I got a great laugh out of this Chuck Todd near meltdown on Meet the Depressed the other day. His voice quivered in moral outrage over Jack Welch suggesting something was up with the unemployment numbers last Friday. Chuck Todd proclaimed, "What we're doing, we're corroding trust in our government in a way, and one time responsible people are doing to control it. And the idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch, rich people with crazy conspiracy, can get traction on this, is a bad trend."He really does not get it. Chuck Todd reflects most of the media not getting it....
CHUCK TODD: This is really making me crazy. The Federal Reserve gets questioned now for politics these days, the Supreme Court and John Roberts. We have corroded, what we're doing, we are corroding trust in our government in a way, and one-time responsible people are doing to control it. And the idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch, rich people with crazy conspiracies, can get traction on this, is a bad trend.
Here it is the afternoon and I'm just getting around to some articles and blogs for your attention.
Senator Avoids Trap: First, Senator Chuck Schumer, to his great credit, understands the tax reform trap. Here at OTE, we're always warning folks to be aware that when politicians talk about a "grand bargain" on taxes that lowers the rates and broadens the base, you've got to be extremely vigilant about not getting stuck with a lot of the former and a little of the latter.
"Rate cuts" sound good to everyone and "base broadening" sounds harmless enough. But the way these debates go, your loophole is my prized "job-creating investment incentive." Just ask candidate Romney, who's very specific about those rate cuts--20% across the board!--but completely silent on the base broadeners.
So I was happy to see Sen Schumer say this about that:
If upfront rate cuts are the starting point for negotiations on tax reform, it will box us in on what else we can achieve. Certain conservatives will pocket the rate reductions and never follow through on finding enough revenue elsewhere in the code to reduce the deficit. Or, if they do, it will almost certainly come out of the pockets of middle-income earners.
An Economist I Like Denounces Austerity Measure: Jan Hatzius is the chief economist at Goldman Sachs. That may alienate some readers but in his case, it should not. He's someone who understands the economy's moving parts as well as anyone and he's just as unhappy as I am about the persistent slack in the economy.
As Matt Yglesias notes here, Jan doesn't get why both parties are so ready and willing to allow the payroll tax cut to expire at the end of this year when unemployment is still so elevated. That 2% cut to take home pay that aggregates up to $120 billion, contributing to precisely the fiscal contraction you see in the second figure in this post (see the black parts of the bars).
I know that some people worry that this tax cut diverts money from the Social Security trust fund, and in doing so, provides great comfort to those who would destroy social insurance, and does so in the name of progressive, Keynesian stimulus, which is pretty diabolical, actually. I hear them and understand their concern--I know how much the enemies of Social Security would love to weaken the trust fund.
But the law specifies that any and all diverted dollars must be replenished by general revenues. A few months back I even identified the ledger within the government accounts that specifies the transfers, and they were, in fact, being made in accordance with the law.
Why is no one fighting to preserve this important stimulus right now? I'm not sure but I wonder if part of the reason, and not an unreasonable part, is that little evidence has been brought to bear showing its impact. The results that Hatzius and others, including myself, tout are based on plugging the stimulus into economic models that map the extra pay onto growth and jobs, but it might help to have some empirical evidence about the actual impact of the cut (I know...there I go again thinking that facts matter).
The problem in working up such evidence is statistical...the payroll tax cut went to so many people that it's hard to think of a control group against which to gauge its impact. One idea to use the fact that some state and local workers don't get Social Security benefits so don't pay into the system and thus didn't benefit from the cut. If there are geographical areas where a lot of those folks live, that might be a useful source of variation.
What to Make of Mitt's Pivot: I liked Jon Cohn's take on Gov Romney's etch-a-sketch moment, and Jon's cataloging of Mitt's flips and flops is useful. I'd like to add another dimension.
I'm constantly struck and always struggling with the implications of what I view as a large and serious problem here. At least since Reagan ran against government, too many people are ready and willing to believe that most politicians are liars who will say whatever it takes to win and that government is a corrupt institution that just doles out the goodies to the privileged who've bribed their way in, with said goodies coming from the middle class.
A deeply obfuscating performance, like Mitt's the other night, very much feeds into that narrative. Jon and I and others are left to try to straighten things out the next day, but by then, it's onto the playoffs or something.
Moreover, this dynamic is just a cousin of the even more noxious one I'm always going on about around here: the conservative politicians who run for office on a platform that "government is broken" and then, when they get elected, makes sure it stays broken.
Again, what's so pernicious about these dynamics is that they create a negative feedback loop, and the damage done by that loop is not random: it hurts those of us who believe facts matter and that government must play a significant role in advanced economies, and conversely, it helps the YOYOs.
All of which is to say, we've got a lot of work to do to get out butts back on the path of enlightenment.
This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.
Charlie Fuqua, the Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives who called for expelling Muslims from the United States in his book, also wrote in support for instituting the death penalty for "rebellious children."
In "God's Law," Fuqua's 2012 book, the candidate wrote that while parents love their children, a process could be set up to allow for the institution of the death penalty for "rebellious children," according to the Arkansas Times. Fuqua, who is anti-abortion, points out that the course of action involved in sentencing a child to death is described in the Bible and would involve judicial approval. While it is unlikely that many parents would seek to have their children killed by the government, Fuqua wrote, such power would serve as a way to stop rebellious children.
According to the Arkansas Times, Fuqua wrote:
The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:
This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children. I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death. Why is this so? Other than the love Christ has for us, there is no greater love then [sic] that of a parent for their child. The last people who would want to see a child put to death would be the parents of the child. Even so, the Scrpture provides a safe guard to protect children from parents who would wrongly exercise the death penalty against them. Parents are required to bring their children to the gate of the city. The gate of the city was the place where the elders of the city met and made judicial pronouncements. In other words, the parents were required to take their children to a court of law and lay out their case before the proper judicial authority, and let the judicial authority determine if the child should be put to death. I know of many cases of rebellious children, however, I cannot think of one case where I believe that a parent had given up on their child to the point that they would have taken their child to a court of law and asked the court to rule that the child be put to death. Even though this procedure would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, it would give parents authority. Children would know that their parents had authority and it would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.
In the same book, Fuqua advocated for expelling Muslims from the U.S., saying it would solve what he described as the "Muslim problem." Fuqua, who has been backed by the state GOP and is seeking a comeback, has found himself under attack by Republicans since his comments surfaced at the same time it was reported that state Rep. Jon Hubbard (R-Jonesboro) endorsed slavery in his book. Fuqua told the Associated Press that he was surprised by the reaction to his writings on Muslims.
"I think my views are fairly well-accepted by most people," Fuqua said to AP.
Fuqua declined to answer questions from The Huffington Post.
"I'm not going to talk to you," he said before hanging up.
On his campaign blog, Fuqua highlights his service on the Children and Families Committee while a member of the Arkansas Legislature in 1997. He also describes liberals and Muslims as the "anti-Christ" and says he believes they are conspiring to create a "bloody revolution."
"There is a strange alliance between the liberal left and the Muslim religion. It may be that since both are the enemies of Christianity, that they both believe that, my enemy's enemy is my friend," Fuqua writes. "However there are several similarities between the two. Both are antichrist in that they both deny that Jesus is God in the flesh of man, and the savior of mankind. They both also hold that their cause should take over the entire world through violent, bloody, revolution."
Voting in November is the end of the process.
Literally for YEARS we have been leading up to this race. A ton of people have jockeyed for position. This is almost like an NCAA bracket where game after game is played to refine the best team. Bringing in a third party candidate at the end make no sense. It would be like following your March Madness pool and right before the Final 4 game between Temple and UCLA, Villanova somehow gets onto the court.
Third party candidates are woefully unprepared compared to the major party candidates.
Continuing the sports metaphor, think of the major party primaries as minor league baseball. You learn to hit a curve ball, hit behind the runner -- all the smart stuff you are supposed to do in the batters box with everyone looking at you. The primary system vets out a lot of odd folks like John Edwards or Newt Gingrich who could never hit from the opposite side of the plate. Guys like Rick Perry shrank once the pressure got turned up.
The campaign is the regular season. The stump speeches and appearances test the mettle and veracity of the candidate. The advantage of the current two-party system is the pressure testing by the media that supposedly forges a solid product. There is a reason you give the ball to the 20-game winner for the final game of the playoffs.
Putting a third party candidate into the mix is similar to sticking a guy off the street into the ninth inning of the final playoff game. You have no idea of what you are going to get. The person has not been vetted at all. Likely they have no experience as evidence they could do anything if given the mound in that situation. A manager (We The People) would be nuts to allow such a person to even throw a single pitch.
Voting for a third party in a two party race helps the major party candidate furthest from you.
If you are on the far left voting for the Green Party, or the Far Right tallying for the Libertarians, your vote will be helping the GOP and the Democrats, respectively. If the Green Party (or Libertarian) candidate wasn't there, you would be voting for the Democratic (or GOP) candidate instead. Those candidates needed your votes. Anyone remember John Anderson in 1980? He pulled six percent of the vote. His being in the race was a minor factor giving Ronald Reagan the win. Ross Perot gave Bill Clinton the White House in 1992. How did Ralph Nader work out for you?
If you want a third party, create a third party.
That means getting people elected at the lower levels so that you can train someone to step in with each larger successive office.
One way to create a third party is from the ground up. The Tea Party was able to abscond with the GOP because they got enough people in the grassroots (the ground up) to figure out how the system works. They took over because they knew the rules. They also had message discipline.
All those sane people who left the GOP do not have a home now. They can return to fight for their old GOP apparatus or they can create a new one. I am sure there enough people disassociated with the current system that would come back if there was a legitimate path to victory.
How to create legitimacy?
Increase the size of Congress. We are currently the second worst represented country on the planet with one congressperson for every 710,000+ people. Only India is worse with over 1,000,000 people per seat. Most western democracies have about 300,000 people per seat. We would need about 1,001 seats for now. The really smart thing to do would be to link a Congressional Seat to a fixed population number. Currently we have a fixed number of seats, 435, with a variable number of people being represented.
Some side effects of increasing the size of Congress:
- it takes fewer people for you to get elected
- it costs less to get elected (campaign finance reform)
- congressional gerrymandering gets mitigated
There are ton of others...
For this discussion of creating a third party, you get legitimacy when you get seats in Congress. You can then start to create the bench you need to go deep into an election cycle.
Since you are an expansion team, you can expect to get some free-agents who are tired of playing for the existing teams as well as walk-ons who never played before.
Oh, by the way, increasing the size of Congress can be done by fixing one small phrase in a law passed in 1929.
What if a presidential election came down to the strangest county in the weirdest state in America? For better or worse, that's Miami-Dade, whose vote Nov. 6 will go a long way in determining who wins America's biggest swing state.
While I disagree, the conventional wisdom has concluded that Obama blew the debate, phoning it in instead of engaging his opponent. But no matter: the reaction and aftermath are much more instructive about the distinct differences between liberals and conservatives.
I just finished watching Saturday Night Live (SNL) do hilarious skit after skit parodying Obama sleeping and clueless. And therein we find the big divide between right and left. There are really two clear differences here.
First, liberals did not blame "conservative media" or a conservative conspiracy for the outcome; they got down and made fun of themselves on one of TV's most popular shows. Now let's reverse the situation and assume Romney blew it, and SNL did similar skits skewering Romney. Need I say more? You can practically hear the constant drum beat against liberal media, or the spin to make his performance look good, or some pundits going so far as to deny there was ever a debate, and that liberals created a false debate to make Romney look bad (unemployment numbers anyone?).
Second, if Romney had blown the debate, where would there be the conservative equivalent of the SNL skits making fun of Romney? Nowhere -- because conservatives are incapable of making fun of themselves. If you deny that, show me an example. Show me the equivalent of an SNL put on by conservatives making fun of conservatives. No such animal exists. If conservatives have any sense of humor the joke is at the expense of others (blacks, Jews, Hispanics, poor people), never themselves. This all reflects a disease of taking oneself too seriously, which is part of the genetics of eschewing compromise and justifying any means to a particular end. Liberals can laugh at themselves because they know the world is complex with multiple points of view each offering valid insights, and those differences are ripe for self-deprecating humor. In contrast, it is hard to laugh at yourself when you know your point of view is god's word, only you are patriotic and only you can save us from the devil of temptation. The conservative lack of humor is serious stuff. Self-parody implies a mind open to new possibilities, to accept new perspectives, and to welcome new ideas. A lack of such humor implies the absence of all those traits. And that is why Democrats are going to be laughing all the way to the White House in November.
If you doubt my thesis here, watch a tape of the recent SNL and ask where is there the conservative equivalent of self-parody. There is none.
One little problem with the compassion thing that Mitt Romney keeps touting in his recent television ads: He doesn't seem to have any.
We can safely assume that he cares about his wife and their boys. He must feel concern for the fellow congregants of his church and perhaps for some of his neighbors at one or another of his residences. He probably even liked that dog he stuck on the roof of his car.
But somewhere between his traditional social circle and the broader world -- a place inhabited by strangers whose jobs might require elimination in pursuit of profit -- Romney seems to lose emotional regard for the troubles of others.
It looks that way in part because Romney has made it look that way, cultivating the image of a stern and unsentimental disciplinarian in the face of wasteful federal spending in a bid to win over the anti-government zealots who dominate his party. This is how best to understand his decision to train his sights on Big Bird in last week's debate.
It looks that way because Romney is a creature of privilege, the son of a CEO and governor who spent his formative years at elite institutions of higher learning, and then in the exclusive ranks of premier business consulting and private equity firms. One can assume he didn't meet hordes of poor people at Harvard Business School or Bain Capital. It's hard to summon compassion for people who, within one's own experience, effectively don't exist.
In any event, it looks that way.
When you spend months bemoaning an expansion of food stamps in response to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, as Romney has done, word gets around that you are perhaps not the biggest-hearted mansion-owner on the lake.
When you lie about your challenger's supposed efforts to weaken limits on welfare while implicitly contending that anyone who needs government help is a loser, word gets out that concern for the vulnerable is not your defining feature.
And when you tell a room full of well-heeled campaign contributors that you have written off nearly half the country as a bunch of government-dependent parasites, compassion is not the word that springs first to mind.
Not that any of this recent history gave Romney pause when laying claim to compassion in his ads. Those in the business world like to celebrate themselves as self-made. Romney is self-made-up: He gloms on to any word that seems capable of selling the product, which is whatever incarnation of Mitt Romney he is playing that day.
"We shouldn't measure compassion by how many people are on welfare," Romney says in one ad. "We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job."
That's a smart, politically opportunistic line, one that plays on the crucial need for jobs as well as on a traditional disdain for welfare recipients held by large slices of the electorate. It's also devoid of anything resembling genuine compassion.
Many people on welfare are there because they have tried and failed to secure decent paying jobs. The last Republican president put his imprint on the weakest so-called economic expansion in modern memory. Romney has been running on a pledge to extend and enhance Bush's policies, giving tax cuts to the wealthy, which would necessitate cuts to the social safety net. Yet here he is, invoking compassion as grounds for voters to congratulate themselves for their sensitivity while they join him in doing something small and mean-spirited: Cutting welfare (along with Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps and unemployment benefits) in order to hand out the proceeds to the affluent.
Romney seizing on this buzzword "compassion" seems like the result of the desperation manifest in not having enough of it in the first place.
From the beginning of the race, Romney has been plagued by troubles that stem from one fundamental truth: He is a prisoner of his own limited social experience. He can't adequately connect with people, and the people to whom he reaches out can see through him. He lacks authenticity.
In a recent national poll by NPR, half of those surveyed said they had "cool" or "unfavorable" feelings toward Romney. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll asked registered voters which candidate "better understands the economic problems people in this country are having," and which one "seems like the more friendly and likeable person." Obama trounced Romney on both counts, by 52 percent to 39 percent, and 62 percent to 29 percent, respectively.
Translation: People don't relate to Romney, even the people who will vote for him on policy grounds. They don't understand him, and what they do understand they don't much like. Worst of all, they think that he is in no position to understand them.
The potential electoral consequences of these numbers seem clear enough. When people don't like you, and when they don't think you have a grasp of their problems, they maybe don't work up the same passion about helping you to become the president of the United States.
The broader consequences of a compassion deficit seem to exacerbate Romney's problems, sowing stress that seems to make him prone to saying the bumbling and unsympathetic things that have undermined his candidacy.
Those who are emotionally disconnected from others suffer physiological consequences, according to academics engaged in the scientific exploration of compassion. Research has found that taking care of others actually yields health benefits, lowering stress levels, delivering more oxygen to the brain and relieving strain on the heart.
"Compassion is simply recognition of another's suffering," said James R. Doty, a neurosurgeon who heads Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. "We know -- and evidence has borne this out -- that a person who cares for others actually has improved immune states and lower levels of stress hormones. When you are more compassionate and caring for others, you actually improve your physical and mental health, because there are mechanisms in us that actually improve when we care for others."
So maybe if Romney had more of the stuff he's advertising, he would be calm enough to think before he speaks and avoid costly gaffes. Maybe he would sleep better, and perform better on the stump. Maybe he would be better attuned to what is happening around him in the rooms where he is addressing voters, and in the country he seeks to govern.
Or maybe not. Romney is surely not invoking such an elevated conception in his campaign ads. He's just trying to win a few votes by draping a selfish impulse -- 'Quit wasting taxpayer money on lazy poor people!' -- in morally palatable language.
But if compassion is a tempting word for politicians to throw around, it is also a dangerous thing to claim for those who don't really have much of it, warn psychologists who have identified a clear backlash that tends to result.
"Viewers have the ability to feel that viscerally," Emma Seppala, associate director of the Stanford compassion center, tells me. "Romney may be better off sticking to sincerity. If he's sincerely compassionate, then great, people will buy it and his policies will reflect that. If he's pretending, however, he's likely going to make more enemies than friends and create discomfort among his viewers."
The one consolation for Romney in that scenario: If viewers feel discomfort, he probably won't notice. And if he does notice, he probably won't care.
WASHINGTON -- Days after Mitt Romney backed off his claim, made during a secretly recorded fundraiser, that 47 percent of Americans depend on the government and see themselves as victims, the Republican presidential nominee is set to soften another controversial remark he made that night.
In a heavily hyped foreign policy address at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday, Romney plans to declare his commitment to the notion of "a Democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel." According to advance excerpts of his remarks provided by the campaign, he will also knock President Barack Obama for failing to make progress on a two-state solution, instead abdicating responsibility to international institutions like the United Nations.
"In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew," Romney will say.
Romney is hardly the first political figure to criticize Obama for inaction on the Israel-Palestine conflict. A number of Middle East observers have expressed their frustration with the hand the president has played on this front. But the idea that Romney is eager to forge ahead with the two-state solution in a way Obama failed to do contradicts his own words.
At the private fundraiser last May, Romney characterized the peace process as a hopeless endeavor.
"I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, "There's just no way." And so what you do is you say, "You move things along the best way you can,'" Romney said, in comments that depressed longtime peace negotiators.
"I got a call from a former secretary of state," he added. "I won't mention which one it was, but this individual said to me, you know, I think there's a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, "Really?" And, you know, his answer was, "Yes, I think there's some prospect." And I didn't delve into it."
The Romney campaign insisted that the remarks were simply a description of the status quo, as well as a reflection of the candidate's belief that the rising influence of Hamas makes it impossible for a peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis to ever take hold. In comments that weren't contained in the first portion of the video to be released, Romney was more specific about what he thought it would take to reach an agreement, arguing that a show of brute "American strength, American resolve" could end up convincing "the Palestinians" that "they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them."
"Then it’s worth having the discussion," he added. "So until then, it’s just wistful thinking."
The latter line doesn't close the door on the peace process, as the first portion of the video suggests. But it does imply that Romney is deeply skeptical about its prospects.
If Romney hews to his prepared remarks on Monday, he'll be presenting himself as someone committed to that arduous process, rather than someone who thinks it is futile. It's another indication that, as the presidential campaign enters its final month, the Republican nominee is betting that he must soften his edges to win over voters.
The first presidential debate of the 2012 season happened this week, and (it pains us to say) the only person who called the outcome correctly was Chris Christie. Last Sunday, he predicted a "game changer" of a debate, and that we'd all wake up Thursday with a whole new race and a whole new opinion of Mitt Romney. While we rarely agree with Chris Christie about much of anything, we've got to at least hand it to him -- in the midst of the usual pre-debate expectations-lowering game, he went rogue and predicted a big win for his guy, and he turned out to be correct.
I personally became somewhat worried about Barack Obama's debate preparation when I heard that John Kerry was playing Mitt Romney in Obama's debate prep sessions. Now, Kerry's a nice guy and all, but he doesn't exactly seem like someone you'd want to prepare you for a free-for-all with a Republican. Okay, Romney and Kerry share lots of superficial characteristics (both from Massachusetts, both wealthy, both devoid of any shred of charisma), but their personalities are completely different. Next time, maybe hire someone along the lines of James Carville for Romney's stand-in.
The other big takeaway from Obama's performance in the debate is that quite obviously the folks in the West Wing haven't been reading this column as religiously as they should. There were many opportunities for Obama to pull out a snappy comeback to Romney Wednesday night, and Obama completely ignored just about all of them. If this was some sort of pre-planned strategy, it utterly failed.
Obama did catch a break today, as the unemployment numbers provided some well-needed good news. This good news for America and for the American worker caused the Republican Party to go apoplectic. This is also good news for the White House. Think about it -- the more ranting and raving about conspiracy theories coming from Republicans in the next few days, the more the American people are going to see that one political party is cheering for failure. Republicans want economic failure so badly that they can't even accept news that counters their wish. They're out there fighting for failure, in essence. This is going to, in a very short time, be seen in a very bad light by the public (that's our guess, at any rate).
Politicians (Obama, for instance) are always wary of overselling economic news when many Americans are still hurting out there. If a politician says, "Everything's rosy, folks!" when everything obviously is not, then the voters think he is out of touch and trying to spin the picture for political reasons. But the obverse is true as well. If things are getting better (slowly) and people feel it out there, then politicians who keep right on saying, "Everything sucks, folks!" are also seen as out of touch with reality. This becomes even more apparent when the spin turns to "Don't believe the numbers, everything still stinks!" and the denial of reality becomes the main talking point.
So every time you hear the conspiracy theorists on the right in the coming days, be of good cheer. Because the thinly veiled message is pretty obvious to the public: The Republicans think they'll benefit from economic bad news, and they want this bad news so badly that they'll deny reality in order to champion a picture of the economy that is worse than it actually is. Voters tend to see through such naked attempts at partisan spin, and it won't take long for them to see it this time around either.
Is Big Bird a Democrat? He's got to be old enough to vote, by now. Freakishly Large Avians For Obama!
Heh. Kidding aside, we don't really have anyone who qualified as Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. We do have an Honorable Mention for Nancy Pelosi, but not for anything she actually did. Pelosi's opponent (yes, the Republicans actually attempt running someone against her every election, even though she has one of the safest Democratic districts in the country) put out an ad that portrayed Pelosi and her followers as a pack of zombies bent on slaughtering a lamb. You just can't make this stuff up, folks. So Nancy Pelosi -- not for anything she did but for the idiocy of her opponent -- deserves some sort of mention for "Most Insane Demonization Of A Democrat This Election Cycle" at the very least. The ironic thing is that any Republican who runs against Pelosi perfectly fits the definition of a lamb being led to the slaughter. If Pelosi wins by less than a 50 or 60 percent margin, it might be news, but ads like this probably aren't going to help.
No surprise here.
President Barack Obama is the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, for reasons that are (ahem) beyond debate.
[Contact President Barack Obama on his White House contact page to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 229 (10/5/12)
This week's talking points could be labeled "what Obama should have said." Instead of hiring high-priced campaign consultants and debate preppers, we are providing this service to the West Wing folks free of charge, because they so obviously need some help in this area.
Romney won't tell you
This one is a generic sort of talking point, because it can be used to counter all sorts of gauzy promises. When Mitt says something on any subject where he's been intentionally vague (tax plans, immigration, his own taxes), immediately strike back.
"That's very interesting, because it is easy to stand up here and make grand sweeping promises. But how is Mitt Romney going to accomplish this promise? He won't tell you. How is he going to cut tax rates and not have the deficit go up? Mitt won't say. What is he going to do about Medicare for the next 10 years, before it gets turned into Vouchercare? He isn't going to tell you that until after the election. What loopholes is he going to close in the tax code? Romney won't tell you. What should immigrants expect from a Romney administration? Nobody knows. On subject after subject, Mitt Romney simply refuses to level with the American people about what his plans are, or what he's going to do. On question after question, the only answer he has is: 'I'm not going to say, just trust me and elect me anyway.' The only answer he has is no answer at all. Do you really want to vote for a man who won't tell you his plans? Romney won't tell you, because he's afraid that if he does you won't vote for him -- it's as simple as that."
It doesn't add up, Mitt
This is another good one to use in many situations.
"Mitt Romney won't tell you the numbers he's using when he makes grandiose promises about what he'll do to the tax code. Whenever anyone tries to use real-life numbers, they always come back with the same conclusion: It doesn't add up the way Mitt says it should. This is one of the reasons why he won't tell you whether you'll still get your home mortgage deduction or not under his plan -- because his numbers don't add up. Mitt says not to worry, but he won't put his own numbers on the table. There's a reason for that, and the reason is if he did we could all see what is already painfully obvious -- his numbers just don't add up. If they did, he wouldn't have to keep them hidden from us all. Mitt Romney doesn't add up."
This was the most obvious piece of nonsense that should have been rammed down Romney's throat Wednesday night.
"Mitt, you keep using that 'Mediscare' tactic of bringing up the $716 billion savings in Medicare. But I have a few questions for you. The first is: Will seniors' benefits change one thin dime because of the 716 billion in savings? The answer is: no, no they will not. You're trying to scare seniors with a big number, but they will see no difference in their benefits at all. The bigger question is if you're so against this savings, then why did Paul Ryan include them in his budget? The man you picked as a running mate included the exact same $716 billion savings in the budget he wrote. If it's such a bad thing, why was Paul Ryan for it, when he could easily have taken it out of his own budget? If it was such a bad thing, then why did every Republican in the House of Representatives vote for it? Republicans are just fine with these savings when Paul Ryan proposes them, so why are you so against them now? I mean, have you talked with Ryan about this position? Seems like you're on different pages, here."
We tried that. It didn't work.
This one is also an obvious one.
"Mitt Romney says that by replacing Medicare with Vouchercare suddenly all sorts of savings will appear because of the free market. Well, you know what? We tried that. Republicans sold a plan to the American people which was supposed to do exactly the same thing -- bring costs down by replacing Medicare with private insurance. You know what happened? It costs more money than Medicare does. Medicare Advantage does nothing more than add a healthy amount of profit for private insurers to the bill. It was sold as a way to bring down costs, and it has done the opposite. In this case, we have an example of how Republican math just doesn't add up the way they wish it would. If Mitt Romney was right and Vouchercare was the way to go, then why does Medicare Advantage cost more than expected?"
Playing the B/S card
Everyone else calls it "Simpson-Bowles" but I like to reverse the two, since the acronym is so much more fun.
"Excuse me, Mitt, but I'm getting a little tired of Republicans trying to play the Bowles-Simpson card. Let's review the facts. The Bowles-Simpson commission never approved a report. That's number one. It didn't approve a report because House Republicans -- led by Paul Ryan -- voted against it. This proved to the entire country that it would never make it out of the House. Secondly, I've been wanting to ask Republicans who now love Bowles-Simpson so much (after voting against it) if they actually support it and would vote for it now. So, if Congress passed Bowles-Simpson, would you sign it as president? I hasten to remind you -- and every other Republican who brings up Bowles-Simpson -- that the plan called for a trillion dollars in new taxes. So, instead of trying to use this against me for partisan reasons, I ask you: would you have signed Bowles-Simpson if Congress put it on your desk, or not? Please, let us all know the answer to that."
Home state blues
This one is pure snark, but pure snark has a place in American politics, I think we can all agree.
"You seem to have remembered tonight that you were once governor of Massachusetts. It's kind of surprising, because you haven't brought it up in quite a while. You say over and over how wonderful a job you did leading the state. So I have a simple question. Do you expect to win Massachusetts in the upcoming election? I mean, if you did such a great job as governor, you would surely think the people would remember and be supporting you at this point. So, will you win Massachusetts, Mitt? Come to think of it, are you going to win any of the states you can claim as a 'home state' -- such as Michigan, or New Hampshire, or California where you're building an elevator for your cars? I would say something about putting your money where your mouth is, but we all know that the Cayman Islands don't get a vote for president of the United States."
Republicans want bad news
This is the only one which wasn't a response to Wednesday's debate, but it surely will come in handy for the next debate, in all likelihood.
"I see that Republicans seem not to be able to believe good news when they hear it. The unemployment rate came down to the lowest it has been in four years, and Republicans fight tooth and nail to explain why good news on the American economy is just not possible. Conspiracy theories fill the airwaves, as Republicans gnash their teeth over the fact that more Americans are returning to work. This is naked partisan politics, folks, and it ain't pretty. Republicans seem to really really want to hear bad news about America. They are out there fighting to spin good news into bad. It makes you wonder what their true priorities are -- the American people, or their own political skins."
“No. 1,” declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” No, they aren’t — as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate. Paul Krugman For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT. Was Mr. Romney lying? Well, either that or he was making what amounts to a sick joke. Either way, his attempt to deceive voters on this issue was the...
FISHERSVILLE, Va. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has described his disparaging remarks about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes as "not elegantly stated." Now he's calling them "just completely wrong."
The original remarks, secretly recorded during a fundraiser in May and posted online in September by the magazine Mother Jones, sparked intense criticism of Romney and provided fodder to those who portray him as an out-of-touch millionaire oblivious to the lives of average Americans. The remarks became a staple of Obama campaign criticism.
Initially, Romney defended his view, telling reporters at a news conference shortly after the video was posted that his remarks were "not elegantly stated" and that they were spoken "off the cuff." He didn't disavow them, however, and later adopted as a response when the remarks were raised that his campaign supports "the 100 percent in America."
In an interview Thursday night with Fox News, Romney was asked what he would have said had the "47 percent" comments come up during his debate in Denver on Wednesday night with President Barack Obama.
"Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you're going to say something that doesn't come out right," Romney said. "In this case, I said something that's just completely wrong."
He added: "And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that's been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent."
Critics of Romney's "47 percent" remarks noted that many of those who don't pay federal incomes taxes pay other forms of taxes. More than 16 million elderly Americans avoid federal income taxes solely because of tax breaks that apply only to seniors, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reports. Millions of others don't pay federal income taxes because they don't earn enough after deductions and exemptions.
Acknowledging error is rare for Romney. Asked recently whether his TV ads had strayed from the facts, he said they had been "absolutely spot-on." Fact-checking operations have argued otherwise.
Some conservatives rallied around Romney after the video surfaced, urging him to stand behind the remarks as accurate despite the criticism.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the video. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said, and that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney later told reporters at a news conference called to address the remarks: "It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that."
Follow Kasie Hunt on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/kasie
The majority of polls and pundits give the win in the first presidential debate to Romney because of his performance. Well, what does that say about what we value in a leader?
To me, Romney came across as antsy, aggressive, amped up, and entitled in his general disregard for the moderator's limitations. Obama on the other hand seemed tired and not fully present and not going into the ring with his fists up, Traditionally we identify being aggressive and pushy as strong leadership because it is a way of winning the game of domination. That style of leadership is so not about real change; that's about maintaining the status quo. I'll take a good listener and a calm presence in my leader any day.
What was most striking was not just what was said at the debate but what was missing. Romney's infamous "47 percent remark" was practically missing in action. (Obama mentioned it only in passing.) Without Obama bringing it up forcefully and effectively as he did on the campaign trail, will we forget how Romney got caught red-handed saying what he really thinks to an audience who think the same way, that he doesn't care about 47 percent of people who don't pay taxes and described them as lazy victims and leeches? This of course is said by someone who conveniently has offshore accounts to limit paying his taxes, and being said to people who do the same. So exactly who are the people leeching off the system here?
Voters have two different world views to choose from. Curiously, and I suppose fortunately, both candidates agreed on what had to be done; how they would go about doing it was where the paths departed: Romney's would reduce the (already modest) financial burden on the wealthy while increasing it on the middle class, while Obama's plan is the obverse. But what drives these different world views? Economics has a lot to do with it.
Romney is a white man of privilege born into wealth, who doesn't even see his own privilege. Wealth can give you an illusion of independence and autonomy, that you don't need any one and that you do it alone, all values that don't necessarily lend themselves to being compassionate to the less fortunate. It's not that Romney hasn't worked hard as well, but he had more help than most in achieving his success, despite the tuna casseroles his wife spoke of at the GOP convention. Romney's lack of empathy, at times a mean-spiritedness towards those not doing as well as he, reflects an attitude not uncommon among the far right: "I had to do it on my own, what's wrong with you!" attitude. Their struggle doesn't seem to generate compassion but rather revenge. Whatever happened to the compassionate conservative!?!
Obama on the other hand is the realization of the American dream. A mullato child raised by a single mother, with the help of grandparents, manages to go to Harvard and then become the President of the United States! There was no entitlement or safety nets for him growing up that would give him the illusion that he was doing it all on his own. He saw how he needed others. Nor would he find security in a wall of affluence to the degree Romney does which in a way explains each of their choices about tax cuts for the wealthy.
I was at a fundraiser for a Himalayan school just recently in New Hampshire, where teenagers from a local private school spoke about their experience while visiting the school in India. These kids, living a life of privilege to some degree, were struck by the kindness, the level of attunement to their needs, and generosity the Indian students consistently demonstrated towards their visitors. They were blown away by how much they were cared for. These Indian students, who had all their worldly possessions in a small box under their thin cots, had such a spirit of generosity. Students who had so little, yet gave so much.
Why is that? The Indian students were connected to their vulnerability. Because they had so little, they were aware of their need of others, and that need connected them to the interdependent nature of web of their existence. Being kind to others is a survival tactic. In an interdependent world, we don't stand alone or fall alone.
I often talk about our interdependent, interconnected world to audiences, but I often wonder how many people are really connected to their sense of interdependence. One of the obstacles to connecting to that reality is often, but not necessarily, wealth and materialism. When you are enormously wealthy, like Romney, you don't really see your need for others. Instead others are something to leverage to attain your goals so that you can be top dog. The price of that world view is an inability to empathize and feel compassion. When you don't have a lot, it is easier to see how you need others and how they need you. They see themselves in others. As the word "Namaste" illustrates: I honor the light in you that is also in me.
Our society continues to reward narcissistic leaders who are easily corrupted by power because of the emptiness they feel and try to fill ineffectively through materialism. I think it's time to change that game and begin to embrace the global view of interdependence and the power of empathy to help a world in so much need of healing.
In the first presidential debate, President Obama and Mitt Romney disagreed sharply over who had the best way to rein in federal deficits. Romney relies on spending cuts and reshaping the tax code. The first would make it easier to reach fiscal balance and the second would spur growth that would fill the government coffers with higher tax revenues, he says. Obama favors what he calls a balanced approach. It uses a mix of spending cuts and a variety of tax and fee increases to curb the deficit . "I've ...>> More
Nearly 47 Million Americans -- about one in seven -- receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program.
While generally supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans the program does have its critics and, in large part, those criticisms have increased in recent months because of the growth of the number of beneficiaries and the increasing cost of the program during the last dozen years -- although that growth in participation and cost is largely a function of the weakness in the economy. As the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture just reported, SNAP has acted in this recession as it has in past recessions, "providing a vital safety net for low income households to help as people work their way to greater self sufficiency."
Over the past dozen years, the administrations of Presidents Bush and Obama and Congress have worked together to improve and modernize the administration, nutritional support, integrity and effectiveness of the program, and do those things necessary to maintain public support for it. SNAP grew in both the Bush and Obama administrations. In the former, it expanded because the unequal economic growth of the 1980s left millions of working families, especially families with children, with wages below the poverty line, and because President Bush, with bipartisan support in Congress, improved eligibility for documented immigrants, especially children, and for low income working families.
During the Obama years, SNAP has grown because the recession has driven millions into poverty, and because the president and Congress improved the eligibility for unemployed adults to get benefits. But as unemployment falls in the future (which all of us hope) and the economy strengthens, participation in the SNAP program will also come down. The program is counter-cyclical, growing when the economy is weak and falling when the economy strengthens and people get back to work.
The result is a fundamentally strong program with an unusually strong history of bipartisan support that is doing what it was designed to do: help people when they need help, and pull back in better economic times when they have jobs and family-supporting wages. In my judgment, SNAP is the foundation of our American safety net for the poor and lower income working families.
SNAP responds when the national economy or a state or area economy is in trouble by providing necessary food support for the hungry and reacts quickly and robustly to these economic problems, as seen most dramatically during the past four years. It reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low-income people desperately needed assistance to purchase food through their local grocery stores and other normal commercial channels. It provides benefits which are generally so urgently needed by families that they are spent quickly -- 97 percent of benefits are redeemed by the end of the month of issuance -- thereby bolstering local economies during tough economic times.
SNAP also goes to the neediest Americans -- the overwhelming number of benefits to households with incomes below the poverty line. It reaches vulnerable populations, like households with low-income working adults and senior citizens, the disabled and children who come from needy families. It relieves pressure on the overwhelmed food banks, food pantries and religious organizations which are very often on the front lines of feeding the hungry, and explain that they would simply be unable to meet the added demand from hungry Americans that would come from weakening SNAP. And finally it is supported by the public -- a recent survey by the Food Research and Action Center found that three out of four voters think that cutting SNAP benefits to hungry Americans is the wrong way to reduce federal spending.
Most of the bipartisan deficit reduction proposals which have been discussed during the past two years -- Simpson-Bowles, Domenici-Rivlin; the Gang of Six, and others, as well as the Budget Control Act -- protected this program from cuts. And Congress and the Administration continue to look for ways to sensibly reduce program costs and improve nutrition education, all without decreasing benefits for eligible individuals and families.
Congress has a long history of bipartisan support for the program, from the efforts of Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern during its infancy, to recent Farm Bill efforts led by Senators Debbie Stabenow, Pat Roberts and many others. But that historic bipartisanship is unfortunately under attack now, and it is sorely needed to continue to provide the funds to feed folks who need this help. Without this necessary bipartisan support, a weakened SNAP Program would be far weaker and less comprehensive, leading to far more economically distressed and hungry families. And millions would have to rely almost exclusively on the efforts of food banks and other private charities -- which are critically important and extraordinarily humane participants of the safety net, but not sufficient to deal alone with the problems.
As a former Secretary of Agriculture, I helped to administer both the farm and nutrition programs passed by the Congress. I was proud that American policy was always on the side of our farmers and food producers, as well as on the side of helping hungry people who needed that food produced by those farmers in their times of distress. We can be proud that the United States has the most extensive anti-hunger and nutrition feeding programs in the world, helping millions survive these very tough economic times. Not a bad legacy at all for the greatest country in the world.
Dan Glickman is the head of the Aspen Institute's Congressional Program. He is also Chairman of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger advocacy group based in Washington. Previously, he served as Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, where he administered the SNAP program.
The Romney negative, a statistic closely watched by campaign aides and pundits, has been consistently higher than his favorables. Those gaffes, policies, refusal to be transparant and those secret tapes are certainly contributing to those numbers.
Sixty-one percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll hold an unfavorable view of how Romney's handling his presidential campaign, up by 12 percentage points since mid-July. Far fewer, 35 percent, rate Romney's performance positively, according to Politico.
When I've talked to people who try put into words what bothers them about Romney, both Republicans and Democrats, one answer I've gotten is that he's like those corporate guys who can turn your world upside down.
To them, on a visceral level, Romney, with his forty-seven percent comment, reminds them of that boss who doesn't know who you are, what you've accomplished or your potential and doesn't care. He sees his bottom line, his favorites, cuts coming, and you're in the way.
You can go to that new boss -- who's not the same as the old boss -- and try to impress him, but you don't exist for him, which is what he wants of you, to be nonexistent. You become an irritant if you show your worth. To a boss like that, an irritant or worse, a statistic, is something to be managed out. If you question him, you're someone to be fired for the audacity to challenge that boss's actions that are impacting your life.
"We all want to thank John or Jane Doe for his/her good work these past eighteen years," he tells your peers as he's firing you, "and wish him/her the best for the future."
All the while, he's sneaked in a bad review he's never shown you to deny you unemployment insurance to save that one more nickel for his green fees at the country club.
Romney may be a very different person under his discomfiting shell. His problem is that he doesn't show it. The personality he projects, the damning words caught on tape and those Ayn Rand policies come across as disconnected and entitled. Since we're entitled to a president who works for us, rather than the other way around, it's not a image that will gain a positive with those who count on our representative government to actually represent us.
The first debate between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren was riddled with racial undertones and cheap shots from Brown on Warren's heritage among other things. The following week, a video of Brown's staffers was released showing them making tomahawk gestures and yelping like Injuns from an old episode of F-Troop with the Hekawis. Brown isn't the only member of the GOP to stoop to racially charged innuendos however. Apparently, Romney campaign staffers are having a good ole time having their friends and family spread a video of "Obama Phone" on social media. This is another bogus swipe that reeks of desperation and can be easily refuted in less than ten minutes with a Google search.
The second Brown Warren debate on Monday was no different. Brown, rather than answering questions about relevant issues, is apparently still more interested in making stuff up, getting booed by the crowd, and making snotty condescending remarks, such as "I'm not in your classroom," paraphrasing a line he'd used on Martha Coakley two years ago. Not surprisingly, Brown came away from the debate proving that he feels strongly both ways on many issues.
After the commercial break, Brown stepped out of his pickup up truck, wearing his still stiff-off-the-rack Carhartt barn coat, and into a steaming pile of dung when moderator David Gregory asked him to name his ideal Supreme Court Judge. "Scalia", he answered, sparking a wave of boos from the audience. Scalia is widely considered among the top two most conservative justices on the bench - the same judge who said he was "adamantly opposed" to Roe v. Wade, opposes equal protection for women, and even opposes the right to contraception -so much for Brown being a big fan of women's rights. He then rattled off Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Sotomayor, in much the same way he rhythmically rattles off every conceivable form of energy when the conversation turns to oil - much like grade school children rehearsing their multiplication tables.
Brown also managed to squeeze in a slightly grandiose comment that "[he's] the only one in this race fighting for unions. Why then, did Harold Schaitberger, the president of the International Association of Firefighters announce that both the local and national firefighters unions were endorsing Warren?
We don't give out our endorsements easily," Schaitberg said. "And we don't need her opponent, who may look good in his jacket and his blue jeans and his truck, and who wants to be a regular Joe, but who votes against working-class people.
One issue that didn't come up during the debate, but has seen considerable traffic on the internet and the blogs, is Scott Brown's ties to the mortgage industry and what role he may have played in the mortgage meltdown.
During an interview, Scott Brown made the following comment about his past business:
I am a real estate attorney. I have a very small practice," Sen. Brown, (R-Mass.) told reporters Thursday afternoon. "The last seven or eight, nine years, it was run out of my home, and the clients that I represent are small banks, cooperative banks and a couple mortgage companies, focusing as one of their attorneys on real estate. I go to people's houses, I do real estate closings, and as a title agent: Fidelity National and First American. So those banks are Wrentham Cooperative Bank, Hyde Park Cooperative Bank, Middlesex Savings Bank, and a couple of smaller mortgage companies -- some of them are no longer in business.
What's particularly interesting about that statement is that Fidelity National is the former parent of LPS, which owned DocX, the document forgery firm featured on 60 Minutes and home of the Robosigning scandal. LPS is under a consent order with the Federal Reserve Board for its servicing activities, and DocX was criminally indicted by the state of Missouri. Brown was doing work for Fidelity National when it still owned LPS.
So if Brown knew what Fidelity National was up to and how it could potentially adversely affect homeowners, did he have an ethical responsibility to notify his clients? And does that speak equally to his character in the same way he relentlessly questions Warren?
Adam Levitin, Professor of Law at Georgetown Law first asked the question last week:
It's not clear exactly what Brown was doing for these clients--title work sounds innocent and boring enough, and Brown certainly isn't responsible for all of his clients' misdeeds. But at the very least, Brown's association raises a host of questions. Who were those "mortgage companies" that he worked for? It's nice that Brown named a bunch of local banks, but I wonder what lies under the "mortgage company" label? What did Scott Brown understand about the mortgage market he was facilitating? Did he recognize that there was a bubble? (He was a town property assessor at one point, so one would think he'd notice this sort of thing.) If not, what does that say? And if so, what does that say? How many predatory loans did Scott Brown facilitate? How many of the loans where he handled the closing resulted in foreclosure? What would he say to those families that lost their homes to predatory loans?
Brown's response to questions about this could very well be, "I was just doing paperwork for people," which would shoot holes in all his talk about being a real lawyer in real court rooms. As Levitin points out in the same post, "That's not good enough. Either Brown was so inept that he didn't see that the loans he was closing were becoming untenable or Brown saw the problem and didn't do anything."
Several blogs picked up on Levetin's post: David Dayen from Firedog Lake, Joan McCarter of Daily Kos, Mike Lux of HuffPo, and even Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism who claims to avoid politics couldn't resist re-posting the majority of Levitin's piece.
The simple question is: If Scott Brown is going to question Elizabeth Warren's character based on whether or not she checked a box on a job application 20 years ago, doesn't it stand to reason that his character be questioned for helping mortgage companies railroad homeowners into toxic and exploding mortgages?
A conundrum is faced by many cannabis users when they think about who to vote for President this November. They are very disappointed in President Obama and his actions toward medical marijuana in states where it is legal, which are in direct contradiction to his words on the subject as a presidential candidate.
But the vast majority of the people I'm describing would rather cut off their own hand than vote for Mitt Romney. So how can those voters send a message to President Obama that they are unhappy without risking a Romney presidency?
The obvious answer is Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. The more votes he gets the more President Obama will know a large section of voters is unhappy with him. This will give him something to work on for his presidential legacy. But many fear a vote for Gary Johnson will be a vote taken from President Obama, something the Romney campaign would love. I'm sure at this point they'll take the White House any way they can get it.
In swing states where Obama and Romney are close in the polls, this scenario could come to pass (although Johnson will take many votes from Romney as well). But let's assume the majority of votes that Gary Johnson gets would have gone to President Obama. If you live in a swing state like Colorado or Ohio or Florida, Gary Johnson's votes could be enough to take that state and give it to Romney. So if you do live in a state where polls are close and you want Obama to win, it's best for you to vote Obama.
But there are many states where the polls are not close. Like California for example. Obama is not going to lose California and a recent poll shows he has opened up a 24 point lead over Romney in the Golden State. Voters in CA can safely send Obama a message by voting for Gary Johnson while not risking Romney winning the state.
The same goes for any state where Obama has a big lead, or where Romney has a big lead for that matter. In these states a vote for Johnson will increase his total but will not risk switching a state to a Democrat or Republican.
Many of the latest state polls can be found here. In recent polls we see Obama up 19 percent in Maryland and Romney up 21 percent in Arkansas. These are states where Johnson votes can have a huge impact without causing a "President Romney." Obama is up 17 points in Washington, another medical marijuana state that has been hit hard by the federal medical marijuana crackdown (like California) and where some voters might want to send the president a message about his actions.
A vote for Gary Johnson could have another large impact as well, especially for the future of the political process in this country. If Governor Johnson can get 5 percent of the popular vote, he will qualify the Libertarian Party for $90 million in federal matching funds in 2016. This will give the LP "major party" status and since marijuana legalization is part of the LP platform, this is a good thing. It can also go a long way in breaking the hold the GOP and Dems have on the political process in this country.
So, what state do you live in? Is it a state that is already decided in the presidential race? If so, take a hard look at Gary Johnson and see if voting for him can make an impact.
- Joe Klare
- are you registered to vote? If not, get to it!
PHILADELPHIA -- When Betty Ann Workman was a little girl growing up in Philadelphia’s Tioga neighborhood, Election Day was like a family holiday.
“My grandmother would pick me up from school and say, 'Come on darling, put your galoshes on and let's go vote,'” Workman, 80, recalled Tuesday afternoon. “She never missed an election, not a midterm, a primary, not for dog catcher.”
Workman said her grandmother, raised along the Rappahannock River in western Virginia, had suffered the routine indignities and struggles often heaped upon black folks of her era. But she always managed to press on, Workman said.
“She came up during the meanest of circumstances,” Workman said. “But she wouldn’t have missed voting for anything in the world.”
These days, Workman has been summoning her grandmother’s perseverance and commitment to civic involvement as a controversial new voting law in Pennsylvania has threatened to keep many voters, particularly the poor, elderly and the infirmed, from the polls.
The law, which a judge on Tuesday halted from taking effect until after the November election, may likely be in place by 2013, requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification to cast a ballot. But many seniors in Pennsylvania and the 10 other states that have recently passed photo ID laws have neither the required identification nor the supporting documents, including a birth certificate.
“A lot of these folks never had their birth certificates. They moved up here from South Carolina, Georgia, they were brought into the world by midwife,” Workman said. “A lot of the time the midwife delivered them, washed their hands and went on their way.”
Others are too frail to stand in long lines at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation locations in Philadelphia, or don’t have a way to get there in the first place. For others, there are financial issues or confusion about what is now required to vote, something many have been doing much of their adult lives.
“Too often, people don't realize that getting a photo ID is a hardship, especially for seniors and others with fixed or low incomes,” said Candace Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, a vocal opponent of the laws. “If you don't drive and you live outside a major city, it's very difficult to even get to a place to obtain this ID.”
According to an analysis by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia's elderly are more deeply affected by the law than other age groups, particularly those over 80.
Of the 44,861 active Philadelphia voters aged 80 or older more, one in four does not have the required form of ID to vote. That’s a total of 12,313, according to the Inquirer.
The new law was challenged and wound up in the state Supreme Court, which last month kicked the law back to a lower court for reconsideration. A Commonwealth Court judge on Tuesday halted the law, saying there wasn’t enough time before the November elections to make sure no voter would be disenfranchised.
“It’s a modest victory,” said Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group that has spearheaded a coalition of voting rights organizations against the law.
The state may appeal the judge’s ruling. And if the law survives, voters will eventually face the requirement to produce photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
A few hours after the ruling, Workman sat at her kitchen table at her home in the East Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, where she's lived for more than 47 years, picking through the literature she’d been passing out to seniors.
“BE PREPARED” one placard read. Workman read part of another handout that offered a pledge: “Now is the time to reach out to your family friends and neighbors to help get their voter IDs … Please sign up to help three citizens get their voter IDs -– whether it’s your grandmother, a neighbor with disabilities …"
Earlier, Workman said she had been sitting at the same table when her adult daughter, Joy, came bounding down the steps with news of the court ruling.
“She just came running down with a big smile spread across her face,” Workman said. Her daughter has multiple sclerosis, making bounding down the steps a rarity.
It was a moment 10 weeks in the making.
“I woke up one night saying, 'Oh, holy cow. What would my grandmother, what would Nana say about this business about not being able to vote?'” Workman said. “What would she do now, because I know she never had a birth certificate?”
The next day, Workman began organizing people to help educate seniors about the new law and how to get identification. The group canvassed the area and nearby nursing homes and senior facilities. They met with church groups and politicians and wrangled volunteers to drive people to PennDOT centers -- no small task considering there are none on Workman’s side of town.
“We knew if we didn’t do something really quick and thorough many of these seniors were going to be left out of the process,” Workman said.
More than 758,000 registered voters, a huge number likely elderly, still lack the required identification, the state estimated recently.
“Its been a struggle for all of us, I guess me particularly because I’m so emotionally tied to the work that we’re doing,” Workman said.
Roberta Perry, 76, has been one of Workman’s loyal comrades in recent weeks. “I’m concerned about this law,” Perry said on Monday afternoon at the Germantown office of the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, where she volunteers a few days a week. “I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I don’t want them to be robbed of their vote.”
“But the senior citizens,” Perry said, “many of them are elderly and fragile and can’t get around easily or gave up their driver’s licenses or can’t wait in long lines.”
Back at Workman’s kitchen table over a cup of coffee, she recalled a life of helping others.
“It’s sort of in my blood,” said Workman, who spent nearly a half-century as an educator.
At the start of World War II, her mother was summoned to Washington, to work for the Office of Civilian Defense, making sure people knew what to do if bombs fell or there was a food shortage. Politicians were frequent visitors to their home, she said, and her parents were players in Washington’s black political establishment.
In the 1960s, on the eve of the March on Washington, Workman recalled her late husband, a schoolteacher, lecturing their two children on the meaning of the march.
The next day the family stayed glued to the television, and her young children shouted and pointed with glee as the mass of humanity poured across the screen. “Is that daddy? Is that daddy?” she remembered her then 2-year-old asking.
So it’s with particular anger that she sees these voter ID laws, which she described as a shame to our democracy.
“I’m at once sad because people have to be put through all these hoops to do what is their right, its not a privilege, it hasn’t been a privilege for a very long time, “ Workman said. “I’m very sad that our elders have to be concerned not with when they can get to church, or their next meal or their aches and pains -- but a civil right about voting.
I’ve watched their faces and I’ve seen them worry,” she said, recalling a recent group of “little old ladies” decked out in dresses and hats peppering her with questions and concerns. And a 92-year-old woman who said she didn’t have the $8 it costs to get back and forth from the PennDOT office or the 80-something man who had trouble understanding the ID application, but was dead-set on voting in November.
“Today’s ruling is a well-deserved respite in terms of this year’s election,” Workman said. “We still have to worry about those older people who may be on the verge of dementia, but know enough about their world to know one thing -- that they want to vote.”
Workman took a long pause.
“It’s not over,” she said. “I’m going on with the fight. At 80, I guess I don’t know how much longer I have. But it’s not over yet.”
This open thread is to discuss all of the day's polls -- what they tell us about the election, their methodological strengths and weaknesses, notable findings others have missed or whatever else you want to talk about. Each day's open thread will appear in the morning and remain open for 24 hours. We also encourage you to use the "favorite" button to identify the most interesting or insightful comments.
Weekend featured comment
"Too many "Romney's finished" comments and stories. It's highly unlikely that Obama maintains a 4-5 point national lead (which is indicitive of an electoral blowout) all the way to election day. The Romney national number that we're seeing now (still 44-45% after having run an ineffective, error-ridden campaign to this point) represents his true floor - the hard core anti-Obama vote. And that floor is pretty high. Romney now has to go about the business of reversing the damage from the "47%" tape. It will be very interesting to hear how he addresses it on wednesday." - ashenthorn
What's bothering you? And what's causing the bother?
Judging by polls (and what else do we have to go by?), a lot of things are bothering us about our politics, our government, the direction of our country, the choices we have in the coming election, the quality of the discourse, the way the campaign is conducted.
As the calendar creeps closer toward the "fiscal cliff" (also known as "taxmageddon"), let's throw out a couple of bothersome examples: Gridlock, brinksmanship, hyper-partisanship, having to vote for the lesser of two evils.
Why can't they get along or compromise or put the national interest ahead of their political squabbling?
If you are a Republican, you may also have been majorly bothered by the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the major elements of the "Obamacare" law. If you are a Democrat, you may be upset about how close the (conservative-dominated) Supreme Court came to striking down that landmark law, or you may still be upset about a different, slightly older, 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, in the Citizens United case, that created the current superPAC-ification of our already out-of-control campaign finance system. In the term that just ended, the justices declined to change their minds about that one.
If you are a Floridian or Ohioan or resident of any of the eight to 10 designated swing states (and assuming you don't own a TV or radio station), you may be bothered by the wholesale purchase of air time in your community for the endless repetition of scary-voiced half-truths designed to make you want vote against Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in November, either of whom (depending on the ad) is a threat to your life, liberty or happiness, or least your Medicare, and everything that's good and decent about America. If you are a resident of Minnesota or any one of 40 or so other states that have been designated as non-battlegrounds, you may feel slightly neglected, taken for granted and maybe irrelevant in the race for president.
Well, we could go on, but let's stop for now with those examples. What is causing these botherances?
We tend to attribute them to what we take to be the proximate cause, namely the most recent actions by the current actors. Perfectly reasonable.
And -- because of the worshipful attitude Americans bring to the founders of the Republic and the Framers of the U.S. Constitution -- we are unlikely to think about the degree to which the botherances are rooted in the rules and the system that the Framers gave us in 1787.
But, at the risk of committing sacrilege, to the extent that they are about the way our government is functioning or malfunctioning, our botherances are rooted in the system, as written by the Framers, as amended, as revised by various Supreme Court interpretations and as evolved by other slightly mysterious means.
A lot of aspects of the Constitutional system are invisible to us because we are so used to them. Since this is a presidential election year, the Electoral College system is a good example, and as this series progresses the sources and history of that strange system will be under the microscope. But I can tell you this for starters: A great many new democracies have created systems of government since 1787, and they have had the benefit of the U.S. example. They haven't adopted anything like the Electoral College system. In fact, none of the newer democracies have embraced the U.S. Constitution as the model they wanted to follow.
And many things that most Americans think are in the Constitution are not -- at least not explicitly. For example, read Article III, establishing the Judicial Branch. Not a syllable of it grants the Supreme Court the power to overrule the more democratic legislative and executive branches on what laws they can pass or how to administer them. This is at least an awkward omission, considering how fundamental to our understanding of the balance of power this authority is. And this should be especially awkward to those conservatives who take the position that the federal government has no powers other than those explicitly enumerated in the Constitution.
For today, let's focus on the "gridlock," which may rank at the top of the list of currently fashionable complaints.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell probably regrets having said in 2010 that his top priority is to make Barack Obama a one-term president because his statement has become the symbol for the idea the Republicans are willing to sabotage the economy if necessary to set them up to win the 2012 election. But he's stuck with it. And it offers -- at least to liberal/Democratic ears -- a simple explanation for gridlock. We have gridlock because the Republicans won't compromise because they want Obama to look bad so they can win the next election.
For the moment, I'm not so interested in how true and/or fair that summary is (although much deeper poly-sci thinkers than myself subscribe to it). I want to raise a more fundamental question.
It's the most natural thing in the world for Mitch McConnell to want his party's candidate to win the next election, and to do what he can to bring that about. Don't fault him for that. Winning elections is, in a sense, why political parties exist. But McConnell is only the minority leader of the U.S. Senate. How can he, in a democratic system, bring about gridlock?
Well, the problem is that our system is built for gridlock. It creates more choke points along the path from bill to law, and empowers more groups to stop the action, than just about any other in the world.
So start with the fact that McConnell's party holds a majority in the House, and no legislation can be enacted without the support of the House. It used to be fairly common in U.S. politics for one party to hold the presidency and control both houses of Congress. Now it is relatively rare (although Obama and the Democrats had that situation in 2009-10).
If a party holds just one of those three towers of power, it's fairly easy for that party -- if they choose that strategy -- to see to it that nothing much happens.
There are many democracies around the world. Some of them have two houses of the legislature, like ours. In some of those, one of the houses is relatively weak (the House of Lords in Britain and the Senate in Canada leap to mind).
But, if you want to create the maximum number of choke points, you should have two houses and require every bill to have majority support in each house.
And, in our system, even legislation that has the support of majorities of both houses plus the White House cannot become law if 41 of the 100 senators use the filibuster to block it (unless it is one of the relatively few bills that are allowed to circumvent the filibuster through the hilariously misnamed loophole called "reconciliation").
The U.S. filibuster tradition, which deserves a whole separate story of its own, is unique. University of Minnesota political scientist David Samuels, who studies comparative democratic systems around the world, says he doesn't know of anything much like it.
Then -- as the Supreme Court case on the Obamacare law reminded us -- even a bill that has run the gauntlet of passage by both houses, overcoming or circumventing (in this case it was some of both) a filibuster in the Senate and dodging the potential for a veto by the president, can still be defeated by the least democratic branch, the Supreme Court.
Yes, I know. The Supreme Court, by a one-vote margin, did not strike down the law, although it did substantially change the law in a way that the Congressional Budget Office projects will result in about three million Americans being without health insurance who would probably have been covered if the Supreme Court had let the law stand in its entirety.
The experts on comparative democratic systems around the world who have been advising me on this series generally agree that the U.S. system grants more power for the courts to overrule the elected branches -- and that the U.S. Supreme Court does so more often -- than anywhere else.
Few things, if any, are more widely and secularly worshipped by Americans than our Constitution, which is the symbol, nay the apotheosis, of our system of government, which our speechifiers routinely declare to be the greatest such system ever developed by humans.
And yet, if you look around the world where many democratic systems of government now exist, ours erects more barriers to the enactment of a law than any other.
Yes, the gridlock that is bothering you is the immediate result of some fairly recent and important changes in how our political parties play the game. For most of recent history, the parties have been broad, overlapping coalitions. In the days when there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, it made sense that there would be bipartisan coalitions for and against many things.
Now the two parties are ideologically further apart, more ideologically coherent, more disciplined, more willing to vote as a bloc, and perhaps they now strike the balance in a different place between what's best for the country and what's best for their party's chances in the next election.
But they are still playing the game within the rules.
And the rules are established in (or near, or at least under) the Constitution. If we want to understand the source of what's bothering us, we have to be willing to trace the bother to its source. In many cases, that source lies within the Constitution or, in some cases, to aspects of the system that most Americans probably think are clearly rooted in the Constitution
Well, this little screed -- Or do I mean tone poem? You tell me -- is the introductory installment in an ongoing series that will bravely seek to explore the connection between the news and the olds, between what's bothering us now and the system in which the botherances are, at least in many cases, rooted.
The world has a new favorite sport, and it's not soccer or one of the Olympic games. It's the ancient game of kicking the can down the road, and it's gaining popularity all over the globe.
We see it in economies that run up debts that the future will have to pay. And most tragically, we see it in the ongoing refusal to deal with massive social and environmental problems that are ticking away like a planetary time bomb.
The most heinous crime of the generation of adults currently running the world isn't the trashing of our collective life support systems and the economies on which they depend, but the immoral practice of repeatedly kicking the can down the road so that it will be future generations who have to clean up the messes and pay back the debts.
We see this "kicking the can" behavior in every area of modern life. We don't want to solve any problems NOW.
Let's not deal with the climate disruption and instability which is already causing ever-greater destruction in many locations around the world. Let's not face the environmental and financial debts that will take years and years to repay -- if they can be repaid at all. Let's not address the spending down or contamination of the legacy we inherited -- soil, seeds, food systems, fossil fuel resources, water systems, wild nature, our fellow animal species, the oceans -- and certainly let's not give much thought or money to its healing, regeneration or repair.
And certainly let's not adequately finance our children's education systems to give today's young people the knowledge they will need to have a fighting chance of fixing the messes we leave them.
And speaking of children, we certainly don't want to discuss the massive overpopulation that in one lifetime has grown way beyond the planet's support capacity, threatening our children and grandchildren with living through the kind of pandemics, massive die-offs and degradation of human life we haven't seen since the Black Death in the 14th century.
No, we certainly don't want to think about any of this. What a downer!
Instead, let's party on til the music stops, celebrating and emulating the 1 percent who can grab a huge percentage of the world's goods while they last.
And while all of this occurs, our leaders, would-be leaders and most of the adult citizens on our planet keep kicking the can down the road, hoping that all of the problems we've created won't really hit the fan while we're alive or will magically be solved by some new technology before we have to endure any consequences of our actions -- or inaction.
Is this any way to run a planet?
But what the heck. Let the kids look out for themselves.
One of the iron laws of Middle East politics for the last half-century has been that extremists go all the way and moderates tend to just go away. That is what made the march in Benghazi, Libya, so unusual last Friday. This time, the moderates did not just go away. They got together and stormed the headquarters of the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, whose members are suspected of carrying out the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Ask most Americans about the big-spending government policies of the last few years, and they will tell you the programs have failed. In a February 2012 poll from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 66 percent of Americans said the federal government is having a negative impact on the way things are going in this country (versus 22 percent who say the impact is positive). A majority disapproves of the president’s 2009 stimulus, and according to a 2010 CNN poll, about three-quarters of Americans believe the money was mostly wasted.Of course, the measure of economic success is not...