Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Empty Gesture

What's going to happen to all the Romney Victory Rally token donated goods? The Red Cross doesn't accept donations in goods; moving and storing food, used clothing, and shoes are complicated logistical challenges. The Red Cross wants to use emergency resources in the most efficient way possible, and receiving donations isn't efficient.

So what will happen with these donations that the Romney campaign solicited to camouflage today's campaign rally in Ohio as a disaster relief effort? The Red Cross doesn't want them. The Romney campaign doesn't have the field resources to distribute the goods themselves. To what charity are these being given?


Jonathan Chait posts a persuasive argument explaining Why Democrats Are Right to Politicize Sandy

Funding for FEMA is something the parties wrangle over, with Republicans pushing to limit the agency’s budget, and Democrats pushing back. FEMA has to fight for its share of a constricted pot of money for domestic non-entitlement spending, a pot of money that the Republicans propose to radically constrict. How radically? Romney’s budget promises require shrinking domestic non-entitlement spending as a share of the economy by about two-thirds.
We should be a little careful with the language. I'm not seeing a lot of Democrats politicizing Sandy. I'm seeing a lot of Americans calling for common sense government that takes pragmatic steps to ensure the welfare of all of its citizens.

There is a choice in the 2012 election between a party that believes in this kind of cooperative effort and a party that wants to put a profit motive behind disaster response. Democrats generally believe that government is by and for the people of the United States to accomplish common goals. Republicans see government as something by other people and against their interests. Romney as a candidate said he would abolish federal emergency management and put it in the hands of security contractors. Romney as a governor vetoed funding for flood prevention.

The Republican party loudly complained that the government brought a halt to deep water oil exploration after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Mitt Romney relied on oil company talking points during the second debate. When he claimed that oil production was down on 'federal lands,' the root talking point was that there was a drop in oil exploration in 2011 while the Administration finalized new rules to prevent repeating catastrophic failures. Romney has campaigned for the  last six years as the candidate who will put American corporate interests before the American people.

Romney said he doesn't support Federal emergency management, and implied it would be better handled if a profitable firm took over. The idea that Delaware or Louisiana even New Jersey should have to recover from a big storm without federal help is bad enough. The idea that they might contract out to Haliburton is terrifying.

It's no wonder that this sharp contrast between parties becomes evident when there is already a widespread mobilization of political forces before an unprecedented disaster. This is an historic storm. Republicans at large have been showing some awfully ambivalent attitudes toward FEMA and disaster aid this week, a sign of the tension between the tenets of the Republican Party and the need to avoid criticizing life saving operations.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

GOP Intelligentsia Announce Fishing Expedition

The Republican hack train is in full panic mode. The media narrowly avoided buying the Romney momentum storyline (and accompanied remorse). The New York Times published an unequivocal endorsement of the President's reelection.

The Republican case for Romney has always been based on a mushy anxiety. In the debates, Romney failed to make the case for Republican policies, instead opting for personal advancement. In non-answer after non-answer, Romney evaded the plans he hawked in the Primaries and his own running mate's budget. Romney has attempted to run as a vague alternative to the status quo instead of offering any specific plans for a Romney administration--after Day 1 anyway.

The shallow draft of the Romney campaign is best illustrated by the campaign's concerted attempt last week to spread the false narrative of Romney momentum. Jeremy Bird (Obama for America National Field Director) linked the Republican field reported field numbers failure to add up to the Governor's failure to create realistic and arithmetically sound policy proposals. The Romney campaign's media strategy of focusing on horserace statistics while eliding substance reminded pol-watchers that the Romney campaign case has boiled down to:

  1. The President is a loser
  2. Don't vote for a loser

This has been the central point of most of Romney's talking points: 'apology tour,' Benghazi coverup allegations, birth certificate jokes, etc... It also explains why Boston invested a week of media contacts into touting a run of polls that showed Romney stalled just below 47 percent of the electorate and behind President Obama.

Back to the drawing board, Republican thought leaders: Billy Kristol announces his Ten Questions for the White House. Donald Trump announces his new haircut. David Brooks will just quit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Windsor v. US

I'm glad that the Second Circuit trashed the Defense of Marriage Act today (pdf), but I'm a particular fan of how they did it. A little secret about the law is that outcomes in court cases matter a lot less than how the outcome is reached. Ok, I admit; that's less of a secret and more of a wildly controversial claim. After all, who really relies on stare decisis outside of confirmation hearings?

But I digress. Edith Windsor's long term partner and spouse under New York State law passed away, leaving an inheritance to her widow. The IRS taxed the estate, leaving Ms. Windsor a tax bill of roughly $383,000. Had Ms. Windsor's spouse been of the opposite sex but all other facts concerning their union been similar, the inheritance would have been exempt from the estate tax.

This sex-based divergence in outcomes forms the basis for Ms. Windsor's equal protection claim. The Southern District of New York decided in Ms. Windsor's favor, but did so on a 'rational basis' test. The rational basis test requires that a law be "rationally related" to a "legitimate government interest." Poll taxes could meet this level of scrutiny. Almost any law can meet a rational basis test, which is why it is considered the lowest standard of scrutiny for Equal Protection and Due Process claims. However, the Defense of Marriage Act was not able to meet this standard at the trial court level, and was dismissed.

The danger of allowing sex and gender discrimination to be decided at the rational basis level is that "rationally related" and "legitimate government interest" are innately squishy phrases. If there were a consensus view in a particular region among cultural  and judicial elites that solidifying a specific set of gender norms constituted a "legitimate government interest," it would follow that legalizing sex-based pay disparities would be a "rationally related" method of incentivizing behavior.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Romney's invocation

"Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs."

Not if you close your eyes and refuse to look at data.

Outsourcing - Part Obama

President Obama: We would make the tax code support American businesses instead of letting multinationals unfairly repatriate taxes.

"The way we're going to create jobs here is not just to change our tax code. We're going to double our exports. We're on pace to do that."

"In the private sector, Governor Romney's company invested in companies called 'pioneers of outsourcing.' That's not my phrase. That's reporters' phrase."

Outsourcinng - Part Romney

Mitt Romney: Let's pretend that outsourcing history began on January 1, 2009. Does Mitt Romney really think that "Trickle down government" doesn't just remind everyone of the Republican "trickle down" talking point? I'm sure it's focused tested, but come on.

Now he's explaining currency manipulation. He'll label China a Currency Manipulator and start a trade war.

He's about to get sucker punched on "Pioneer of outsourcing" and he knows it.

Romney admits that he would start a company in Canada if he weren't running for President.

Actually, the rate of new regulations issued is vastly lowered in the Obama adminsitration than any administration in the last 20 years, but that's ok.

Assault Weapon Control

President Obama: "We're a nation who believes in the second Amendment... but there have been too many instances during the last four years where I have had to comfort the families of people who have been wounded in these tragedies."

"I share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets."

Candy Crowley:

Mitt Romney: "I'm not interested in new pieces of legislation on guns," to 'we of course don't want automatic weapons, that that's already illegal.'" to "We have to enforce the laws that we have."

Fast and Furious, "How it worked precisely, we don't know exactly." "I can't imagine." I couldn't even cast aspersions!

We were sitting around and talking about Libya

President Obama: My plan is (1) Beef up security (2) investigate (3) Bin Laden those bitches. Romney's plan is to profit politically. I have a track record in National Security. We left Iraq. We defeated Al Qaeda. We are transitioning out of Afghanistan.

I am the responsible one here.

Mitt Romney: It's his responsibility for that security failure. I'm going to stumble over some apologies for politically pandering before doing it again and prating on about how awful the Middle East is.

Candy Crowley: Does the Buck stop with Secretary Clinton?

President Obama: "I'm always responsible. That's why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I am. We're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

"The idea that anyone on my team would play politics or mislead is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as President or as Commander and Chief"

Mitt Romney: "It took the President 14 days before he said it was an act of terror."

President Obama: "Get the transcript."

Candy Crowley: "He did in fact call it an act of terror."

Undocumented Immigration

Mitt Romney: How many times can I make sure I get your name right?

Ok, great. "We welcome legal immigrants into this country." "Amnesty" "Employment verification" "The kids of those who came here illegally, I think should have a pathway to legal status." 

Barack Obama: Let me squander the awkwardness gap that Mitt Romney built up.

People want to come to the United States. We're a nation of immigrants, and also a nation of laws. First thing we did was to streamline legal immigration. We made it easier, simpler, and cheaper for people to come here. 

Barack Obama is explaining the Romney record better than Romney did. Linked him to the Arizona law. Explained self-deportation. Explained Republican intransigence.

Candy Crowley: "Let's speak to the idea of self-deportation"

Mitt Romney: "No." Let me PIC out of the Arizona law. Mitt Romney explains that he isn't a leader in the Republican party, reminds everyone he lost to John McCain. Ok, now I'll talk about self-deportation. "I'm not in favor of rounding up people and taking them out of the country."

President Obama using all the skills of a litigator in getting Romney's last word to be "Chinese investments."

What have you done for me lately?

President Obama:

Middle class tax cuts
Ended the war in Iraq
Killed Bin Laden
Affordable Care Act
Wall Street Reform
Crated 5 million jobs
Saved Auto Industry

There's a lot more to do:

Reducing the deficit.

I've kept my promises, and I intend to keep the rest of them. Mitt Romney is going to keep his promises too:

Backwards on Pell Grants
Backwards on Medicare
Backwards on Affordable Care Act

Mitt Romney: You know what you're going to get with President Obama. We can't afford another 4 years like the last 4 years.

We didn't get there; let's stop where we are.

Social Security/Medicare
Limiting insurance premiums

"The unemployment has not been reduced in this country." Food stamps. "Economy growing more slowly this year than last year, and that was slower than the year before."

Reagan recession. 

How are you not President Bush?

Mitt Romney: "I think I was supposed to get that last answer." What an asshole.

Ok - I'm going to ignore this question about how I'm not President Bush. "Every women should have access to contraceptives."

"President Bush and I are different people and these are different times." That's the biggest bullshit answer. More free-trade agreements. Make a magical balanced budget. Champion small business. But these aren't policies; these are aspirations.

President Obama: "When he says he has very different policies, the center piece of his economic policy is tax cuts, which got us into this mess."

"Keep in mind that Romney invested in companies that pioneered in outsourcing jobs to China... Mr. Romney, you're the last person who will go after China."

"George Bush didn't turn Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. George Bush didn't recommend defunding Planned Parenthood." Day-umn.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

President Obama: I was raised by a single mother. My grandmother worked her way up to become a Vice President in a local bank. She hit the glass ceiling. "This is one of the reasons why one of the first bills I signed was the Lilly Ledbetter bill." Then uses the phrase "brings suit." "This is not just a women's issue. This is a family issue." Administration expanded pell grants by giving directly to students. "We have to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing... in every walk of life, we do not tolerate discrimination."

Mitt Romney: "Important topic, and one that I learned a great deal about." I only hire men. Flexibility in the workplace. Not the worst answer he's had this evening.

President Obama: There's a lot here that Mitt Romney won't tell you. Romney is letting Congressional Republicans dictate women's healthcare. "That's not the kind of advocacy that women need." Planned Parenthood. "That's a pocketbook issue for women."

Tax policy

Great Question!

Mitt Romney reveals how little of a clue he has about the middle class. He promises to get rid of carried interest taxes for the middle class, as if the taxes on middle class savings, investments, and bonds were keeping middle class workers up at night. That was unbelievably tin-eared for people who have lost their savings, for whom their stock portfolios took a beating.

President Obama stands on his record of cutting taxes for the middle class and small businesses. Why isn't he hitting Romney here?

Talks about deficit reduction. Talks about Republican hostage taking.

Turns to Romney and revamps 60 Minutes ad, "Yes, I think that's fair. I think that's what grows the economy." What grows the economy is tax credits for small businesses for hiring veterans or sending kids to college.

Mitt Romney: "You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5% will continue to pay 60% of the income tax paid." It's no secret that Romney wants to cut the amount taken through income tax and pay for it by gutting tax credits for the middle class. It's also no secret that he wants to cut non-income tax rates to 0%. "I know why jobs come and why they go."

President Obama: Let's do the math. It costs about $5 Million. Plus $2 Trillion in unnecessary defense spending. Plus $1 Trillion for Bush Tax Cuts. Hasn't been able to wrap the math into a coherent story besides, "This is a sketchy deal"

Mitt Romney: "Of course they add up." I've balanced budgets, then he adds that he didn't do anything in Massachusetts. Romney is straining credulity when he sidesteps his plan.


Mitt Romney calls oil "a massive new resource we have." It's time we enter the oil age, Mr. President!

Also, someone should tell Romney that he doesn't need to continue to pander to Iowans about ethanol. He already lost that primary twice.

"I'm getting North America energy independent." "I'll get America and North America energy independent." Romney is running for the Canadian vote.

Candy Crowley asks about whether $4 per gallon is the new normal. This is a surprisingly good debate question.

The President describes the basic facts of energy demand, but leaves out that it's largely caused by growth in the third world. "A large part of that wasn't true." President Obama reminds Mitt Romney that he has a record. I wonder if that will stop the lying.

Mitt realizes the debate is slipping away, demands that President is answering a question that he's already answering.

So much for stopping the lying about checkable facts. The President's strategy in this debate can't rely on Romney being shamed into not lying; he's seen that it's never worked.

Mitt Romney admits he's in a hole at the end of Question 1

If you have to try to interject at the end of the question, you're conceding you lost the debate on that question.

What Can You Do to Make a College Education Worth It?

Romney talks about education and ends with a vague pander, "I know how to create jobs... and when you graduate, I'll make sure you can get a job."

The President touts the 5 million jobs created in the last 5 years and lays out the educational plan, tax plan to pay for investments in Pell grants. President Obama ties the college kid's fate to the fate of the nation.

Candy Crowley hijacks the question and asks Romney, "What's wrong with the economy right now?" Romney hits hard on economic numbers, which media will be too lazy to factcheck. Responds to "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt and that's right." Tries to tie his plan and attack the President "for letting Detroit go bankrupt"

President hitting hard on "5 point plan." President Obama: "Mitt Romney doesn't have a 5 point plan; he has a 1 point plan." Ties Romney's Bain experience with the decades of loss for the middle class.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pathetic and Misleading

The President's campaign is out with a new ad focusing on Mitt Romney's tax rate. Judge the effectiveness for yourself:

The Romney campaign's response is to call the ad "pathetic and misleading."

That's all well and good, but if it's misleading in any way, shouldn't the Romney campaign fight to get the full interview in front of voters? After all, the antidote to misleading speech is more speech, which is why federal campaign financing law tilts towards funneling more money into ad buys.

So I'm sure we can expect the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove to buy ad spots featuring the full, unedited interview. What are Romney and his band of billionaire backers waiting for? Call the President's bluff!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quality of Media Analsysis

After a 90 minute debate, why is even NPR discussing how 'active' people look on their side of the screen?

Washington Free Beacon reporter (read: Republican hack) is saying that he felt "tired" by the end of it. I suppose he is worn out by any substance. That may also be why he is shilling that Congressman Ryan "Fought to a draw."

When the Washington Free Beacon is arguing that a Republican "Fought to a draw," it means he lost handily.

"They keep misquoting my running mate"

One of my favorite lies from Congressman Ryan tonight was "They keep misquoting my running mate." So let's look at the tape:

Mitt Romney: Let Detroit Go Bankrupt