Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This & That!

ROMNEY - Tired of insulting the preparedness of the London Olympic Organizing Committee; the Mitt Romney “International Insult Tour” headed for the Holy Land.  While his campaign advisors were telling the Israel press that the candidate would back whatever actions Israel might take against Iran; Romney was insulting the Palestinians.  Romney addressed the stark economic differences between a modernized Israel and the much poorer Palestinians noting that “culture makes all the difference.”  He managed to botch the GDP numbers on both sides and ignore the fact that the World Bank and the International Monetary fund have repeatedly attributed Palestine’s poor economy to the stifling effect of Israel’s occupation and restriction on Palestinian trade.
As you might expect, Palestinian leaders were outraged.  “The statement reflects a clear racist spirit” said Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani.
Romney is in over his head.  He thinks a Cliff Notes briefing on the Middle East is all that is needed to become an authority on this most complicated of regions.  His performance once again proves that he is not ready for international prime time.
And so the gaffs continue.  Rahm Emanuel said it best:  “I don’t know how he’ll handle the head of state job.  He’s made a mess of being a tourist.”
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE – Lost in all the press coverage of the Queen parachuting into the Olympic Stadium was the prominent part National Health Service played in the Opening Ceremonies.  The British version of national health care is beloved by the British people…so much so that when asked what they thought were Great Britain’s two main contributions to the global community their emphatic response was children’s literature and National Health Service.  So overwhelming was the response that Opening Ceremony organizers felt it appropriate to include both prominently in their depiction of British history. How ironic it is to watch Great Britain, our closest and most trusted ally, celebrate national health insurance while we demonize the concept as socialism.          


Monday, July 30, 2012

Callin' In The Big Dawg

If you had any doubts about how close this presidential race really is…the Obama Campaign just acknowledged that it will go down to the wire.
We now know that the Obama Campaign has asked Bill Clinton to give a major prime time address at the Democratic Convention.  Sources are saying that it will be Clinton who formerly places the President’s name in nomination for a second term.  That ain’t nothin’ given the uneasy truce between these two political heavyweights
It wasn’t all that long ago that the rift between Clinton and the White House was Grand Canyon like in size and scope.  Then candidate Obama was more than a little rough on Hillary Clinton during the primaries; putting out a host of scathing ads and press releases.  We can still hear Hillary chastising Obama:  “Shame on you, Barak Obama.”
The former president was incensed. You might even recall some racial comments flying back and forth between Bill and Barak during the South Carolina primary.   And even though Obama asked Hillary to serve as his chief diplomat, it was months before he reached out to Bill; a point that irked the former president.  Clinton’s personality is enormous at times overshadowing even the president.  And Clinton’s tendency to go “off message” has caused White House staffers to pop a few Tums.
But the former president is wildly popular among Democrats and swing voters.  He has the ability to engage black, Hispanic and college students; all of whom are essential to the president’s re-election prospects.  Expecting little reprieve from the unemployment and economic growth numbers the Obama Campaign has decided to pull out all the stops.
So Bill Clinton will be handed the spotlight…and the White House will break out the Pepto.     

Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney In Lockstep With "W" On Fixing The Economy

You have no doubt heard about the flap over comments Mitt Romney made about the London Olympics during a recent NBC NEWS interview with Brian Williams. If you are unaware of Romney’s international incident scroll down to the blog posting immediately following this one.
The Brits are certainly justified in their anger over Romney’s comments.  But Romney made some other statements in this interview that should deeply concern Americans.
Williams asked Romney to explain to Americans how his economic policies differed from those of George W. Bush.  Romney responded by listing the five major components of his economic agenda:
 “One,take advantage of our economic resources, particularly natural gas, but also coal, oil and renewables…Number two, trade, I want to dramatically increase trade and particularly with Latin America…Number three, take action to get America on track to have a balanced budget…Number four, we’ve got to show better training and education opportunities for our current workers and for coming workers…And then finally what I call restoring our economic freedom.  That means keeping our taxes as low as possible, have regulations modern and up to date, get health care costs down.  These things will restore our economic freedom.  So my policies are very different than anything you have seen in the past.”
Not really!
In fact these are the same failed policies that George W. Bush implemented during his two terms as President; the same policies that drove us into the greatest recession since the 1930’s.
Want proof!  Take a look at the country’s economic growth over the last four decades.  The country’s worst period of economic growth occurred during Bush 43’s administration BEFORE the melt down in 2008.  Now Romney wants to resurrect those same failed policies.  This makes sense given that his economic team is composed of the same gaggle that advised “W.”
You may hate Obama’s Affordable Care Act, despise his bailouts of the auto and financial industries and see his stimulus program and Jobs Act as the second coming of Lenin; but at least this President is trying to correct today’s economic problems with a view toward the future rather than a return to a failed past.
The President understands that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.  Mr. Romney has yet to learn that lesson.     

The "Romneybot" At His Best

We were concerned that this might happen.  Just the other day we wrote warning him to be careful…that we didn’t need any more of his gaffs.
We thought he might stumble in Israel; lobby for more Palestinian control over Jerusalem.  We worried that he might go to Poland and marginalize the importance of worker’s “Solidarity.”
Never in our wildest dreams did we think that Mitt Romney would cause an international incident by pissing off the Brits.
Mitt Romney embarked on an overseas tour specifically designed to makes him appear more “presidential” on the international stage.  But barely 24 hours into the trip had he managed to call into question the competence of England’s Olympic Organizing Committee, reveal a secret meeting with the head of off limits MI6, forget the name of the leader of the Labour Party and brush off his own wife’s participation in the Olympic Games.
It all started off innocently enough with a scheduled interview with NBC’s Brien Williams.  At one point during the interview Williams calling on Romney’s experience as head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, asked the candidate for his impressions of the London Games…a big fat softball question if there ever was.  Most politicians would have responded something like this: “The venues look great!  The British people have been wonderful.  They have welcomed us with open arms.  Everything is FANTASTIC!  I’m sure the British people will put on a wonderful Olympics.”  Easy!
Not for the presumptive Republican nominee.  Romney fielded the question like a Saint Bernard chasing a beach ball.  Instead of complimenting his hosts he got all up in the weeds about their difficulties.  He said it was too early to tell if the games would be successful.  He brought up the lack of security personnel and the immigration and customs problems that had made the news and embarrassed the Brits. But, he condescendingly noted, once the focus switches to the athletes these difficulties will be forgotten.
The Brits were incensed.  The tabloids had a field day; lampooning Romney’s rudeness with banner headlines. London Mayor Boris Johnson used Romney as a punch line as he addressed thousands at a rally in Hyde Park. Prime Minister Cameron even fired a shot.  He said the London organizing committee was preparing to stage an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, biggest most bustling cities in the world; a task far more difficult than the one faced by Romney’s Salt Lake City  Committee who were staging their  games “in the middle of nowhere.”
Romney tried to walk back his comments during a series of public “pressers” staged throughout the day.  But he only kept digging the hole even deeper. 
Romney met with British Labour Leader Ed Miliband…and then stumbled trying to remember his name eventually referring to Miliband as “the Leader.”
Later, while thanking those who were gracious enough to meet with him, Romney let slip that he had secretly met with the leader of MI6…the British equivalent of the CIA.  The problem here is that the MI6 is never discussed openly in Britain.  The Brits didn’t even acknowledge that MI6 existed until the mid-1990s.  But here was Romney thanking them for their time.   
Then there was the strange way he handled an inquiry about his wife Ann’s participation in the Olympics. 
Ann owns a horse that is competing in the dressage competition.  Romney was very quick to point out that this was all Ann’s deal.  He didn’t know anything about the competition…didn’t know the name of the trainer…didn’t know when her horse would be competing…and had no plans to watch the competition.  Instead of expressing pride and happiness for his wife he seemed eager to distance himself from a sport frequently associated with the very rich.
The pro-Romney camp trotted out Romney surrogates to tamp down the damage.  Governors Jindal of Louisiana and McDonald of Virginia, both on Romney’s VP short list, said that all the kerfuffle was much ado about nothing.  “The American people don’t care about this…they don’t care what the Brits think.” 
But a host of Republicans disagreed shaking their heads over the candidate’s missteps. Even noted conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said that he had “run out of adjectives” to describe how badly Romney had performed.
In spite of his supporters protestations to the contrary; this trip is an important for Romney.  It is an opportunity to give the world a glimpse into what a Romney presidency might look like.  Thus far he has demonstrated his inherent ability to be rude, forgetful and dismissive of his wife’s accomplishments.
Mitt Romney may be a wiz at crunching numbers and making money.  But he has shown once again how disconnected he can be as a human being. 
This was the easy part…now on to Israel and Poland.
Get your popcorn ready; it’s gonna’ be a show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romney's Missed Opportunity

We took the time to read Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  We had hoped that the former governor would use the opportunity to lay out his vision on America’s future on the world stage.  Unfortunately all we got was a lot of generalities and jingoistic bluster.
Mitt Romney had the opportunity to define his foreign policy beliefs and differentiate himself from an administration that he believes has weakened the nation and jeopardized its national security.  He had an opportunity to legitimize his candidacy by acknowledging the accomplishments of the current administration; like the elimination of bin Laden and the removal of Gadhaffi.  He failed on all counts.
Romney chose to follow the same path that he has followed throughout the campaign…the path of obfuscation and hypocrisy.  Romney doesn’t deal in specifics.  He offers vague generalities, partisan talking points and platitudes.  He won’t talk about the past...and he won’t tell us specifically what he plans for the future.  His message is simple:  “The president has failed…vote for me.”
That just isn’t enough.     

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This & That!

SYRIA – The Neo-cons have been quite vocal in criticizing what they believe is a lack of leadership by the Obama administration in stopping the violence in Syria.  Led by Senator John McCain, they have lampooned the president for “doing nothing” and have called upon him to “exert America’s influence in the region” and “demonstrate America’s unparalleled leadership in world affairs.”  That’s Neo-con for “blow stuff up.”
We’ll, it turns out that the president has been doing something.  We have known that the administration through Secretary of State Clinton has worked tirelessly on building an international coalition to pressure Assad to stop the violence and relinquish power.  We now know that the administration, through CIA operatives on the ground, has been working to: identify and organize the rebel leadership, uncover Assad’s alleged stock piles of chemical weapons and stop the shipment of arms flowing from to Assad from Iran.
This is a president whose record shows that he is anything but timid when it comes to protecting America’s interests.  From organizing an international coalition to oust Gadhaffi, to the raid that killed bin laden to the drone strikes which have decimated al Qaeda’s leadership, this president has worked quietly and effectively behind the scenes to do the country’s business.  The president recognizes that America’s influence in the region is not now nor will it ever be what it once was.  Yet he has been effective in protecting the country from attack and crippling our enemies without putting boots on the ground. 
The President is every bit as strong on America’s defense as the most “Neo” of the Neo-cons.  Fortunately for us he spends his time getting the job done rather than making hawkish political speeches.
MITT ROMNEY - will travel abroad in the next few days.  He will visit Israel, Poland and England where he will attend the Olympics.  During this trip he is expected to deliver two speeches in which he will outline his views on foreign policy. 
So far Romney has limited his comments on foreign policy to criticizing the president’s approach without providing any specific alternatives. What little that he has shared about this world view mirrors the Bush/Chaney policies that are loathed by all but the far, far right of the Republican Party.
Romney is entering the region at one of the most combustible times in history.  The financial crisis in Europe, the events of the Arab Spring, a new power structure in Egypt, civil war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and our uneasy alliance with Pakistan all make for a tinderbox waiting to explode.  Romney’s effort to express his world views could provide the match.
Romney needs to be careful here.  We don’t need any more of his gaffs.
PENN STATE – The NCAA has released their much anticipated sanctions against Penn State University for its part in the Sandusky child abuse incident.  A $60 million dollar fine, the loss of 20 scholarships per year for four years, no bowl participation for four years, implementation of a host of internal compliance regulations, forfeiture of all wins from 1998-2010 and five years probation, will effectively kill the football program for the next decade.  So the question is…did the NCAA get it right?  Are the sanctions too harsh…too lenient?  It’s difficult to say.  After all what price can one place on the abuse of even one child not to mention the abuse numerous children over the span of a decade?
The NCAA has sent a message that is sure to reverberate in universities throughout the country: the university presidents and chancellors are in charge…the football gods best take heed.           

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Repealing "Obamacare" Not Enough

The president’s Affordable Health Care Act continues to be one of the most contentious pieces of legislation ever passed into law.   Mitt Romney has vowed to make repealing the law one of his top priorities as president.  You won’t find a Republican congressional candidate that doesn’t have “Repeal Obamacare” near the top of his “To Do” list. 
The chief complaint among conservatives centers on the section of the law which requires that all Americans purchase health care insurance or face a fine.  They consider this aspect of the law to be an attack on capitalism: “an attempt to remake our health care system into a European socialist system…much like the French.” Conservatives were so adamant that the “mandate” was unconstitutional they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court disagreed, and in a 5-4 decision found that the law was indeed constitutional.  The “mandate” goes into effect in 2014.   Undaunted, conservatives have vowed to repeal the law and “return the country to the best health care system in the world.”
Contrary to conservative beliefs; the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance is not an attempt to turn health care into a socialist distribution system.  In fact the purpose is to correct the biggest drain on our health care resources and one of the primary factors in the skyrocketing costs of our health care system. 
Today there are 50 million Americans uninsured. 30 million  of them can afford to purchase health care insurance but choose not to; preferring to obtain the free health care provided by local hospital emergency rooms.  The cost of this treatment is absorbed by the hospitals and then passed along to the rest of us in increased charges.  These increased charges are then reflected in skyrocketing health insurance premiums.  The purpose of the mandate is to force people who can afford insurance to buy it and to provide assistance to those who cannot.
If you don’t agree with anything else in this piece we hope that you will buy into this: 
In our current free market system it is impossible to reduce health care costs and premiums if you continue to allow 30,000,000 individuals to access health care for free.  Somebody has to pay for their treatment.  Emergency room services are the most expensive in our current health care system.  When Individuals use the emergency room for free treatment for minor aches, pains and injuries it’s like undergoing brain surgery to cure a headache. The inflated cost of this treatment is passed onto paying customers.
Still skeptical?  Wondering how much of an affect providing free treatment for the uninsured could have on the cost of health care?  Consider this recent story printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“Ninety-eight times in two years, the 41-year old man visited the emergency room at University Hospital.  Diagnosed with asthma, diabetes and hypertension, he didn’t have a primary care doctor and racked up charges of $898,581 at the ER…During those same two years, a 38-year old women with sickle cell disease visited 72 times.  Her total charges: $1.3 million.”
“These are “superusers,” a tiny sliver of patients that showcases the inefficiencies of the $2.6 trillion American health care system…They are a symptom of the problem…the top 1% of high-cost users swallowed nearly 20% of all that spending according to the National Institute for Health Care Management.”
Keep in mind that these are just two examples taken from one hospital in a small Midwestern town.  Now consider the exponential affects on a national basis.  The numbers are staggering.
If Republicans don’t like “Obamacare” they are well within their rights to do everything they can to repeal it.  But they have to offer an alternative.  Simply “returning the country to the best health care system in the world” isn’t enough.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Violence In America

As you might expect the Aurora, Colorado shooting has sparked a heated debate over our constitutional right to carry firearms.  Gun advocates strongly believe that having more guns in the hands of the populace makes the nation safer.  The anti-gun crowd is just as adamant that the more guns there are on the streets the more opportunities there are for tragedies to occur.  This debate at a time of tragedy is to be expected as national tragedies are often the only time that important issues like this are discussed.
So let’s have the debate, and let’s start with the most common rationale for less restrictive gun laws being expressed in the wake of the Aurora shooting;  that had there been armed patrons in that theater they would have shot James E. Holmes before he could hurt so many innocent people.
The people who believe this see themselves as a Jason Bourne figure, who in the midst of all the smoke, noise and panic rises from his seat…draws his weapon…takes the appropriate two handed shooting stance…and calmly fires one lethal shot which strikes James E. Holmes right between the eyes…all while his significant other swoons in admiration from the adjoining seat.
There is a different scenario.  There is a darkened theater lighted only by the light flickering from the movie screen.  Suddenly a man appears.  He is dressed in Kevlar and brandishing a number of weapons.  He sets off some type of gas canister and begins firing indiscriminately into the crowd. The room fills with suffocating smoke, and the noise is so loud you can’t hear yourself think.  Panic ensues and people are running in every direction trying to get away from the shooter. It is utter chaos.  Then 2, 3, 4…10…20 armed people sitting in different areas of the theater, draw their weapons and begin firing through the smoke toward where they believe the shooter to be.  Some have soiled themselves out of fear; and yet they keep firing.  Others have squeezed their eyes shut to block out the horror; yet they indiscriminately fire round after round after round.  This isn’t the way they thought it would be.  Shooting at paper targets and empty beer bottles is far different than defending yourself in a real life or death situation.  Holmes is dead.  How many others are hit by unintended fire.  Imagine the carnage!
Both scenarios are possible.  Which one is more likely to occur?
American is a violent country. Our violent crime rates far exceed those of our economic and cultural peers.  Those who believe that this fact warrants the infusion of additional firearms into circulation should check out our violent crime rates compared to those countries that ban gun ownership. There is no comparison. Our violent crime rates far exceed most similar nations because we allow our citizens to carry firearms.  That’s not an ideological statement.  It is simply a factual one.  The path to reducing this country’s incidents of violent crime is to take guns off the streets...not make gun ownership easier.
Our family will undoubtedly take in a movie some time; and the Aurora shooting incident is bound to cross our mind.  We won’t be worried that some guy all “geared up” in Kevlar will burst through the door and open fire.  But we WILL wonder what the guy sitting next to us holding a big gulp and giant popcorn may have tucked in his waste band.                     

Friday, July 20, 2012


“Soothing words are nice but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country…I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop…And instead of the two people-President Obama and Governor Romney-talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, ok, tell us how….In the end it’s all about leadership at a national level, which is whoever is going to be president of the United States starting next January 1st-what are they going to do about guns?...This is killing people every day, and it’s growing and it’s not just an inner city, east coast, west coast, big city phenomenon.  Aurora is not a big city.”
New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg commenting on the Aurora, Colorado shootings.

Penn State Should Shut Down Its Football Program

When the Penn State story broke we knew that the initial reaction would be to shut down the football program. We balked at that solution because it didn’t seem fair to punish hundreds of players, coaches and staff members not to mention thousands of students and alumni who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s sickening actions or the inexcusable cover up.  We felt that this was much more than a football scandal; it was a cultural cancer that had wormed its way to the highest reaches of the university and perhaps even the local community.  The PSU administration was such an integral part of this scandal we wondered how you could shut down the football program without shutting down the entire university.  We struggled over a fair solution. 
And then something happened that put everything into perspective.
There is a statue of Joe Paterno that stands near the PSU athletic facilities.  We now know that a number of Penn State students have taken up a vigil to guard the statue against acts of vandalism.  If this is the perspective from which PSU students view the horrific scandal that has enveloped their community; then the remedy is clear.  Penn State football needs to pay a price for looking the other way while children were being abused.  And the Pennsylvania State University needs to pay a price for creating an environment where money, power and celebrity are more highly valued than human decency...not just within the football program but the university community as well.
Pennsylvania State University should shut down its football program for the foreseeable future because the football program and the university are one in the same.  Football is PSU…and PSU is football.  They cannot be separated.  So ingrained is the importance of football in this place that the highest officials at the university chose to protect its legacy at the expense of the victims.  So powerful the coach that in the midst of a scandal so horrific it leaves one speechless, he has the audacity to negotiate a raise.  So integral is football into the very fiber of what this university is all about that students protect a monument to football’s guardian…even though that guardian valued his own legacy over the lives of children.
Make no mistake, Penn State is not alone.  There are any number of towns throughout the country where football holds an over abundance of power…not just within the university but the community as well.  It is the cash cow that funds the other athletic programs.  It is the ATM that floats the local economies.  It is the bell cow that puts many universities and many communities on the map.  In many cases without football there would be no university.  And without the university many communities would seek to exist.  But no amount of money, prestige or notoriety can excuse the culture endemic at Penn State.
The NCAA is reviewing the matter.  They may decide to shut down the football program for a year or two.  But why wait on an organization that is the embodiment of corruption and hypocrisy.      
We call on Penn State to shut down its football program and reclaim its university.  Send a message that human decency, compassion and the right of law are more important than power, money and celebrity.          

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Hypocrisy In Protecting The Defense Budget

There is an important battle going on in Congress right now that has yet to work its way through the noise about Bain Capital and Romney’s tax returns.  It is a partisan battle over defense spending.  And it demonstrates quite clearly the difference in values embraced by the two political parties.
At the core of the debate is $500 billion in defense spending cuts that will automatically kick in January of 2013.  These “sequestration” cuts are the result of the Super Committee’s failure to reach a compromise on debt reduction.  Now that these cuts are about to become reality certain members of congress are looking for any way possible to head them off.
Naturally Republicans are leading this charge.  They argue that the additional $500 billion in sequestration cuts on top of the 10% defense cuts that the Obama administration has already enacted will endanger our national security. They argue that these defense cuts will add as many as 2,000,000 Americans to the unemployment rolls.  They also note that money spent on defense  trickles down to supporting industries like machine shops and tech firms…providing a stimulus to the economy.  To cut those funds will only serve to hurt the economy.
Does anyone see the hypocrisy here?  These are the same Republicans who railed against Obama’s stimulus plan and auto industry bailout.  These are the same Republicans who opposed government intervention to save the jobs of teachers and firefighters and police.  Let’s get this straight…government intervention to save the jobs of auto workers, teachers, firefighters and policemen while stimulating the economy…bad!  But government intervention to stimulate the economy and save the jobs of the defense industry that last year reported almost $700 billion in revenues and record profits of $60 billion…good!
Hypocrisy aside, the other part of this that makes no sense is that our defense budget continues to rise while the actual use of our military forces ebbs and flows.  We start by funding our military for a particular cause…to help Europe defeat Hitler, to protect post war Europe from an aggressive Stalin, to fight the cold war, Vietnam and most recently to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But when these conflicts end we never seem to roll back the funding; it just keeps building upon itself layer upon layer.  In 2011 forty one percent of all money spent globally on defense comes from US taxpayers…roughly 30% of our budget.  The US spends more on defense than the next top 15 countries combined.  And most of them are our allies.
How does this happen?  It stems from an imperialistic view of the world and a ham fisted approach as the self appointed world’s policeman.  Europe is no longer in peril and the cold war is long over.  Yet we continue to flex our muscle and spend our blood and increasing limited treasure on defense while other countries invest in infrastructure and education.  All for the benefit of huge defense contractors who shelter their profits in offshore accounts.   
Republicans like to pontificate about the evils of deficit spending.  They like to demonize government involvement in private industry.  But when it comes to defense spending and the private industry that supports our military they sing a different tune.
If you want to talk about austerity measures as a means of reducing the debt and deficit we can have that discussion.  But for that conversation to have any substance you have to put defense spending on the table.    

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Big Money Turning Tables On Romney

Mitt Romney is having a bad monthl.  His record at Bain and his refusal to release his tax returns have dominated the conversation.  Romney would much prefer to be talking about the president’s record and the failing economy.  Instead the Romney Campaign finds itself defending governor’s record and rationalizing his refusal to be more transparent with his taxes.  And as they say in politics: “If you are defending you are losing.”
There is a reason that the Romney Campaign finds itself on the defensive.  Money!
Remember the days of the Republican Primaries when Romney was able to outspend his rivals 5 and sometimes 10 to one.  He would carpet bomb them with attack adds.  Their slightest mis-step would be featured in a Romney attack ad the very next day.  Each of Romney’s opponents complained about the magnitude of the attacks and the false statements they made.  But they were unable to compete with Romney financially so their protestations were barely heard.  The Romney Death Star simply blew them away.
But it is a different ballgame now.
So far the Obama Campaign has been financially able to match Romney attack ad for attack ad.  Romney’s faux pas are no longer met with a muted whisper.  They are displayed across every media outlet money can buy.  Gone are the days of carpet bombing the opponent and receiving nothing in return.  The game has changed; and Romney doesn’t like it. 
Today he explained to his Republican supporters why they were wrong in demanding that he release all his tax returns:  “Oh, I think people in my party just say, “Look, this is a non-issue, just release the returns and it will all go away.” My experience is that the Democratic Party these days has approached taxes in a very different way than in the past…Their opposition people look for anything they can find to distort, to twist, to try and make negative.”
That is absolutely correct…just like Romney did to his Republican opponents during the primaries. 
By the time the election rolls around the Romney Campaign, thanks to Citizens United, will raise more in campaign donations than the Obama Campaign by a wide margin.  But the Obama Campaign will have enough in the bank to give as good as it gets.  Romney’s days of carpet bombing opponents are over.
We should note that we find importance that money plays in our politics to be repugnant.  For the Supreme Court to rule as they did on Citizens United and then scoff at the prospect of bought elections and anonymous foreign money influencing our politics is the height of jurisprudence stupidity.
But for now, this is how the game is played.  And the Romney Campaign is just starting to get a sense of what it feels to be on the other side of big money’s influence.        


We Can Do Better Than This!

As we scan the daily news outlets we are becoming more and more frustrated by the lack of substantive political dialogue.  Gotcha moments and catchy partisan sound bites dominate the media.  It is hard to find anything worthy of debate.  Today is no exception.
The two top political stories in today’s news center on a mis-statement by the president and Romney’s tax returns.
The president was speaking to a partisan crowd in Roanoke, Virginia last weekend.  He said: “If you have been successful you didn’t get there on your own…somebody along the line gave you some help.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business…you didn’t build that.”
The comment generated an avalanche of criticism from the right. Romney naturally weighed in calling the president’s comments “foolish” and “an insult to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America”
We all know what the President was trying to say.  That a successful business depends on banks to loan capital, a supply of hard workers, roads and bridges over which to ship the product, and police and firefighters to provide protection.  But the opposition and the media saw red meat and “Obama Is Anti-Business” or “Obama is Anti-American” became the headline of the day. 
To be fair…the Obama campaign has been every bit as guilty for pouncing on mis-statements and using them for political gain.  This nonsense goes both ways.
The other main story centers on Romney’s refusal to release any more than two years of tax returns.  He says he won’t do it because the Democrats will only distort the information for political gain.  Many of his political allies have encouraged him to release more information.  But Romney steadfastly refuses. 
Romney has obviously made a political calculation that the information additional tax returns might reveal is more damaging than the onslaught of criticism he is currently receiving.  That is his right.  And until his poll numbers dictate otherwise we can expect him to hold to his decision.
That’s it.  Those are the big political stories of the day.
We are in the middle of a campaign for the most powerful office in the world.  The country is heading for an economic cliff at the end of the year that will drive us right back into a recession unless difficult steps are taken.  The number of people falling into poverty grows by the second.  Yet this is what we are talking about…the president is “anti-American” and Romney doesn’t want us to know what we already know…that he is very rich, shelters his wealth and pays very little in taxes.
This is sad!
If you want four more years tell us specifically what you are going to do to make those years better than the last four.  If you think you can do a better job than the president tell us specifically why and how.
This culture of gotcha comments and evasive tactics is nauseating.
We can do better than this!  We should demand better!      

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Romney Still Supporting The Ryan Budget?

With all the noise about the presidential campaign, the election, Bain Capital and Romney’s tax returns filling the airwaves you may have forgotten that the country is racing toward a huge financial cliff come January 1, 2013.  The Bush tax cuts are set to expire as are the payroll tax cuts.  The debt ceiling must be re-negotiated and billions in expense cuts will automatically kick in due to the Super Committee’s failure to reach a grand bargain on the debt and deficit.
There are two primary solutions to this financial conundrum that are being discussed on the Hill.  One is the Simpson-Bowles Plan offered by the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  This plan was ignored by the President but has now found traction among Democrats, independents and some moderate Republicans.  The other option is the Ryan Budget Plan offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.  The Ryan Plan is widely popular among Republicans; particularly among members of the Republican base.
When Mitt Romney was competing in the Republican primaries he was a vocal supporter of the Ryan Budget Plan.  He was courting the Republican base and attempting to overcome the label that he was “not conservative enough.”  But now that Romney has secured the nomination you don’t hear him extolling the virtues of the Ryan Budget.  In fact Romney has not mentioned it in quite some time.  Here is why.
There are two key components to the Ryan Plan.  One focuses on tax reform; the other on entitlements. If anyone other than the top 2% wage earners dig into the details, we can guarantee they won’t like what they find. 
Ryan proposes to balance the federal budget by completely revamping Medicare and Medicaid.  Ryan wants to give everyone who is eligible for Medicare a lump sum payment each year which they are to use to buy health insurance and pay for any medical bills or prescriptions not covered by that insurance.  Ryan has not been specific about the amount of the payment but estimates are between $6,000 & $9,000 per year.  So as far as Ryan is concerned: “Here is your annual lump sum payment.  Hopefully this will be sufficient for you to buy health insurance and pay for any uncovered medical expenses.  If that amount proves to be inadequate for your needs; well that’s too bad.”  Keep in mind that Ryan also wants to overturn the President’s Affordable Health Care Act which prevents insurance companies from denying individuals coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  So in the world according to Ryan, upon reaching the age of eligibility, seniors, many of whom have had previous health care issues, are going to be given a lump sum and told to find a insurance company who will not only accept them with their pre-existing medical history, but charge them a premium that they can cover with the government’s lump sum payment.
As for Medicaid, Ryan wants to give each state a lump sum of money and let them address the health care needs of their citizens as they see fit.  That’s it.  That’s the plan.  So Ryan and the Republicans who screamed about government involvement in the administration of health care under Obamacare are more than willing to turn Medicaid over to the state governments to handle as they please.  Most states cannot handle the current burden Medicaid places on their staffs and on their budgets.  So how are they supposed to handle the entire responsibility of administering Medicaid?  This shift in responsibility may help to balance the federal budget but make no mistake; states will have to raise their taxes to handle the burden.  And what about the quality of care when 50 different state governments are in charge of oversight?  Not Ryan’s problem!  His goal is to reduce the federal debt and deficit and balance the budget.  How the s—t rolls downhill to the states and the taxpayers is not his concern.  In the end it is estimated that seniors currently pay out of pocket for 25% of their health care.  Under the Ryan plan that out of pocket cost would increase to 50%-60%.  That of course assumes that they can find coverage.
The other major component of Ryan’s Plan involves reforming the tax code.  Ryan wants to reduce the overall tax brackets and reduce corporate taxes to be more in line with our global competitors.  He wants to pay for these decreases in revenue by reforming Medicare and Medicaid and eliminating what he calls the unfair tax loopholes.  We have already explained how he plans to reform entitlements by shifting the burden from the federal government to the states.  He is pretty specific about these plans.  But when it comes to closing tax loopholes he is quite vague.  He doesn’t tell us specifically what loopholes he would eliminate.  That’s because the tax loopholes that are of any significance are those that no politician would tackle without fear of losing his job.
When you are looking for tax loopholes to close in order to increase revenue there are only five that are of any significance.  As economic analyst Steve Rattner recently illustrated on “Morning Joe” they are:
Untaxed Health Care Benefits - $106 billion
Mortgage Interest - $91 billion
Retirement Plans - $84 billion
Capital Gains and Dividends - $78 billion
Charitable Contributions - $37 billion

Any substantive conversation about closing tax loopholes must include the elimination of these five categories.  No wonder Ryan is less than specific about what loopholes he proposes to close.
Romney has said repeatedly that on the first day of his presidency he would repeal Obamacare and reform the tax code.  Based on the above facts, it’s easy to see why he is no longer touting the Ryan Plan as his replacement solution.  He’s preaching to a different audience now and he has to alter his message…again.   
One thing about Romney…he knows how to change his tune.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Enough About The Past...What About The Future?

Are you getting tired of all the back and forth over Romney’s tax returns, his time at Bain and the President’s failure to revitalize a weak economy?  We certainly are.
We live in a battleground state and you can’t turn the television on without hearing some guy rip Romney a new one while the former governor sings off key in the background…”God bless America…” Or become traumatized by grainy 2008 footage of a bug eyed Hillary Clinton shouting “Shame on you Barak Obama.”  Sheesh!
Enough already!
We get it.  Romney made his time at Bain the cornerstone of his qualifications to be president.  So why is Romney shocked and appalled that the president has the nerve to dig into the details?  And the president promised in 2008 that he would turn the economy around in four years or become a one term president.  So it should come as no surprise that Romney enjoys throwing that promise right back into the President’s face.
Look, we get the politics behind all of this noise.  Neither one of these guys wants to talk about his past yet they find it fair game to highlight the failings of the opponent. 
We get it.  So let’s cut to the chase.
Romney is a very rich guy who legally made millions for his investors and for himself.  That was his job…to make money.  During the process there were times when Bain laid off workers or outsourced jobs to accomplish that goal.  Again, that was his job.  And there is no doubt that Romney took full advantage of the tax code to shelter his wealth and to avoid paying any more in tax than he was legally required.  Who wouldn’t?  We suspect that some of the tax returns that Romney is hesitant to release will show that during some years he paid little if any taxes at all.  And we suspect that each of these tax shelters tip toed along the legal edge of the tax code.  Romney is a very rich guy.  Who among us would have handled things any differently?  Romney doesn’t want to talk about his wealth and how at times he laid off hard working Americans to get his job done.  So he tries to focus the conversation on the president’s failure to right the economy.  
The President is no better.  The President believed he could fix the economy in his first term.  He believed his own rhetoric.  He recently admitted that he thought all that he had to do was get the policy right and things would take care of themselves.  But he found out that his opponents were right…that he didn’t understand how Washington works.  He failed to realize that not everyone agreed with his policies and his opponents on the other side of the aisle were willing to go to any lengths to stop his agenda.  He didn’t get that he had to sell his ideas to his opponents and to the American people.  On that note he failed miserably.  Now he finds himself haunted by his own words and facing the very real possibility of being a one term president.  He doesn’t want to talk about his record so he tries to focus the conversation on Romney’s.
We understand the politics of the back and forth between these two candidates.  But this dialogue fails to address the central issue of this election.  “It’s about the economy, stupid.”
If these guys want to win this election then we believe that that need to change the narrative.  Stop carping on the past and tell us how you intend to shape the future.
Romney will tell you that at the beginning of the campaign he published a booklet that outlined his 59 point plan for the future.  We’ve read it.  It says nothing.  It is little more than Republican talking points and conservative platitudes.
Obama is not much better.  Yes he has put forth a disjointed number of measures that he knew damn well had no chance of passing through congress.  They were left appeasing proposals designed to fire up the base and push his opponents into a corner.  He gave up trying to build a compromise solution with congress over a year ago.  Was the Republican led House unwilling to consider his overtures?  Absolutely!  But he is the President and he was elected find a way through that partisanship for the good of the country.  He failed to pierce that barrier and has now resigned himself to partisan campaigning with the hope accomplishing more in a second term.
This campaign is all about the past when it should be about the future.  High unemployment, a failing education system, rising poverty, skyrocketing health care costs, soaring debt and deficits, unbridled entitlements and a quality of life that is eroding are each and of themselves momentous problems that demand our attention.  We need to address these issues and fix them…now.  Yet the campaign dialogue is all about how we got into this mess rather than how we get out.
We are tired of Bain and bailouts.  We want to hear specifics about the candidates’ plans for the future.   


Friday, July 13, 2012

This, That and PSU!

FUNNY! The US Olympic Team unveiled its new uniforms this week to mixed reviews.  It seems some were offended by the “berets” that topped off the new threads…a little too “French” for some.
The critics were quickly silenced when it was pointed out that the US has fielded a number of teams sporting berets…Green Berets to be specific…that have comported themselves quite well.
BRAIN DEAD!  The US Olympic Uniforms made center stage once again when it was learned that the Ralph Lauren designed outfits were made in…wait for it…CHINA!  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was livid.  He wants the US Olympic Committee to “gather the uniforms up, put them in a pile and burn them.  Start over!  Even if it means wearing a unitard with USA scrawled on the front by hand.”  Reid rightly noted that the committee was wrong not to consider all the out of work US textile workers in making their decision.
YOU’RE TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!  It costs taxpayers $24 million dollars per week to run the House of Representatives.  It is estimated that the Republican led House spent 80 hours debating/voting 33 different times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act.  That’s $48 million dollars of tax payer money wasted on an exercise of futility.  That’s crazy!  What is even crazier is that this story was reported by…FOX NEWS!
IT FIGURES!  “The Atlantic” is reporting that female congressional staffers make waaaaaayyyy less on average than their male counterparts.
House Republican female staffers make on average of $10,093.09 less than their male Republican counterparts.
House Democrat female staffers make on average $1,473.65 less than their male Democrat counterparts.
Senate Republican female staffers make on average $9,805.85 less than their male Republican counterparts.
Senate Democrat female staffers make on average $4,916.46 less than their male Democrat counterparts.
MONEY, POWER, CELEBRITY!  The Penn State story is a tragic example of a great flaw in our society.  It demonstrates in the most horrific manner how money, power and celebrity allow some to work above the law while fawning others allow them a pass.  Naturally there are those who will blame this tragedy on football and the prominence it plays in our universities.  Many are already calling for the Penn State football program to be shut down for a year or two; to show the world that the sport does not run the institution.  But if you buy into that myopic viewpoint then you are missing the big picture.  If you follow this course of action you  cannot stop at the football program…you have to shut down the entire university.  Because while this horrible scandal may have started in the locker room it spread all the way to the office of the university president.
Certainly Joe Paterno was trying to protect his legacy and the program he built over five decades. But Athletic Director Tim Curley was trying to protect his athletic department which depended so heavily on the funds generated by the football program.  And Financial Vice President Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier were trying to protect the legacy of the Penn State institution; a monolith that had become the very essence of too big to fail.  Four powerful men trying to protect their own turf; each blinded by the size and scope of the money, power and legacy that they held within their hands…so blinded that they failed to protect the victims.  And therein lies the tragedy…that none of them were willing to put the welfare of the victims ahead of the money, power and celebrity.
Sandusky, Schultz, Graham and Spanier should be punished to the full extent of the law.  Paterno’s legacy, for all his athletic achievements will now bear the scar of a man who for over a decade looked the other way while a pedophile preyed within his oligarchy.  The university itself will rightly suffer the loss of its reputation and the financial consequences of damages brought against it by the victims.  None of these remedies will ever make the victims whole.
This is not a tragic story about a football program gone awry.  This is a tragic story about our society.  It is a story about the importance we place on money, power and celebrity and the lengths that we will go to hang on to them...even at the expense of our children.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Definition Of Insanity...

The Republican led House voted once again to repeal the President’s Affordable Care Act.  The vote has no chance of passing through the Democrat led Senate and the President has said he would veto the repeal if it were to reach his desk.
This is the thirty third time that the Republican House has voted to repeal the law.  Whatever happened to jobs, jobs jobs?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The Real "Job Creators"

The President has said that he wants to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making over $250,000 per year.  He argues that it is only fair that those who have benefited the most from our free society can afford to pay a little more.
Mitt Romney disagrees.  He says that the President’s plan is in essence a tax increase on the “job creators.”  And he states that increasing taxes on the “job creators”, particularly in the middle of a failing economy, will stunt economic growth and drive the country into a recession.
We would suggest that the correlation between tax rates and job creation is the biggest hoax played upon the American people in the history of our electoral process. 
Republicans in particular like to refer to the major corporations and small business owners that make up the top 2% wage earners as the “job creators.”  These are the people that hire folks to build the products they sell and the services they provide.  So raising taxes on “job creators” will affect their bottom line and discourage them from making new hires.  That makes sense…right?
The real “job creators” in this country are not the major corporations and small business owners.  The real job creators are the middle class Americans who buy the products and services marketed by these corporations and small businesses.  Corporations and small business owners don’t expand their business and hire new employees based on their marginal tax rates.  They expand and hire based on the demand for their goods and services.  If there is no demand there is no incentive to expand and hire.  It doesn’t matter if the “job creators” are paying taxes at a 15% rate or a 35% rate if there isn't any income coming in to tax.
The key to job creation is a strong middle class.  The middle class is the engine that drives the economy…not the marginal tax rate.  If the middle class isn’t working then they don’t have money to spend on goods and services.  If the middle class isn’t buying goods and services then there is no reason for corporations and small businesses to invest expand and hire.  By getting more money into the hands of the middle class you enable them buy goods and services.  The resulting demand incentivizes corporations and small business owners to invest expand and…hire.  More jobs mean more people who have money to spend on goods and services.  And so the circle continues…and the economy grows.
Today our middle class is disappearing.  High unemployment, reduced wages, deflated home values, skyrocketing health care costs, rising gas and food prices have all played a part in shrinking the size and purchasing power of our middle class. Until we find a way to rebuild the engine that really runs our economy the marginal tax rate at which corporations and small businesses pay their taxes will remain irrelevant in terms of economic growth.
The President has it right on this one.  Anything that puts more money into the hands of the middle class will help spur our economy.  All this talk about corporations and small businesses being “job creators” is nonsense.