“If the Reports Are True”

Mitt Romney couldn’t stand up to Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association over his hiring of Ric Grenell, who happens to be gay.  Now Mitt is faulting President Obama for not standing up to the Chinese over the dissident Chen Guangcheng.

With conflicting reports swirling and a lot of confusion as to Chen’s exact situation and wishes, Mitt irresponsibly blasted the President today for a “day of shame” and a “dark day for freedom.”  But he had to preface his condemnation with qualifiers like “if the reports are true” and “if they’re accurate.”  When you have to use language like that, you have no business attacking anyone, you simply don’t have enough information yet.

So aside from the hypocrisy, we have Mitt going off half-cocked while President Obama is in the middle of a tough and messy foreign policy crisis.

Republicans in Congress also held an emergency hearing on Chen in which they criticized the President.

If it had just been about putting Mr. Chen on a plane when he was in our custody, that would be simple.  But he has a family as well, who did not escape with him, a wife, two children, a mother, and brothers, all of whom are at risk.  So the GOP effort to paint this as a situation where President Obama threw Chen under the bus to save his broader negotiations with the Chinese this week with Secretaries Clinton and Geithner conveniently ignores the complicating factor of the safety of Chen’s family.

The brighter the public spotlight that is shone on Chen, the harder it is for the Chinese government to back down.

What’s the real GOP goal here — helping Chen or making Obama  look bad?  If the GOP wants to hurt Obama, they will keep running their mouths.  If they want to help Chen, they will push for him privately and pipe down publicly.

A day of shame?  Definitely —  for Mitt Romney.

GOP — It’s Not Me, It’s You

Sometimes I wonder if I exaggerate how extreme and insane the GOP has become.  Then I find something like “Let’s just say it:  the Republicans are the problem,” in which one of the co-authors is from the super-conservative American Enterprise Institute.*  So I’m reminded and reassured that when it comes to the GOP, it’s not me, it’s them:

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.  In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted.  Today, however, we have no choice by to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics.  It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

“But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names:  Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.

“But the forces Gingrich unleashed destroyed whatever comity existed across party lines, activated an extreme and virulently anti-Washington base — most recently represented by tea party activists — and helped drive moderate Republicans out of Congress.

“Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year.  The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes) had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR.

“We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story.  But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.

“If they [voters] can punish ideological extremism at the polls and look skeptically upon candidates who profess to reject all dialogue and bargaining with opponents, then an insurgent outlier party will have some impetus to return to the center.  Otherwise, our politics will get worse before it gets better.”  Emphasis added.

* Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, WaPo

Greece Is the Word

The false talking point that the U. S. is on the path to becoming Greece is popular among GOP politicians and pundits, designed to strike terror into voters’ hearts and make them vote for Mitt.  The effectiveness of this lie depends on voters knowing a little, but not too much.

To be scared about our becoming Greece, voters have to know that Greece is in huge trouble.  But they can’t know that the analogy doesn’t hold, that we are nothing like Greece.  Fewer votes know this.  Fewer voters will stop to think that we have our own floating currency, while Greece does not; that we have a central bank, while Greece does not; that we can print money, while Greece cannot.  Fewer voters will know the actual numbers of the incredibly low rates at which the U. S. borrows money and the incredibly high rates at which Greece borrows.

This cynical GOP strategy proves the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  A Republican victory in November relies on low-information voters.  For the Obama campaign, more information will lead to more votes.

Refuting the Big Lie Against the Buffet Rule

Mitt and the GOP argue against President Obama’s Buffet Rule or any other tax increases for very rich people by claiming that if you tax the “job creators,” you both reduce revenue and destroy growth so that everybody suffers.  This is complete and utter garbage, this is their “big lie,” but they have to figure out how to convince more people to vote against their economic interests than just the abortion/gay marriage/guns crowd.  They need to con some people from the middle or they lose.

So that’s why I was thrilled to see an op-ed, in the Wall Street Journal no less, “High Tax Rates Won’t Slow Growth,” by Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez, that calls out the big lie.  Diamond won the Nobel Prize for economics and is an MIT professor emeritus.  Saez is an economics professor at U. C. Berkeley and winner of the very prestigious John Bates Clark medal.  From the op-ed:

“The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U. S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s.  At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly.  Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more?  Because U. S. income concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is large.

“But will taxable income of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops?

“According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50% to 70%….  Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s.

“But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth?  In the postwar U. S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth — not lower.  Indeed, according to the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.

“By itself, a suitable increase in the taxation of top earners will not solve our unsustainable long-term fiscal trajectory.  But that is no reason not to use this tool to contribute to addressing this problem.”

I wish every voter would read this op-ed.  Mitt and the GOP aren’t just wrong about taxing the rich, they know they are lying about it.  We need to send them a message in November that “Populus vult decepi” may have been true in ancient Rome, but it isn’t true here, and it isn’t true now.

Newt’s Real Book Tour/Pretend Presidential Campaign

Long-time Newtie senior staffer and now head of his super PAC Rick Tyler admits that Newtie doesn’t really want to be president all that much:  “I’ve known Newt for a long time.  Newt doesn’t have this driving ambition to be president.”

But he and Callista do having a driving ambition to sell as many of their crappy books and DVD’s as possible.  Have you seen the prices at Tiffany’s lately?

Don’t Be Fooled By “Moderate Mitt”

From “The Sweet Spot,” Bill Keller, NYT:

“My hunch is that Romney will manage to shake off most of his extremist accouterments, because they never seemed to fit him.  It is true that if elected…Romney would be obliged to tithe generously to the right, by choosing Supreme Court nominees of the Scalia/Thomas persuasion, for example, and by populating regulatory agencies with polluters and plunderers.  But those concerns tend not to alter election outcomes.  Even with pro-Obama super PACs painting him as a mean-spirited zealot, Romney should be able to recapture the old campaign aura of a moderate Mr. Fixit.”

I agree with Keller that “those concerns” don’t affect elections, but they should!

So Mitt is re-setting the Etch a Sketch for the general to run from the base and then will re-set it again if elected to embrace them.  They’ll keep him on a short leash under the threat of getting primaried for 2016.  They already don’t like or trust him, so he’d better behave.

Is Mitt Stuck as Mayor of Loonyville?

From a fun read, “WTF, GOP?” by Monka Bauerlen and Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones:

“You coulda been a contender!  Economy in the tank.  Congress successfully gridlocked.  Consider:  Base energized, Yes-We-Can shock troops disaffected, major donors to the president’s campaign picketing his speeches.  True, with Occupy on the rise, it did become (cue Jon Stewart falsetto) awkward that your leading candidate was an unapologetic poster child for the 0.0025 percent.  Still, all you had to do was set Clinton ’92 ‘It’s the Economy,  Stupid’ messaging on autoplay and coast to November.  Instead, a way on ladyparts?

“Sure, it’s been entertaining.  Schadenfreude, as the German saying goes, is the best freude.  But liberals take note:  Not only is a robust dialogue crucial for an intellectually engaged democracy, it also happens to be required to Get.  Anything.  Done.  Even if the Republican brand suffers long-term damage (and the jury’s still out), conservatives will make up north of 40 percent of the vote, most importantly in the US Senate.

“Surely we are not alone in worrying that the Grand Old Party is losing touch with reality — obsessing on issues entirely divorced from both 21st-century mores and the pressing economic challenges of the day.  But excepting Bush speechwriter David Frum’s cri de coeur in New York magazine (rewarded with RINO opprobrium from his colleagues), name-brand Republican thinkers steer clear of a frank diagnosis.  They might bemoan a weak field of candidates — George Will has basically written off the White House and tried to rally the troops around holding the House — but no one dares take on the twin planks of Loonyville:  Grover Norquist’s no-taxes-never-ever pledge and Roger Ailes’ facts-be-damned spin on the ‘news.’

“The realpolitik leaders on the right made a bet that they could ride the latest populist wave as they’ve ridden others, using the momentum to pull the rest of the country rightward. But they got greedy.  The current cohort’s overreach threatens to blow 30 years of careful strategizing, from the school-boards-on-up long march to power to Karl Rove’s microtargeting breakthroughs.”  Italics in original, emphasis added.

Cooler Heads Starting to Prevail on Hilary Rosen

From Linda Hirshman, “Hilary Rosen was right,” WaPo:

“Beltway pundit Hilary Rosen committed a mortal sin of American politics.  She spoke the truth with a microphone on.

“In the furor, everyone seemed to forget that unpaid mothers and household work are not what the discussion is about.  Republicans are not talking about how jobs for stay-at-home moms have decreased under Obama.

“They are talking about how paid work for women has suffered.

“Although Ann Romney may be a fine spokesperson on some issues, the dirty little secret of angling for female votes is that while all women’s work, inside or outside the home, has the same worth, as Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush sweetly expressed, all women do not have the same interests.  Women who work in the home do not have the same interest in the recovery of the formal job market as women who have to work for pay.  Indeed, wage-earning women probably have more in common with their paycheck-dependent male co-workers on the subject of economic recovery than with household laborers such as Ann Romney.”

Ann Romney may have skipped a meal so she could fit into an evening dress, but she’s never skipped a meal so her children could eat instead.  Mitt’s relying on Ann about women’s economic issues just keeps him inside the closed loop of their charmed life together.  He doesn’t have a clue, and neither does she.

They both are picture perfect for the bubble of La Jolla.  The White House, not so much.

Mitt Is a Policy Eunuch

“I’ve always taken it as a given that the ‘real’ Mitt Romney isn’t so much a political moderate as not particularly engaged on issues besides management and right-leaning economics.  In other words, he’s a center-right technocrat. So the moves to the center we’re about to see are comparatively easy for him since these just aren’t issues which are core to who he is one way or another.”  Emphasis added.   Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo

This is my view of Mitt — not so much that he’s a flip-flopper as that he’s apathetic on stuff like abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, climate change, immigration, etc.

I think that’s why the base is so suspicious of him.  Issues that they are passionate about, that they devote their time and money to, that they believe are central and crucial to the future of this country, really don’t matter to him, just six of one, half dozen of another.

The GOP is nominating someone who is basically a policy eunuch.  You can’t really get him aroused.