Paul Ryan’s Hunger Games

Paul Ryan breezed into a soup kitchen in Ohio, got photographed washing already clean pans, and left!

From “Charity president unhappy about Paul Ryan soup kitchen photo op,” Felicia Sonmez, WaPo:

“The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week ‘ramrodded their way’ into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

“Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan….

“’We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,’ Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. ‘It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.’

“He added: ‘The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.’

“Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.”

Mitt Deceptive on What Seniors Will Pay

Mitt has tried to soften the blow of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan by saying that the vouchers would be voluntary and that anyone who wants to stay in traditional Medicare could do so.

But a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that about 60% of beneficiaries would pay higher premiums, whether they stay in traditional Medicare or use the voucher.  For those in traditional Medicare, they estimate more that half would pay more.  For the smaller number of seniors in what is now Medicare Advantage, almost 90% would pay more.  To keep their premiums down, seniors would have to give up a lot in benefits.

You don’t have to get deep in the weeds of Romney/Ryan to understand that they want to shift a lot of the costs of Medicare away from the government and onto seniors.  So it’s the worst of both worlds — pay a lot of taxes to Medicare while you’re working, get lousy benefits when you retire.

For more, see “Medicare Vouchers Would Raise Costs for Most Seniors, Study Finds,” Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo

Not That Hard to Destroy Medicare

The way Paul Ryan has structured his destruction of Medicare by turning it into a voucher system, it takes only a simple majority in the Senate.  It would be passed under “budget reconciliation” and could not be filibustered.

If Mitt wins, there’s a good chance the GOP would get at least 50 Senate seats, and of course Ryan would break a tie.

Getting rid of Medicare as we know it is not that far-fetched.

Given just how much is at stake here, the President’s first debate performance looks even more inexcusable and unforgivable to me.  It feels as if everything is riding on ninety minutes tomorrow night.

For more, see “November 7th,” Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

It’s About the Big Bang, Not Big Bird

The GOP tells us that this is a watershed election.  I agree, but not for the reasons they say.  This isn’t about whether or not we’re going to switch to vouchers for Medicare or what the Medicaid budget is going to be.  This is about whether we’re going to continue down the Republican path to the Dark Ages.

To their shame, the GOP has let extremists take over their party at the state and national level.   The question on November 6 is whether we’re going to let the crazies take over our country.

I grew up believing that some things were settled in our society — that evolution was established science, that Keynesianism was established economics.  But now the GOP presents laughable, long-discredited science and economics as the truth.

With 435 congressional districts, we’re going to get people like Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.  But fringe people like him should not be elevated to the Senate.  And they definitely shouldn’t become Vice President, but Paul Ryan and Todd Akin are Tweedledee and Tweedledum on social issues.  Ryan is a little more careful about what he says in public, but their views and votes are the same.

We are outraged about the Taliban shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan because she defended the right of girls to go to school.  We rightly think the Taliban are sick barbarians.  But if Ryan and Akin had their way, we’d have 14-year-old rape and incest victims dying from illegal abortions.  That is every bit as sick and barbaric.

I voted for Bush 43 in 2004 and McCain in 2008 because I was afraid of the radical Muslims.   I’m still a registered Republican, but I’m voting for Obama because I’m afraid of the radical Christians.  I want to defeat the Christian Taliban here at home.

 

Grace Under Pressure

Joe Biden did a great job tonight saying what Obama should have said, and the Obama campaign is back on track.  Now Obama just has to keep it there.

I wasn’t really worried that Biden would have a gaffe, and he didn’t.  I was more worried about the age contrast.  When you have two candidates who are a generation apart, you wonder if the younger guy will make the older guy seem over the hill, or if the older guy will make the younger one seem callow.  Tonight it was clearly the latter.

Biden was passionate, engaged, energetic, fluent, and forceful.  He came across as authentic and sincere, as someone who speaks from the heart.

I always think of Mitt as Eddie Haskell, and tonight Ryan was Eddie Haskell, Jr.  He was slick and smarmy.   He seemed over-rehearsed.  He’s turning into a robot like Mitt. He was his far-right self, and so he raised doubts about that Moderate Mitt we saw last week.

My favorite moment was his Dan Quayle, deer-in-the-headlights look when Martha Raddatz asked if those who support abortion rights should be worried if he and Mitt win.  The correct answer was “Well, duh!,” but Ryan refused to answer it directly, sputtering about unelected judges versus elected representatives deciding.  How about women deciding for themselves, how about that?

Martha Raddatz did a great job.

If only the Yankees had won tonight…

Slippery Mitt Slides Agan

From “How Romney Is Obscuring His Upper Income Tax Cuts,” Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo:

Seeking to neutralize the Obama campaign’s charge that his tax proposal will disproportionately benefit the wealthy, Mitt Romney has subtly changed the way he talks about his plan, in a way that obscures what its impact would be.

Before the general election, Romney consistently argued that he wanted the wealthy to pay the same share of the overall tax burden as they do today. Now, as often as not, he claims he doesn’t want to reduce their burden at all.

The two descriptions of his plan have wildly different implications — and he’s effectively using their superficial similarities to hide the real impact his proposal would likely have.

“Romney’s official proposal is to cut all marginal rates by 20 percent and to eliminate unspecified tax loopholes for high incomes. When nonpartisan experts analyzed the plan they concluded that under friendly assumptions his rate cuts will either require a higher burden on the middle class or an increase in the deficit.

That conclusion caught Romney’s campaign flatfooted — and so he changed the pitch. Now he promises that the middle class will see a reduced tax burden, the rich will pay the same amount, and the deficit won’t rise. But that describes an entirely new tax reform proposal — one which experts also say would increase the deficit.

“Yet despite this major change, Romney has been able to avoid direct scrutiny about it from the media, even as he bounces back and forth between insisting that high income earners as a group will continue to pay the same share of the taxes as they do now and asserting that individual high earners will pay the same proportion of income as they do now.”  Emphasis added.

Mitt is counting on the American people’s being both bad at math and too lazy to bother.  You’ll see Paul Ryan counting on that tomorrow night.  Short of a blackboard (borrowed from Glenn Beck?), I’m not sure that Biden can shame Ryan successfully.

Biden Can Only Do So Much

There’s obviously tremendous pressure on Joe Biden to perform well in his debate with Paul Ryan on Thursday.  But there are limits to what Biden can accomplish because there are two concerns from last week’s debate.

Biden can “stop the bleeding” by pointing out the Romney/Ryan lies and making a clear contrast between Dem and GOP policy positions.  He can and must make a strong policy case for his side as being on the side of all those who aren’t already rich.

But policy is only one problem — the other is personality, and only Obama can fix that, Biden can’t do it for him.  Obama didn’t look or sound presidential last Wednesday.  He didn’t inspire confidence, he inspired incredulity.

Biden is the #2 guy.  Only the #1 guy can convince us that he wants and deserves to remain the most powerful person in the world.

Biden can’t fix it, he can only keep it from getting worse and set up Obama to make it right on the 16th.

 

Andrew Sullivan on Mitt’s Performance Art

From Andrew Sullivan, “The Master,” The Daily Beast:

If you are a salesman and you see life and politics as about the sell, you adjust the sell every time to a different customer-base. Most people find this perfectly natural in a business setting, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s called marketing.

But we often find the same strategy a little ethically dubious in politics and religion. Why? Because the product you are selling, in these contexts, is something in the future, not something we can see now, touch and examine and test. When you change both the pitch and the product for different audiences, and refuse to tell people what the final product may be, you need a lot of chutzpah and salesmanship to do the job. You need to have a facility for lying, while seeming utterly sincere. You need to have a face that can be re-set constantly to assess and sell to every door you knock on, especially if what you are selling does not, in normal reality, add up.

Now I’ve slept on it, that seems to me what happened last night. It was such a mesmerizing sales job and so relentless, checked at no point by Lehrer, and at no point checked by past reality or facts, Obama was left with two options: say this pleasant-seeming guy next to him is a shameless weather-vane and liar (wouldn’t work in a debate, is just against Obama’s character) or to try and remind the country of Romney’s actual policies as he has laid them out, and rebut the facts relentlessly. Obama tried the latter really, really badly, but the obvious retort to Romney’s smiling total pivot was: what on earth are you talking about? Who are you? Who will you be tomorrow?

But here’s the key political-policy point, it seems to me. In the last few days, Romney has said he will keep the DREAM executive order, keep all the good things in Obamacare, while getting rid of “Obamacare” (impossible); he will protect Medicare from Obama’s $700 billion “raid” and keep it as an option for seniors for ever, if they choose; and he will enact his version of Simpson-Bowles, because he is more moderate and bipartisan than Obama. Lehrer…was simply a facilitator for the Romney sales job, which flummoxed Obama, in the worst public performance bar none of his campaign….

More fatally for the president, the argument works. And it works precisely because of GOP extremism. If one party simply refuses to support anything a president of another party proposes and is primarily devoted to obstructionism on everything, then they can, if they are reckless enough both to create a credit crisis and prevent any further stimulus, succeed in essentially blackmailing the country by destroying its political system and then blaming it on the president. It’s cynical and corrupt and contemptible and unpatriotic – but lethal.

So in reality, we recall that Obama actually set up a Simpson-Bowles Grand Bargain, but Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, vetoed it… and made sure it never got to a Congressional vote. Obama, in the worst mistake of his presidency, decided then to bob and weave on this, rather than risk embracing it alone. That’s what gave Romney his opening last night. He simply lied and said Obama killed S-B and Romney will resurrect it, but in line with his plan. So the obvious policy mix for now – a short-term stimulus, a long-term bipartisan debt-reduction deal on S-B lines – can only be passed in this scenario by a Republican president so long as he has a Republican House. A Democratic president cannot even hope that in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, a single person from the GOP will compromise on anything. The Senate Democrats, however, are not like the House Republicans. They compromise. And the fiscal crisis keeps worsening. So Romney last night stole the key centrist argument of the economic debate from Obama’s weak hand – the hand he refused to seize S-B with when he could have.

So in terms of debate prowess, it was a knock-out. But from the strategic political argument, it was a very canny and dramatic move to the center, if, of course, utterly without consistency or principle.

So the obvious response to this new Romney is to say: now you’ve gone into a debate and denied you are lowering taxes on the wealthy: prove it. Show us where the new revenues come from or at least which are on your chopping block (sorry, PBS won’t solve the problem). More to the point, you have to provide much more savings in the tax code than Simpson-Bowles, if you are also going to take us to higher-than-Cold-War “defense” spending, as you have also promised.

If I were Obama, I’d focus now entirely on Romney’s new plan. What is it? How is it paid for? What is he hiding from us? And why?

Italics in original; emphasis added.

 

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Politico Top Story Says Prez “Bombed”

From “How Obama’s debate strategy bombed,” Alexander Burns and Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman:

A stunned Obama campaign acknowledged Thursday that President Barack Obama delivered a lackluster and even ineffectual performance in his leadoff debate against Mitt Romney, mistakenly opting for a cautious approach to handling his opponent that all too often left Obama looking timid and disengaged.

Democrats close to the president privately acknowledge that their candidate appeared flat and uninspired against a more animated challenger…. Even more frustrating to many Obama supporters was the fact that the president’s muted tone was at least partly by design.

Multiple party strategists privately attributed Obama’s demeanor to an ailment that frequently affects incumbents:  a fear of appearing too aggressive and risking a larger-scale misstep that could transform the campaign.  Projecting a calm, reasonable — some say “presidential”  — demeanor was the strategy during Obama’s debate-prep sessions….

But as a result, Obama allowed Romney to set the terms for much of their Wednesday night face-off….  Startling his supporters, Obama did not deliver almost any of the sharpest attacks that have defined his campaign against Romney, dwelling instead on missing details from Romney’s policy proposals.  The former Massachusetts governor’s private equity background, controversial personal finances, views on social issues and recently-reported comments disparaging Americans who do not pay income taxes, went entirely unmentioned.

Yet a person close to the debate-prep process told POLITICO that Obama was supposed to have been more aggressive within the confines of civility, but opted for a more passive approach that missed “many, many opportunities”  — including the glaring failure to mention Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comments.

[O]ne Democrat close to Chicago conceded that Obama “was not happy with his performance.”

“Don’t expect to see that Barack Obama again,” the Democrat said.

Emphasis added.

I’m sure we won’t see that Obama again because he’s seen Mitt at his most outrageous and bizarre and will be waiting for Psycho Mitt next time.  Mitt has lost the element of surprise.  And Biden will begin the process when he faces Ryan, who will pay for both his own lies and Mitt’s.

Ryan — No Time to Explain Math, Plenty of Time to Lie

After Mitt campaigned in Ohio telling middle class people not to get too excited about his proposed across-the-board 20% tax cut because he’ll also be taking away deductions and exemptions, his running mate is now telling people to pay no attention to that stupid guy at the top of the ticket who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Ryan is saying that besides that 20% rate reduction, middle class families will get to keep deductions for their charitable giving, mortgages, and health care.  Have your cake and eat it too!

Look, the whole thing was already shaping up as not deficit neutral, as Mitt had promised it would be, and this just makes the numbers not add up even more dramatically.  At some point, you have to admit that you’re going to raise taxes on the rich (I don’t see Mitt doing that!), you’re going to raise taxes on the middle class (way more likely, but Mitt doesn’t want to say so), or you’re going to increase the deficit (I expect a lot of that too).

They can’t really reassure the middle class without admitting that the deficit will go up.  And if they admit that the deficit will go up, they can’t criticize Obama on his increase in the deficit.

For more, see “Paul Ryan retreats deeper in mathematical fantasy,” Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, WaPo:

“By seeming to take some middle class deduction off the table, Ryan made the math even more hallucinat0ry.  This might be good politics — Ryan is getting more specific in promising not to raise middle class taxes — but it further confirms that Romney and Ryan have completely jettisoned deficit neutrality as a goal of their plan, and that they are selling people a fiscal bill of goods that doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

I hope Obama really sticks it to Mitt on this tomorrow night.  And then Biden can go after Ryan next week.  These two BS artists need to be called out for what they are.