduced the unemployment rate.
WASHINGTON -- Escalating a small drama that's becoming increasingly politicized, House Republicans have asked the Labor Department to turn over documents related to the agency's recommendation that defense contractors refrain from issuing layoff notices due to looming defense budget cuts ahead of the fall elections.
The job losses, expected due to sequestration, could become a campaign issue for President Barack Obama and other politicians on both sides of the aisle, as layoff notices could go out to workers shortly before voters head to the polls in November.
As AOL Defense has reported, earlier this week the Labor Department sent out guidance to contractors saying the layoff notices wouldn't need to go out 60 days ahead of sequestration, as many expected they would under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Republicans, such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), claimed the guidance was "politically motivated" and legally dubious, suggesting the White House simply wanted to avoid a politically damaging situation in an election that's all about jobs.
On Thursday, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) sent a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking that the agency turn over all of its internal correspondence related to its guidance to contractors on the WARN Act.
"The recent 'guidance' issued by the Obama administration is a political document that underscores the legal uncertainty facing employers and leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their jobs," Kline said in a statement. "The president can end the debate over the WARN Act right now by providing real transparency to the sequestration process and working with Congress on responsible reforms that will help fix the nation’s debt crisis."
In its guidance, the Labor Department essentially said that the layoff notices wouldn’t need to be issued since it isn't clear whether sequestration will actually happen. Lawmakers, in theory, still have time to avoid the sequestration cuts if they can reach a compromise.
The layoffs would be the result of the debt deal hammered out between the White House and Congress last year. The campaign for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has tried to make an issue out of the looming defense layoffs, particularly in Virginia, a crucial swing state with a large number of defense jobs.
By Anna Meier and Suzanne Dershowitz
Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte hit the road this week in Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and North Carolina to preach against looming Pentagon spending cuts. Call it the "Misinformation Road Show" brought to you by defense industry contractors.
The trio of Republican senators are throwing out words like "devastating" and "draconian" to describe the potential across-the-board spending cuts, known as "sequestration." Graham even warned people in Fayetteville that "Y'all are about to get screwed if this thing happens."
Ah, nothing like a little fear and loathing to rile up swing state voters. Too bad, their message mostly parrots the talking points of the major defense industry contractors.
What McCain, Graham and Ayotte aren't mentioning are the record earnings by large Pentagon contractors, the exorbitant executive salaries paid at these firms, the billions of dollars lost to waste and mismanagement and the fact that several politically-diverse national security experts say even if the deepest Pentagon cuts occur (and that scenario is unlikely) it will have a negligible effect on industry profits.
The threats of mass layoffs are simply political scare tactics by an industry that can afford to spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions while crying that the "sky is falling."
What's more, big Pentagon contractors have hundreds of billions of dollars in backlogged orders that will maintain their revenue streams and keep their employees busy delivering goods and services for years to come.
If you want the real story, see this detailed briefing paper that the Project On Government Oversight and its allies put together that takes on the industry talking points.
The American people seem to disagree with Pentagon contractor lobbyists--they're ready to rein in runaway Pentagon spending. According to a May 2012 study by the Stimson Center, 62 percent of Americans support reductions in the defense budget.
It's a view shared by experts as well.
"There is plenty of fat to cut before laying off workers is even considered," said Ben Freeman, a national security investigator at POGO. "POGO and many other groups on both sides of the political spectrum have identified hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending at the Pentagon."
But even if sequestration were implemented in full, the Pentagon's budget would only drop to about $472 billion, or the same amount spent in FY 2007, adjusted for inflation.
As our briefing paper points out, the talking points that McCain, Graham and Ayotte will cover are backed by industry fronts, such as Second to None, which is funded by the Aerospace Industries Association. The Coalition for the Common Defense has also recently published over 200 pages on how the defense cuts will affect jobs and small businesses state by state. This publication is a product of the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think tank affiliated with executives and lobbyists from across the spectrum of top U.S. weapons manufacturers.
If you can get into one of these propaganda sessions, more of which will likely pop up in a town near you sometime before the election, be sure to ask why the defense industry is threatening to cut workers when they have so much money to pay their executives.
If Pentagon contractors were actually feeling economic pressure, they could certainly trim excesses at the top before letting go thousands of rank-and-file employees. Pentagon contractors' top executives enjoy compensation packages on par with Wall Street CEOs. The CEOs of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, and Northrup Grumman all made between $22 and $27.6 million in total annual compensation for 2011, and David Cote of Honeywell brought home a whopping $37.8 million.
Don't buy what the defense industry and their surrogates are trying to sell you. The sky isn't falling: There's plenty of wasteful spending that can be trimmed from the Pentagon budget that would in fact make us more secure in our economy and our defense.
Anna Meier is a communications associate and Suzanne Dershowitz is a policy fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.
For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits — deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis. In May 2009, Niall Ferguson of Harvard declared that the “tidal wave of debt issuance” would cause U.S. interest rates to soar. In March 2011, Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama’s ill-fated deficit commission, warned that unless action was taken on the deficit soon, “the markets will devastate us,” probably within two years....
President Obama’s effort to discredit Mitt Romney as a credible economic repairman has several elements: using his business career to cast doubts on his desire to help the middle class, tying him to the radical proposals of the Paul Ryan budget, and — something hinted at in Obama’s recent minute-long, talking-to-the-camera ad — portraying his plan as a mere reprisal of the failed George W. Bush approach.Last night, Brian Williams asked Romney to distinguish his approach to economic growth from Bush’s. The answer was a mere recapitulation of...
There have been many mendacious moments in this presidential campaign, but it will be hard to top what Mitt Romney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference this week.President Obama is seeking "an arbitrary, across-the-board budget reduction that would saddle the military with $1Â trillion in cuts," the Republican said. "Strategy is not driving the president's massive defense cuts. In fact, his own secretary of defense warned that these reductions would be devastating, and he's right. .".". This is no time for the president's...
WASHINGTON -- It's no secret that the states are in as much budget trouble as the federal government. Doubters should read a new report from a group headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. By this account, states face four insistent forces: pension underfunding of at least $1 trillion; rapidly rising Medicaid spending; possible cuts in federal aid that provides $1 in $3 of state spending; and weak growth of tax revenues that, in 2011, remained 7 percent below their pre-recession peak.What looms are higher state taxes and...