Archive | October, 2012

Why Obama?

30 Oct

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado October 4, 2012. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

By Deepak Bhargava

Much—perhaps too much—has been said about the president and the shortcomings and accomplishments of his administration over the past four years. The record is more mixed than either his cheerleaders or fiercest critics would like to admit.

On the positive side, under this administration we achieved healthcare reform that will provide coverage to 35 million uninsured people; a Recovery Act that represents the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs in more than forty years; financial reform; student loan reform; the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; landmark executive action to protect more than 1 million immigrant youths from deportation; and an end to the war in Iraq.

For all the supposed preparation progressives did for a return to political power, we haven’t figured out how to relate to an actual government. If progressives cannot “own” landmark achievements like healthcare and financial reform, how can we expect anyone else to?

On the downside, there were the failures to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing the economy; to do right by millions of homeowners facing foreclosure; to reverse the erosion of civil liberties in the “war on terror”; to halt an alarming increase in deportations; and to take bold action on climate change. Perhaps greatest of all was the failure to convey a compelling alternative to market fundamentalism—an ideology that, notwithstanding its disastrous track record, continues to dominate policy-making and the public dialogue at all levels.

Progressives may evaluate the success of Obama’s first term differently depending on how much weight they assign to each of these issues. But however we judge the past four years, it is crucial that we lean into this election without ambivalence, knowing that while an Obama victory will not solve all or even most of our problems, defeat will be catastrophic for the progressive agenda and movement.

We confront a conservative movement that is apocalyptic in its worldview and revolutionary in its aspirations. It is not an exaggeration to say that this movement wants to roll back the great progressive gains of the twentieth century—from voting rights to women’s rights, from basic regulations on corporate behavior to progressive taxation, from the great pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to the basic rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively. After the emergence of the Tea Party, the 2010 elections, the extreme Paul Ryan budget proposal and the 2011 state legislative sessions (which featured voter suppression, nativism, attacks on reproductive rights and vicious anti-unionism), there can be no doubting the seriousness or the ferocity of our opponents. It is also important to note the deep racialized underpinnings of this movement, which seeks to entrench the power of an older, wealthier white constituency and prevent an emerging majority of color from finding its voice. The battles over the role and size of government, taxes, the safety net, immigration and voter suppression have become proxies for this underlying demographic tension. Should Obama lose this election, we can expect a ruthless effort to dismantle the social contract—including efforts to use state power to decimate sources of resistance by further restricting the franchise, destroying unions and attacking any remaining centers of power for communities of color and workers. All of this was clear even before, in a leaked video, Mitt Romney made plain his contempt for nearly half of the American people.

Immediately after the election, we will face one of the most important social policy debates of our generation. Before the end of this year, President Obama and Congress must confront the so-called fiscal cliff—the deep automatic cuts in defense and domestic spending that have been mandated by the last debt deal unless a new budget framework can be reached. This discussion of mounting debts and deficits will take place as the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire, setting the stage for a clash of ideologies from which the victor will enjoy the spoils for years to come. Winning the elections does not guarantee a progressive outcome to this debate—far from it—but losing certainly means that the dark politics of austerity will dominate the country, resulting in misery on a scale we can’t now imagine.

So the elections—not just for the presidency but for Congress and statehouses across the country—are job one. But we know winning those elections is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a revival of progressive politics. What’s next? In the period following the election, progressives must remain engaged and mobilized. Given the looming fiscal debate, we need to step up with an alternative to austerity that emphasizes three points:

§ We face a jobs crisis. Creating millions of new jobs—by investing in infrastructure, the green economy, care jobs and, yes, the public sector—is not just a matter of reducing human suffering; it is essential to laying the foundation for long-term fiscal stability and shared prosperity. As progressives, we cannot buy into the “deficit first” frame. There is no winning if we do not begin to redefine the problem and break the elite consensus.

§ We need to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs, particularly those serving the most vulnerable people. It has become conventional wisdom that we must “reform” entitlements—which is code for reducing benefits and raising the retirement age, since “we” are all living longer anyway, aren’t we? This is nonsense. As Paul Krugman has put it: “the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever.” Simple measures such as lifting the cap on the payroll tax threshold would guarantee solvency for Social Security for more than seventy-five years and allow us to finance more generous benefits for low-income beneficiaries.

§ To invest in job creation and preserve our social contract, we need to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

This agenda is not in the mainstream of the Beltway discussion. But we won’t break the austerity consensus without, well, breaking from it! We must shift the frame of the debate to the left without fear or apology.

One great lesson of Obama’s first term was that we made progress when we pushed, and we stalled out when we waited and watched. The LGBT and immigrant rights movements challenged both Republicans and Democrats and achieved significant policy wins. Healthcare reform would never have made it over the finish line without relentless pressure from the grassroots on moderate Democrats. Only robust campaigns operating independently of both parties have a chance at putting jobs, foreclosures, immigration reform and climate change on the agenda.

This is especially urgent in the case of racial justice. The real unemployment rate for African-Americans is now above 22 percent, including part-time workers who want full-time jobs and those who gave up looking altogether. That’s nearly twice the rate that white workers face, and it amounts to a catastrophic depression in cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo. People of color have seen a generation of progress in building wealth wiped out by the recession. Median white wealth is now nearly $100,000, compared with under $5,000 for blacks and Latinos. Whatever the real or perceived constraints on the president’s ability to engage the confluence of race, poverty and economics, those constraints do not apply to us.

It is also critical that we push for an agenda to strengthen democracy in 2013 to combat the growing power of organized money. Measures to strengthen unions, expand the franchise and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants are not just good public policies; they also empower working people. The right used its takeover of state governments to shrink democracy, as in Wisconsin, which passed harsh anti-union and voter suppression laws. If and when we have a chance to use power to expand democracy, whether through immigration reform or executive actions to strengthen unions or enforce voting rights, we must do so—not just because these measures are important in themselves but because they are levers that can push the other changes we seek.

If 2008 was a time for the audacity of hope, the years ahead are a time for sobriety, determination, patience and resilience. The problems we face are deep enough that there will be no quick fix. The most important question for progressives is how to build a movement for economic justice—a people’s movement that can topple the elite austerity consensus and overcome the massive money and energized conservative movement on the other side. The real crises facing the country are barely being discussed inside the Beltway, and rarely are the solutions proposed commensurate with the problems at hand: more than 106 million people—one in three Americans—are facing material hardship (defined as living under 200 percent of the poverty line); 20 million are living in extreme poverty; 12.5 million are officially unemployed; and wages and working conditions are in decline for a majority of Americans. The new framework for shared prosperity developed by Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil, endorsed by a broad swath of labor, community and civil rights groups, spells out an alternative to austerity with the capacity to address these crises—but only an organized constituency can give such ideas life.

Part of the task before us is to build a deep alliance of movement forces—labor, community, women, faith, civil rights, immigrants and others—behind a broad social vision. No part of the movement has the resources or strategic capacity to solve its problems by itself. The other part of the task is to reach out to Americans who do not already agree with us, or who perhaps haven’t heard from us. An insular left that deludes itself into thinking we are stronger than we are, that talks mainly to itself and is not constantly creating new on-ramps to participation, will fail dismally to meet the challenges of this historic moment.

This recruitment challenge presents some hurdles for progressives. Most Americans hold complicated and sometimes contradictory views about the economy, but there has been a turn away from public solutions and toward private ones. As Ronald Brownstein observed in National Journal earlier this year: “One theme consistently winding through the polls is the emergence of what could be called a ‘reluctant self-reliance,’ as Americans look increasingly to reconstruct economic security from their own efforts, in part because they don’t trust outside institutions to provide it for them. The surveys suggest that the battered economy has crystallized a gestating crisis of confidence in virtually all of the nation’s public and private leadership class—from elected officials to the captains of business and labor. Taken together, the results render a stark judgment: At a time when they believe they are navigating much more turbulent economic waters than earlier generations, most Americans feel they are paddling alone.”

Those changes in perspective, together with the attack on and decline of unions—where habits of community, reciprocity and collective action have historically been nourished—mean that we face a very steep climb in making the case for public, collective action. We will have to experiment with new ways of building power and giving voice to working people. Such experiments are, in fact, already under way in diverse settings around the country. What they have in common is reconstructing the role of paid organizers, putting volunteers front and center, aligning people behind deeply meaningful visions instead of short-term issue transactions, and combining deep education and relationship building with creative action. There is nothing new about any of these methods—they have powered all the great movements that have changed America—but we must recommit ourselves to them. The patient work of movement building lacks the seductive power of many of the strategies in vogue among progressives, but there is no substitute for it—and there is a huge appetite for it in working-class communities across the country.

Perhaps the most resonant line of President Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech was when he said, “So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you.” If we ever thought that an Obama presidency would by itself produce dramatic change, we are wiser in 2012. Our progressive history is a history of getting our hope fix from movements, not just from individuals. The extraordinary example of Brazil—which has defied world trends, lifted 40 million people out of poverty, reduced inequality and passed major affirmative action legislation—demonstrates the power of social movements today. Over many years, Brazilian leaders aligned key movement sectors around a transformative vision, focused on recruiting the unorganized, engaged in politics and changed a country. There are signs of movement right here at home—in senior centers in Akron, in housing projects in Charlotte and churches in Phoenix, where ordinary people are coming together to talk about how we got into this mess, what it has meant to them and the people they love, and what we can do to get out of it. They are working tirelessly in this election because they know just how much it matters, but they are clear-eyed about the organizing work that must continue after election day. That’s change we can believe in.

We Need More than a New President

30 Oct

Supporters react to seeing President Barack Obama stake the stage during a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By Saket Soni

In Mitt Romney’s America, 47 percent of the people live on government handouts, incapable of taking responsibility for their lives. In the real America, ordinary people are working harder than ever for less and less. Work once held a promise: it would allow workers to sustain their families, contribute to a community, and realize their full potential as human beings. In today’s economy, this promise no longer holds.

Workers know something about the economy that neither party has faced up to: work in America has changed, fundamentally and forever. First, the nature of employment has changed. Millions of people don’t work for the ultimate beneficiary of their labor, but for subcontractors or suppliers. Millions more are temporary, part-time or “self-employed.” A third of the US workforce—42.6 million workers—is now contingent. Tens of millions of workers no longer know who their real boss is.

Second, the nature of unemployment has shifted. Workers used to be employed for long periods; unemployment was short-term. Workers now face long-term unemployment interrupted by intermittent employment. Forty percent of the unemployed have been jobless for twenty-seven weeks. Unemployment is twice as high for African-Americans as for whites, and one and a half times as high for Latinos.

Third, the US workforce itself has changed. Today’s workforce isn’t just middle-aged white men: it’s women (49 percent), people of color, undocumented immigrants, young workers, baby boomers forced to delay retirement and guest workers. US companies now source workers from all over the globe, importing cheap labor for local jobs. And where there is prospective job growth, it’s overwhelmingly in low-wage sectors like service and retail.

Ana Rosa Diaz can tell you what the US workplace will look like at the end of this road. Jobless in Mexico, Ana was recruited to come to the United States as a guest worker. She peeled crawfish for a Walmart supplier in Louisiana that subjected her and her fellow workers to forced labor: they were compelled to work up to twenty-four-hour shifts with no overtime pay and were also locked in the plant to prevent breaks. When the workers spoke up, the boss threatened violence against their families.

On our current path, we all end up as guest workers: trapped in an economy of temporary, intermittent work, subcontracted, migratory, struggling with debt rather than building wealth, sourced into labor supply chains rather than climbing career ladders.

We need to use a second Obama term to create the conditions for winning a new social contract for a new economy. That means creating new forms of collective bargaining that let contingent workers and service workers bargain directly with the corporate actors that set the conditions of their jobs and their lives. It also means winning a vastly expanded role for the state in protecting all workers, including a new social safety net that addresses the rise of contingent work and long-term unemployment.

That will take more than a president; it’ll take a social movement. Because what’s really at stake isn’t the next four years—it’s the next forty.

Pollster: Undercounted Cellphone Users Hide Obama’s Lead

29 Oct

—By 

Are Obama voters underrepresented in presidential polls because they use cellphones?

That’s the argument put forward by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg in a new memo released Monday. Government data shows that an increasing percentage of Americans have ditched their traditional land-line phones and now use only cellphones. A year ago, 32 percent of adults used only a cellphone, according to the Center for Disease Control, which tracks cellphone usage. But more and more Americans are relying solely on their cellphones—Greenberg estimates that that figure is now 37 percent. And government statistics show still larger percentages of hispanics, blacks, and young people—all of whom are more likely to favor Obama, polls show—use cellphones only.

Why does this uptick in cell-only users matter? Because, as Greenberg writes, some polls used to gauge the state of the presidential race don’t reach these people—and could therefore be lowballing Obama’s standing. (Robocalls are used by many pollsters, but cellphones are blockedfrom receiving robocalls.) Greenberg went back and analyzed 4,000 of his polling firm’s interviews this election season and found that cell-only voters break for Obama in significant numbers. As the following charts show, people who only use a cellphone said they’d vote for Obama by an 11-point margin, and those who mostly use a cell opted for Obama by 9 points. On the other hand, those who said they used a landline and a cellphone backed Romney by 3 points.

 

Courtesy of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner

Courtesy of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner

Cellphone-only respondents, Greenberg says, are “attitudinally and culturally distinct.” They’re less conservative, but not necessarily libertarian, either, though they praise both the National Rifle Association and same-sex marriage. They’re a crucial piece of the electorate not entirely captured by polls used in the presidential race.

Greenberg isn’t the first pollster to point out Obama’s bump from cellphone users. Back in September, the New York Times‘ Nate Silver found that Obama fared better in polls that include cellphone users. The right-leaning Rasmussen polling shop—which tends to show Romney faring better than Obama—doesn’t include cellphones; neither does the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, which shows Obama doing better in the race. Gallup—which puts Obama ahead among registered voters and Romney in the lead among likely voters—includescellphones in its sampling.

Greenberg’s key takeaway is this: Pollsters aren’t capturing what he calls “the new diversity of the American electorate” if they aren’t surveying voters who depend on cellphones. If pollsters were doing that, Greenberg suggests, Obama would have a bigger lead over Mitt Romney than he’s got right now.

Barack Obama for Re-election

29 Oct

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the “fiscal cliff” battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama’s many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Health Care

Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.

It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans’ propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.

That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.

Mr. Romney has no plan for covering the uninsured beyond his callous assumption that they will use emergency rooms. He wants to use voucher programs to shift more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and block grants to shift more Medicaid costs to the states.

The Economy

Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints everyone), thanks in large part to interventions Mr. Obama championed, like the $840 billion stimulus bill. Republicans say it failed, but it created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. Poverty would have been much worse without the billions spent on Medicaid, food stamps and jobless benefits.

Last year, Mr. Obama introduced a jobs plan that included spending on school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. It was stymied by Republicans. Contrary to Mr. Romney’s claims, Mr. Obama has done good things for small businesses — like pushing through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

The Dodd-Frank financial regulation was an important milestone. It is still a work in progress, but it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. Mr. Romney wants to repeal it.

If re-elected, Mr. Obama would be in position to shape the “grand bargain” that could finally combine stimulus like the jobs bill with long-term deficit reduction that includes letting the high-end Bush-era tax cuts expire. Stimulus should come first, and deficit reduction as the economy strengthens. Mr. Obama has not been as aggressive as we would have liked in addressing the housing crisis, but he has increased efforts in refinancing and loan modifications.

Mr. Romney’s economic plan, as much as we know about it, is regressive, relying on big tax cuts and deregulation. That kind of plan was not the answer after the financial crisis, and it will not create broad prosperity.

Foreign Affairs

Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda’s leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq. Mr. Romney, however, has said he would have insisted on leaving thousands of American soldiers there. He has surrounded himself with Bush administration neocons who helped to engineer the Iraq war, and adopted their militaristic talk in a way that makes a Romney administration’s foreign policies a frightening prospect.

Mr. Obama negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. Mr. Romney likes to say the president was ineffective on Iran, but at the final debate he agreed with Mr. Obama’s policies. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Arab Spring. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there. At the last debate, Mr. Romney talked about funneling arms through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funneling arms to jihadist groups.

Mr. Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the Libyan uprising, and kept American military forces in a background role. It was smart policy.

In the broadest terms, he introduced a measure of military restraint after the Bush years and helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation in many countries from the low levels to which it had sunk by 2008.

The Supreme Court

The future of the nation’s highest court hangs in the balance in this election — and along with it, reproductive freedom for American women and voting rights for all, to name just two issues. Whoever is president after the election will make at least one appointment to the court, and many more to federal appeals courts and district courts.

Mr. Obama, who appointed the impressive Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, understands how severely damaging conservative activism has been in areas like campaign spending. He would appoint justices and judges who understand that landmarks of equality like the Voting Rights Act must be defended against the steady attack from the right.

Mr. Romney’s campaign Web site says he will “nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito,” among the most conservative justices in the past 75 years. There is no doubt that he would appoint justices who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Civil Rights

The extraordinary fact of Mr. Obama’s 2008 election did not usher in a new post-racial era. In fact, the steady undercurrent of racism in national politics is truly disturbing. Mr. Obama, however, has reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and has fought laws, like the ones in Arizona, that seek to turn undocumented immigrants into a class of criminals.

The military’s odious “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule was finally legislated out of existence, under the Obama administration’s leadership. There are still big hurdles to equality to be brought down, including the Defense of Marriage Act, the outrageous federal law that undermines the rights of gay men and lesbians, even in states that recognize those rights.

Though it took Mr. Obama some time to do it, he overcame his hesitation about same-sex marriage and declared his support. That support has helped spur marriage-equality movements around the country. His Justice Department has also stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges.

Mr. Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports the federal act, which not only denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples but allows states to ignore marriages made in other states. His campaign declared that Mr. Romney would not object if states also banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.

Mr. Romney has been careful to avoid the efforts of some Republicans to criminalize abortion even in the case of women who had been raped, including by family members. He says he is not opposed to contraception, but he has promised to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, on which millions of women depend for family planning.

For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need.

Mitt Romney Releases Auto Ad That Misleads On Facts

29 Oct

WASHINGTON — The Mitt Romney campaign, still attempting to turn the politics of the auto bailout in its favor, is out with a new television ad that dramatically bends both historical record and current news to fit its narrative.

The ad, which was not announced by the campaign, makes no direct claim that can be called a lie. But that’s primarily because it’s so clever with its wording.

For starters, the ad’s narrator says that President Barack Obama “took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy.” That’s true. But that was also the plan that Romney prescribed at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. The difference is that Obama supported a bridge loan from the government to help the auto companies go through bankruptcy, while Romney wanted the private sector to pick up the tab. But as basically every principal involved in rescuing the auto industry said at the time, there was no money available from the private sector during the height of the recession. When Dan Akerson, CEO and chairman of General Motors since September 2010, was asked what would have happened had Romney’s plan been followed, he responded that GM “would have been in bankruptcy for years and I think you could have written off this company, this industry and this country.”

The Romney ad also cites his endorsement from the Detroit News without noting that that same endorsement accused him of “wrong-headedness on the auto bailout.”
Finally, the ad accuses Obama of selling “Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” Again, this is technically true, but only according to a narrow reading of the language. Fiat, the Italian company that now owns Chrysler, is building Jeeps in China. But the company is not moving jobs from America to do it. Instead, Fiat is expanding current production in China for the purposes of catering to a growing Chinese market.

Where the ad goes from misleading to something more nefarious is in the text it shows. At one point, it displays a line from a Bloomberg story stating that Chrysler “plans to return Jeep output to China,” the implication being that the company is moving operations there as opposed to expanding operations that are already there. Romney has cited this report on several occasions while campaigning and has been summarily criticized for doing so. Chrysler has denied the report, and multiple news outlets have called out the Romney campaign for using it in on the stump.

So what rationale is there for using it in an advertisement? The Huffington Post reached out to the Romney campaign on Sunday morning to get its side of the story. The campaign sent back a sheet of data points, including press reports showing that Obama did force Chrysler and GM into federal bankruptcy. No one, of course, is disputing that.

In response to the claim about Chrysler building Jeeps in China, the Romney email again cites the Bloomberg article. A Romney campaign official would not add anything more on the record, save to repeat, on condition of anonymity, the same exact text from the Bloomberg report.

The campaign’s defense, in the end, rests on the fact that the ad never technically says that Chrysler is moving production to China — just that it is going to build Jeeps there.

“Mitt Romney’s new ad is a sure sign that he knows he’s in trouble in Ohio,” Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement. “When the American auto industry and a million workers’ jobs were on the line, Mitt Romney turned his back. Now he’s pretending it never happened and is trying to scare Ohioans by repeating a blatant falsehood that Chrysler is moving its Jeep operations to China. Even the Detroit News, which this ad cites, condemned his plan that would have let Chrysler and GM go under and praised the President for his ‘extraordinary’ rescue of the industry.
Mitt Romney might be willing to do anything to close the deal, but Ohioans know where he stood when it mattered most and won’t be fooled by his dishonest ads in the final days of this campaign.”

Next President Will Have Leverage to Push His Agenda

29 Oct

By Albert R. Hunt

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the senator and Harvard University professor, observed that academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

This year, U.S. politics feel that way, too. The issues don’t seem as seminal as those facing the nation during the Cold War or the civil-rights movement; the partisanship is worse.

Nonetheless, this presidential election has important policy implications.
If either party wins the White House and control of both houses of Congress there will be an opportunity to deal immediately with fiscal and health-care issues through a congressional process known as reconciliation that allows an expedited procedure with a simple majority in both chambers. That’s how the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and President Barack Obama’s health-care measure were enacted.

The more probable congressional outcome is something resembling the status quo: a House with 235 Republicans and 200 Democrats and a Senate with 52 Democrats and 48 Republicans. That configuration will require compromise. Whoever is president, however, will still have important leverage for his agenda and allied interest groups in shaping any compromises.

The Fiscal Cliff: The next president will have to deal with a possible fiscal crisis almost immediately. He will have to contend with a mix of calls for stimulus to bolster a sluggish economy and the need for long-term debt reduction through spending cuts and tax increases. All as he grapples with an extension of the U.S. debt ceiling early next year.

With the prospect of a divided Congress, Obama wouldn’t make much headway in advocating more spending on green jobs or major infrastructure projects. Nor would Mitt Romney be able to sell his huge tax cuts, which few serious analysts believe come close to adding up.

Nevertheless, the White House would matter. Advocates of lower taxes, especially for the wealthy, and of more robust spending on defense would fare considerably better under a Romney presidency. Proponents of strengthening educational measures such as Pell grants for college students or health- research spending would do better under a President Obama.

Health Care/Financial Regulation: Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial- regulatory legislation. Obama vows to retain them.
The new Congress is likely to alter both, either significantly so under a Republican president, or with just some tweaking under the incumbent.

On health care, if you’re a business that opposes the taxes in the Obama measure, you’re cheering for Romney. A new administration would gut some of those provisions. If you’re uninsured, and especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions, you’re in tough shape if Romney is president.

Interest groups have a lot at stake in how Dodd-Frank is revised. If Romney is elected, the big Wall Street banks that trade derivatives will celebrate as restrictions probably would be eased. An Obama win would be welcome news for financial- industry regulators, whose resources would be cut by Republicans, and for regional banks.

Supreme Court/Judiciary: The odds are in favor of a Supreme Court appointment or two over the next four years. Five of the six second-term presidents since World War II have named justices; four of the current justices are 74 or older.

With gay marriage, affirmative action, abortion and major economic issues on the docket in the years ahead, any nominee will endure a bruising battle for confirmation. Obama’s record makes clear that his picks would be left-of-center moderates. Romney, who has shown little interest in judicial appointments, probably would listen to the demands of the movement- conservative legal community.
Further, the next president probably will name more than two dozen appellate court judges and 100 federal district court judges. These will tilt the balance in some important jurisdictions.

National Security: The foreign-policy debate last week failed to reveal many differences between the candidates because Romney, seeking to demonstrate his credentials to be commander in chief, largely agreed with the current administration’s positions on Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, the use of drones to fight terrorists, Iranian sanctions and even Libya.

There’s every reason to expect that Obama’s second-term foreign policy would be a continuation of the past four years, though absent some of the heavy hitters such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and perhaps Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

There is great debate in Republican circles over the direction that a Romney national security team would take. Traditionalists or centrist Republicans point to the Romney of last week’s debate. The neoconservative wing led by the Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld unilateralists are dominant among Romney’s advisers and could effectively pressure a president- elect who is inexperienced in this field.
Particularly in the Middle East, a President Romney might be more aggressive, even confrontational.

Two imponderables make forecasts impossible. When it comes to some of the toughest issues, including Iran and Pakistan, there are no good answers. And future national-security crises are unpredictable. In 1960, during his campaign for president, John F. Kennedy talked about the dispute between Taiwan and China over two obscure islands, Quemoy and Matsu. As president, his foreign policy was defined by Cuba.

In 2000, candidate George W. Bush called for a more “humble” foreign policy; a year and a half after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he unilaterally invaded Iraq.

Pointing Toward Prosperity?

27 Oct

Paul Krugman
New York Times

Mitt Romney has been barnstorming the country, telling voters that he has a five-point plan to restore prosperity. And some voters, alas, seem to believe what he’s saying. So President Obama has now responded with his own plan, a little blue booklet containing 27 policy proposals. How do these two plans stack up?

Well, as I’ve said before, Mr. Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts.

Actually, if describing what you want to see happen without providing any specific policies to get us there constitutes a “plan,” I can easily come up with a one-point plan that trumps Mr. Romney any day. Here it is: Every American will have a good job with good wages. Also, a blissfully happy marriage. And a pony.

So Mr. Romney is faking it. His real plan seems to be to foster economic recovery through magic, inspiring business confidence through his personal awesomeness. But what about the man he wants to kick out of the White House?

Well, Mr. Obama’s booklet comes a lot closer to being an actual plan. Where Mr. Romney says he’ll achieve energy independence, never mind how, Mr. Obama calls for concrete steps like raising fuel efficiency standards. Mr. Romney says, “We will give our fellow citizens the skills they need,” but says nothing about how he’ll make that happen, pivoting instead to a veiled endorsement of school vouchers; Mr. Obama calls for specific things like a program to recruit math and science teachers and partnerships between businesses and community colleges.

So, is Mr. Obama offering an inspiring vision for economic recovery? No, he isn’t. His economic agenda is relatively small-bore — a bunch of modest if sensible proposals rather than a big push. More important, it’s aimed at the medium term, the economy of 2020, rather than at the clear and pressing problems of the present.

Put it this way: If you didn’t know what was actually going on in the U.S. economy, you’d think from reading the Obama plan that America was a place where workers with the right skills were in high demand, so that our big problem was that not enough people have those skills. And five or 10 years from now, America might actually look like that. Right now, however, we’re still living in a depressed economy offering poor prospects for almost everyone, including the highly educated.

Indeed, these have been really bad years for recent college graduates, who all too often can’t find anyone willing to make use of their hard-won skills that were expensive to attain. Unemployment and underemployment among recent graduates surged between 2007 and 2010, while far too many highly trained young people found themselves working in low-skill jobs. The job market for skilled workers, like that for Americans in general, is now gradually improving. But it’s still far from normal.

The point is that America is still suffering from an overall lack of demand, the result of the severe debt and financial crisis that broke out before Mr. Obama took office. In a better world, the president would be proposing bold short-term moves to move us rapidly back to full employment. But he isn’t.

O.K., we all understand why. Voters have been told over and over again that the 2009 stimulus didn’t work (actually it did, but it wasn’t big enough), and a few days before a national election is no time to try to change that big a false belief. So all that the administration feels able to offer are measures that would, one hopes, modestly accelerate the recovery already under way.

It’s disappointing, to be sure. But a slow job is better than a snow job. Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we’d like, but he isn’t actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. Furthermore, if we ask what Mr. Romney would probably do in practice, including sharp cuts in programs that aid the less well-off and the imposition of hard-money orthodoxy on the Federal Reserve, it looks like a program that might well derail the recovery and send us back into recession.

And you should never forget the broader policy context. Mr. Obama may not have an exciting economic plan, but, if he is re-elected, he will get to implement a health reform that is the biggest improvement in America’s safety net since Medicare. Mr. Romney doesn’t have an economic plan at all, but he is determined not just to repeal Obamacare but to impose savage cuts in Medicaid. So never mind all those bullet points. Think instead about the 45 million Americans who either will or won’t receive essential health care, depending on who wins on Nov. 6.

Romney’s Economic Model

27 Oct

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
New York Times

 

Mitt Romney’s best argument on the campaign trail has been simple: Under President Obama, the American economy has remained excruciatingly weak, far underperforming the White House’s own projections.

That’s a fair criticism.

But Obama’s best response could be this: If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep.

In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.

Is Europe a fair comparison? Well, Republicans seem to think so, because they came up with it. In the last few years, they’ve repeatedly cited Republican-style austerity in places like Germany and Britain as a model for America.

Let’s dial back the time machine and listen up:

“Europe is already setting an example for the U.S.,” Representative Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, said in 2010. (You know things are bad when a Texas Republican is calling for Americans to study at the feet of those socialist Europeans.)

The same year, Karl Rove praised European austerity as a model for America and approvingly quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying: “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect.”

Representative Steve King of Iowa, another Republican, praised Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for preaching austerity and said: “It ought to hit home to our president of the United States. It ought to hit all of us here in this country.”

“The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German Miracle,’ ” Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, a Republican, urged on the House floor in July 2011.

Also in 2011, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, denounced Obama’s economic management and said: “We need a budget with a bold vision — like those unveiled in Britain and New Jersey.”

O.K. Let’s see how that’s working out.

New Jersey isn’t overseas, but since Sessions and many other Republicans have hailed it as a shining model of austerity, let’s start there. New Jersey ranked 47th in economic growth last year. When Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and began to impose austerity measures, New Jersey ranked 35th in its unemployment rate; now it ranks 48th.

Senator Sessions, do we really aspire for the same in America as a whole?

Something similar has happened internationally. The International Monetary Fund this month downgraded its estimates for global economic growth, with only one major bright spot in the West. That would be the United States, expected to grow a bit more than 2 percent this year and next.

In contrast, Europe’s economy is expected to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. The I.M.F. projects that Germany will grow less than 1 percent this year and next, while Britain’s economy is contracting this year.

Karl Rove, that sounds a lot like stagnation to me.

All this is exactly what economic textbooks predicted. Since Keynes, it’s been understood that, in a downturn, governments should go into deficit to stimulate demand; that’s how we got out of the Great Depression. And recent European data and I.M.F. analyses underscore that austerity in the middle of a downturn not only doesn’t help but leads to even higher ratios of debt to economic output.

So, yes, Republicans have a legitimate point about the long-term need to curb deficits and entitlement growth. But, no, it isn’t reasonable for Republicans to advocate austerity in the middle of a downturn. On that, they’re empirically wrong.

If there were still doubt about this, we’ve had a lovely natural experiment in the last few years, as the Republicans in previous years were happy to point out. All industrialized countries experienced similar slowdowns, and the United States under Obama chose a massive stimulus while Germany and Britain chose Republican-endorsed austerity.

Neither approach worked brilliantly. Obama’s initial economic stimulus created at least 1.4 million jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that wasn’t enough, and it was partly negated by austerity in state and local governments.

Still, America’s economy is now the fastest growing among major countries in the West, and Britain’s is shrinking. Which would you prefer?

I’m not suggesting Obama distribute bumper stickers saying: “It Could Be Worse.” He might want to stick with: “Osama’s Dead and G.M. Is Alive.”

Yes, there are differences between Europe and America. But Republicans were right to call attention to this empirical experiment.

The results are in. And, as Representative King suggested, the lessons “ought to hit all of us here in this country.”

Paul Krugman: Double-Dip Recession If Romney Wins

27 Oct

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff: ‘My party is full of racists’

27 Oct

Jillian Rayfield

9:09 pm on 10/26/2012

 

 

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff during his time as secretary of state, decried John Sununu’s comment that Powell only endorsed Barack Obama because they are both black. “To say that Colin Powell would endorse President Obama because of his skin color is like saying Mother Teresa worked for profit,” Wilkerson told Ed Schultz.

Wilkerson said on The Ed Show that though he respects Sununu, a top Romney adviser and surrogate, “I don’t have any respect for the integrity of the position that he seemed to codify. Look at me, Ed, I’m white. I’m not black. Colin Powell picked me because of the content of my character and my competence.”

He added that he thinks Sununu’s remark was an “unfortunate slip of words,” but that it speaks to larger problem in the Republican party.

“My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people, not all of them, but most of them, who are still basing their decision on race,” Wilkerson said. “Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists. And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”

In an interview with radio host Michael Smerconish Friday, the president brushed off Sununu’s remarks, saying he will let Powell’s statement and support “speak for itself.”

“I don’t think that there are many people in America who would question Gen. Powell’s credibility, his patriotism, his willingness to tell it straight,” Obama said. “So any suggestion that Gen. Powell would make such a profound statement in such an important election based on anything other than what he thought would be best for America doesn’t make much sense.”