Archives for: May 2012
"I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country,” said Walsh, simultaneously lowering his voice as he leaned forward before pausing for dramatic effect. “Ehhh. Now let’s move on.”
“What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh,” he continued. “She is nothing more than a handpicked Washington bureaucrat. David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel just picked her up and dropped her into this district.”
- - Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL), March 2012
Regarding Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs
and part of her right arm in 2004 after her helicopter was struck by a
Mitt Romney points to his business experience as his primary qualification to become our next President. Attacks on that experience show a lack of understanding of the free market.
The expectation is that Mitt Romney as President of the United States will be able to replicate the success he experienced in creating jobs as the head of Bain Capital. The Mitt Romney success is easy to put into words. He was responsible for creating 100,000 jobs. The number is a little at variance with the 10,000 jobs he spoke about while campaigning in 1994 against Edward Kennedy for Kennedy's Senate seat. But that is explainable.
Those speaking for Governor Romney point to his 80% success rate at Bain Capital in financing businesses. The phrase that bears repeating, and is repeated, is that you can't succeed in business without creating jobs. 80% success in creating wealth means 80% success in creating jobs. Ed Gillespie, a Romney aide, was on Face the Nation this week. He was quite explicit about it. "The fact is 80 percent of the companies he invested in grew. And that means that jobs were created." The 80% success "means that jobs were created."
Not everyone accepts that formulation uncritically. Any innate skepticism would cause a reasonable observer to examine the evidence.
What if I buy a company that produces a cure for acne, and I run that company, and I make a lot of money. Should I claim to have created the jobs that result? Most of us would say yes to that. What if I simply buy a bottle of acne medicine, and it cures my cousin's acne? Should I still boast that I am responsible for jobs produced by the company? Most of us would agree that the answer is no. If I own a share of stock in that company, should I claim credit for it's success? Well, no.
So, somewhere between buying a bottle of very good medication for my cousin or a share of stock, and purchasing the company and running it, there is a point of balance. On one side, I can make extraordinary claims with a great deal of justification. On the other side I would be dishonest and a little silly. The biggest source of the Romney job creation claim was Staples. Details are still murky, but the investment, larger than anything you or I will likely earn, was still small compared to that of others: nearer to 5% than to 50%. So, on which side of the balance does Governor Romney fall?
If I am employed by a company, then I quit, can I claim credit for that company's later success? I might, I suppose, if I am prepared to explain in some detail. My claim certainly should not be accepted at face value without that explanation. Staples experienced the greatest part of its success years after Mitt Romney had sold off his investment and left the scene.
If I take over a company, fire five hundred people, then hire a thousand, can I claim credit for the thousand? Or should I also take into account the five hundred I fired? What if the numbers are reversed? If I hire five hundred and fire a thousand, can I claim to have created jobs at all? Or should I have only the net number as my record? What if I hire 1000 people, and fire a lot of people but keep that number secret? How credible should a reasonable person regard my claim?
One problem with Bain Capital is the number of jobs created and lost is obscure. The company keeps the numbers secret, and Mitt Romney has refused to document the details of the job losses. He seems to be inflating the number of jobs on the plus side, counting what happened years later, while keeping the number of fired employees a well guarded secret.
If I make a lot more money than I would have because of a very large tax loophole, can I claim to have created jobs because I made money? Or do I have to acknowledge that ordinary people have to pay a higher share because of the tax avoidance portion of my business success? The US tax code allows certain types of income to be taxed at just 15%. A secretary, or bus driver, or teacher, or police officer will pay a higher rate. Mitt Romney paid 13.9 percent in 2010. His rates in previous years are secret. The tax advantages he obtained during his stay at Bain were a large part of his investment strategy.
The Romney claim of an 80% percent success rate in business does bump into the same problem as the net jobs figure and the previous tax rate. Bain Capital keeps the numbers a secret. One independent analysis put the success figure at about break even.
Of 77 investments:
10 made money.
17 went out of business and closed shop.
On 6 deals, Bain lost all its investment.
But those 10 pluses were big. They accounted for almost three fourths of Bain's profits.
A Wall Street Journal investigation was more detailed. They found that 22 percent of Bain companies went into bankruptcy. So the 80% success figure means something different than Governor Romney projects.
He was a very successful business executive. He made a lot of money. That was the purpose of Bain Capital. To make a lot of money. Not to create jobs.
Still, the Romney claims and the actual percentages combine in an almost Herman Cain-esque formula. Think of all the women who did not make accusations against Herman Cain, as he once defended himself.
Imagine Mitt Romney boasting of his business skills in a more honest way:
Almost 80% of the companies I helped out survived my participation!
It was a time of tension. The Rodney King beating was followed by the exoneration of the police officers on almost all charges by an all white jury. They were hung up on one minor charge. It was an amazing verdict. Didn't they see the videotape of the beating?
South Central Los Angeles exploded in reaction. By the time the National Guard restored order, over 50 people had died in the violence. In a deranged sort of irony, the beating and near death of a truck driver, Reginald Denny, was also caught on tape. The perpetrators were easily identified. A civilian saw the violence on television, rushed into the mob and rescued Denny. Another victim, Fidel Lopez, was beaten nearly to death before Reverend Bennie Newton arrived and made of himself a protective shield. He screamed at the attackers, "Kill him and you have to kill me, too." That attempted murder was also caught on tape.
The perpetrators ended up convicted of misdemeanor assault and a single felony count of mayhem. The jury was deadlocked on the more serious charges. One juror later explained that the would be murderers had only been carried away by a mob mentality. That represented a novel legal mitigation.
After the O.J. Simpson verdict a couple of years later, one critic made the logical observation about justice in greater Los Angeles. Renegade police officers, rioters attempting murder, OJ Simpson, evidence didn't seem to matter. "The good news is they caught Hitler. The bad news is he'll be tried in Los Angeles."
Some Democrats expressed sympathy for the root conditions that had motivated the rioting.
President Bush, the first one, had it about right: He expressed frustration with the verdicts that let off the four police officers and condemned the rioting. "...we simply cannot condone violence as a way of changing the system."
A young singer in the relatively new genre of rap was asked whether the violence had represented wisdom. Sister Souljah replied:
Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I'm saying? In other words, white people, this government, and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence.
So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, or above and beyond dying, when they would kill their own kind?
A candidate for President, Governor Bill Clinton, was asked by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to speak at a gathering. A panel discussion involved a young rapper, and what has become known as the Sister Souljah moment came to be. Clinton chided the rapper, scolding her directly. One sentence summarized his stern message:
If you took the words "white" and "black," and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.
His stinging words angered Sister Souljah and Reverend Jackson. Both insisted she had been quoted out of context, that she had merely discussed the mentality of those who had gone the path of violence. The Reverend and his young guest were correct to a point. She had indeed referred to rioters and what they had to have been thinking.
But her tone had been one of approval. The very first response was "Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I'm saying?" What followed was elaboration. And yeah, we understood her with an acute degree of precision.
Later public figures have had less contentious moments, but they were moments none-the-less. Four years ago, Barack Obama had several involving Jeremiah Wright. And certainly John McCain had a milder, still unmistakable, moment, gently correcting a supporter. "He's a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about."
We can speculate about the degree of calculation that went into each incident. In the end, motives are never completely knowable. Even our own reasons are not always known to ourselves. But Clinton, Obama, and McCain each did what was right. I like to think that was reason enough. In any event, some portion of character was shown, some willingness to do what was uncomfortable but right.
A defender of Mitt Romney, conservative Michael Medved, was on MSNBC last evening. He insists that the Governor has met his own test of character, even while embracing birthers, rock stars of old who wish violence on the President, and audience participants who wish the President to face trial for treason. You see, later, at a safe distance, Governor Romney expresses confidence that the President is an American and even acknowledges that he should not be brought up on charges. His boldness in the face of extremism was expressed earlier this week:
I don’t agree with all the people who support me. And my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.
In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus is asked, Can the eye see itself? He answers "the eye sees not itself but by reflection..." His very flawed friend offers to be his mirror.
In the ordinary press of events, we are occasionally offered a brief glance at some part of a candidate's character. We have glimpsed Mitt Romney's mirror and have, as yet, seen no reflection. In that dark glass we have been shown only a faint shimmering of transparent timidity. It is enclosed by an empty suit.
It's not the Republicans' fault if 25-year-old slackers suddenly are dropped from mom and dad’s health insurance policy.
- - Dean Clancy, conservative group FreedomWorks, May 29, 2012
On Republican plans regarding possible repeal of Obamacare
A short story by Arthur Conan Doyle has hero Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery because of the lack of reaction from a nearby dog.
Police Detective: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Detective: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
And so the fictional character teaches us something of the current state of contemporary conservative thought.
The Republican position on deficits is quite intuitive to most of the public. The most common analogy is that of the belt. Government should tighten its belt during hard times just as families tighten their belts. And then everyone nods their heads in agreement. It sounds so sensible.
Problem is this formulation, the same philosophy that got us into the Great Depression, ignores something very important. Individual families are not charged with the responsibility of reviving employment, getting the country moving again. Government does have that responsibility. Economists say the sort of proposed policy that Republicans insist on, that Republicans threaten to close down government twice a year over, the sort of policy that is predicated on getting us out of economic difficulty by ending deficits now, would put a very high proportion of us on street corners selling apples.
But it sure sounds right.
One question for those who take to heart economic history is whether Republicans actually believe what they are saying, and how they are voting, or whether this is for political effect alone. This is a serious question bordering on defamation if Republicans are behaving honorably, putting the well being of the nation ahead of narrow political gain. If they believe what they are saying, they are merely mistaken. Tragically, stupidly mistaken, but mistaken none-the-less. If they don't believe it, they are deliberately trying to keep employment high, hurting the country, in the hope that President Obama will be blamed.
Most Americans, indeed most Democrats, are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Which makes an interview Republican Mitt Romney gave to Mark Halperin for Time Magazine earlier this month especially revealing. Halperin asked the candidate why he hasn't yet proposed balancing the federal budget right away, as Republicans in Congress have insisted must be done. Here is how Governor Romney answered:
Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course. What you do is you make adjustments on a basis that show, in the first year, actions that over time get you to a balanced budget. So I’m not saying I’m going to come up with ideas five or ten years from now that get us to a balanced budget.
So Romney embraced simple Keynesian principles just like that. But those of us who care for the recovery of the country should be grateful.
It should have been in headlines everywhere. It wasn't, of course. But what is more newsworthy is reported virtually nowhere. It is what happened immediately following the Romney interview. Jonathan Chait is one of the few who catch it.
What happened was the startling reaction of Congressional policy makers, the ones willing to hold the country hostage every year, the ones demanding a balanced budget right now.
There was no reaction among those willing to put Romney on the rack over the slightest deviation from conservative extremism. Contraception must be made harder to get. Children of illegal immigrants must be deported. Gays must be kept from marriage and even civil unions. Social Security must be privatized. Medicare reduced, Medicaid nearly eliminated. Head Start must be ended. Breakfast programs for little kids must be terminated.
If Mr. Romney dials it down just a little howls are raised to the moon.
But the embrace of Keynesian economics? Not a peep.
Almost like they don't believe what they are saying. Almost like they know all those votes will actually damage the economy and hurt real people.
It's right out of Sherlock Holmes.
The dog that didn't bark.
[I have brought this back on Veteran Day and Memorial Day Holidays in the years since it was first published. I have thought of it many times, especially in recent months as a member of our own family ventures in and out of combat zones as a US Marine]
Last evening he reacted with amazement. "You gotta be kidding me!" I had just mentioned I was writing about him. I thought for a moment he might object. As it is, I hope he forgives me for the details I may have gotten wrong.
It was one of several encounters I had happened upon with this impressive, self-deprecating man. I often stop by the local library, and that's where we kept bumping into each other. The first time, he was trying to recover a lost file on a library computer. I tried to help him, unsuccessfully as it turned out. We talked about the coming election. He was for McCain, I for Obama.
Then he told me a little of himself. He is a war hero from the Vietnam era. That's my description not his. He seems hesitant as he talks about it, and he talks about it sparingly. "I just went a little crazy," he says. His "craziness" saved others who were in mortal danger, pinned down and taking enemy fire. He was later awarded the Bronze Star for bravery. That medal is awarded for any of several acts, but when earned for bravery in combat, it is the fourth highest possible military citation given by the U.S. Armed Forces.
For years, modesty and uncertainty of how it might be regarded prompted him to keep the award stored out of view. He would not expose this symbol to derision. It was his father who changed his mind. His dad had served in the Air Force in World War Two, flying over the Empire of Japan with General Curtis Lemay. He confessed to his son that he felt just a little envious. The younger veteran was incredulous and so his father explained, it was that hidden Bronze Star. The son objected. The old man was a hero many times over. He pointed to the many ribbons, medals, and awards the elder hero had on his own wall. "But I never earned a Bronze Star," the father stated simply.
They are everywhere, these heroes who have our lasting thanks and admiration, earned in far off lands. They are lucky to have made it back, and we are blessed in having them back. A choir director, members at church, workmates, and casual acquaintances are among them. There are many more unknowingly met in bank lines and pharmacies, the routine encounters that are part of everyday life. I have a letter from a onetime coworker, recently assigned to Afghanistan. He has my prayers until the moment he returns.
My friend in the library had a special relationship with his dad. They each shared an admiration of the other, quiet and well deserved. The last act of that regard came as the son gazed into an open casket. He placed next to his father the Bronze Star that had been awarded for an act of desperation decades ago in a land far away.
The father had chosen his son well.
Introduction, Traditional Service, May 27, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
We are not qualified to speak for God,
but God’s love can be expressed in our daily lives.
We cannot, and we must not, judge others,
but we can affirm the astonishing value
that is deep within every child of God.
We fear hypocrisy
because we are not spiritually healed.
But even when faith itself is weak,
we can know this:
That we are part of a plan greater than ourselves,
that the Pentecost is more than an ancient event,
that the Holy Spirit speaks through us,
calling to each soul in its very own language,
reaching each human heart in its very own time.
Found on Line:
from the Church of the Pentecost
At Rumproast, Betty Cracker is amused that the organizational heirs of smear artist Andrew Breitbart have discovered a new way to attack President Obama. It seems transfer students, on average in 1981 were thought to be below the average of transfer students in other years. Barack Obama was a transfer student in 1981. Therefore, President Obama's academic record is suspect. Betty Cracker has a brief, pithy, reaction.
The mild mannered Press Secretary to the President suddenly becomes Superman. Okay, just Sam Kinisan. Anyway, Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame gives us the whole entertaining story. Seems the issue is the he-said-she-said-phone-it-in ethic that passes as modern journalism. Tommy has a transcript, a partial recording, and a Rachel Maddow wrap.
Max's Dad observes the simplest of reasons that Joe Ricketts, an incredibly rich guy in Chicago hates President Obama.
Papamoka at Papamoka Straight Talk takes that same Joe Ricketts to the woodshed for enriching himself with government help he is anxious to deny to those in need.
The Heathen Republican produces a very good explanation of the traditional conservative argument against any minimum wage laws at all. Interference with the market. Also, like every government action that does not benefit the wealthy, it actually hurts those whom it is intended to help. Don't think for a moment that compassionate conservatism is dead.
Anyone who criticizes Mitt Romney is anti-success. Anyone who attacks any of the practices of Bain Capital is against venture capital and free markets. Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, profiles a venture capitalist who should be popular with anyone.
James Wigderson is pretty happy this week. Predictions are a failed recall of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. We'll see.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster reports on an anti-democratic (with a small d) legacy that was an anti-minority, anti-Republican election rigging from long ago days when conservative segregationists were mostly Democrats.
Erin Nanasi of Mad Mike's America brings us the true story of a life irreparably altered by a false accusation and a coercive plea bargain. It is one more reminder of a flawed system of justice that fails too often.
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes runs an errand. Vincent's errands, like everything else about him, represent endless possibilities. He pauses, takes a breath, looks around him, and provides us a glimpse of everything that can be in the moment.
Why do we have to do this, Sir? offers his own very personal reconciliation of evolutionary human development and a belief in God. I like the cartoon slam at those of us who believe.
Slant Right's John Houk takes us through Islamic verses to prove the inherent violence and terror of Muslims. The ritual killing of children for minor disobedience, the death sentence for sexual orientation, the condemning of people for eating the wrong food, the "divinely" ordered genocide of civilians after military victory ... oh wait. I lost my train of thought. That's not in John's piece. That's in the literalist acceptance of Judeo-Christian scripture. The version John says must be followed. Sorry about that. You were saying about Islam?
The very first docking between a private commercial spacecraft and the International Space Station has finally happened, and Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot goes minute by minute in live blogging to walk us through the excitement. As always, Tim gives us insight, education, and fun.
- Ryan at Secular Ethics schools us on a few rules for constructive debate. Seems to me he implicitly explains the difference between debate and argument.
You want a case for electing Mitt Romney? Here goes.
Deficits are good for the economy. And President Obama has dramatically increased deficits, right?
Ummmmm. Not so much. The problem with that, what everyone forgets, what Democrats don't get, what Republicans don't get, what media outlets don't get, is that the budgets for each year are passed in the previous year.
Everyone knows Bill Clinton balanced the federal budget for the first time in a generation. Want to know the previous President who got a balanced budget? It was Lyndon Johnson. Want to know the year it was done? 1969. Want to know who was in office in 1969? Richard Nixon.
Johnson got a balanced budget passed while he was still President. It took effect as he left office.
So, if you take the Bush budget out of the equation, and look at what Obama got passed, even including emergency additional expenditures in the stimulus, it wasn't all that much. In fact, it was less than President Bush. Either one. Less than Clinton (Bill didn't balance the budget until the last.) Less than President Reagan. Less than any other President in the last 3 decades. Here are the figures put together by Market Watch, not known for being anti-Republican. In fact, click on the chart, and you'll see the research.
That might make for a good campaign point, but it's lousy policy.
How about the more basic approach? Well, the budget deal everyone agreed to last year would have reduced the deficit more than it has been so far. The deal was that Democrats and Republicans would have to come to some sort of deal on cuts and/or spending decreases. If they didn't, straight, across the board, cuts in spending would happen. Everything would go. There would be some exceptions for widows and orphans and Marines. Basic keep-the-lights-on and keep-the-terrorists-out bare bones stuff. And the Bush era tax cuts would expire. So there would be your spending cuts and tax increases.
But now Republicans are saying they won't go along with all that. So Democrats, led by President Obama are insisting on it. A deal is a deal. Here's what the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan group of experts put together by Congress, says about it.
What would happen if lawmakers changed fiscal policy in late 2012 to remove or offset all of the policies that are scheduled to reduce the federal budget deficit by 5.1 per- cent of GDP between calendar years 2012 and 2013? In that case, CBO estimates, the growth of real GDP in calendar year 2013 would lie in a broad range around 4.4 percent, well above the 0.5 percent projected for 2013 under current law. However, eliminating or reducing the fiscal restraint scheduled to occur next year without imposing comparable restraint in future years would reduce output and income in the longer run relative to what would occur if the scheduled fiscal restraint remained in place.
Reducing the deficit later this year will pretty much blow away the economy.
Contrast that with what Romney promises. He wants to balance the budget by slashing taxes for the wealthy. Good luck with that balancing act.
Okay. Here's why the basic premise doesn't work.
Cutting the deficit will be a disaster if it is done this year. The deficit needs to come down. But the timing is more than important. Mitt Romney wants to cut the deficit now. Bad move. He wants to do it by vouchering Medicare and eliminating Medicaid. He wants to privatize Social Security and cut teachers out of classrooms. It isn't simply inhuman. It's dumb economics.
Deficits during recovery produce faster recovery. Deficits after recovery produce inflation. So if there isn't, by some miracle under a Romney burden, a recession, if the nation manages to stumble into a recovery anyway, he'll wait until that moment to ... slash taxes on the wealthy. A recessionary policy in a slow recover will be followed by a recovery policy after it is no longer necessary.
Pretty much the opposite of what works.
President Obama ought to have provided a much bigger stimulus. A lot of the federal increase was taken out of the economy by cutbacks at the local level. He may have done just that, increasing the size of the stimulus, if he had had the votes, thereby getting the economy to grow much faster. He didn't, so he didn't, so it didn't.
As it is, we're edging toward recovery because the lowering of the deficit wasn't even more severe. So relax. A vote for Obama is still your best bet for the future of the flag, and the Republic for which it stands.
Mitt Romney makes a reasonable point. He puts forward his experience as someone who achieved success in the business world as a demonstrated ability to create jobs as President.
The economy is the central issue of the season, and for good reason. People who are thrown out of work, unable to find employment, experiencing devastating financial loss, should not be ignored, as if everyone simply wishes they would quiet down and go away, as if their stories are just so much gibberish. Mitt Romney points to his experience at Bain Capital, where he created 100,000 jobs, as an indicator of where the country will go when he becomes President.
Mitt Romney makes another reasonable point. The Obama campaign should stop with the distractions, stop trying to shift the focus from the concerns of average Americans. Character assassination is not what the campaign should be about. Democrats are trying to put attention on the governor's history in the business world. They insist on showing destructive ads about his success in business as if success is something to be ashamed of.
A seemingly endless parade of former workers is shown. They were apparently thrown out of work as a result of some business deal. Many are past the age where finding work is a likelihood, experiencing financial loss, their pensions taken away as part of a normal corporate liquidation to finance investment return. The Obama ads have those workers speak and speak as if the job losses should be laid at Romney's doorstep, as if this is an indicator of of where the country will go if he becomes President.
Speaking for Governor Romney, senior aide Stuart Stevens points out that the little speeches by cast aside employees is "performance art gibberish." The ads about Bain Capital and those employees should simply be ignored. They are an unfair distraction from the real issues that concern Americans.
The Obama people nitpick the numbers. They contrast the 10,000 jobs Mitt Romney pointed out as his record when he ran for Senator against Ted Kennedy with the 100,000 jobs he points out today as he runs for President. They laugh at a number multiplied by 10 well after Mitt Romney's retirement. But 100,000 or 10,000, voters know the precise number is not important. Voters know they matter, as do the thankful workers now at work, families recovered. The human cost of unemployment is heartbreaking. Voters know precise numbers don't matter. Voters realize Mitt Romney cares about them. As Mitt Romney put it last February:
"It breaks my heart to go through Detroit. I mean, the home that I came home to just after being born at Harper Hospital in Palmer Park is bulldozed now, because I guess it became a blight, an eye-sore. It just kills you to see what’s happened to the homes and the families in Detroit, and we need to get the economy going again."
The Obama giveaway to bail out the auto industry was a waste, doomed to failure. Romney pointed this out in a piece he personally wrote for the New York Times right after Obama was elected, before he went from Senator Obama to President Obama.
IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.
As Mitt Romney points out, the bailout was successful. He blames the President for delaying it. "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back."
Mitt Romney and his campaign present a compelling case. His history at Bain Capital is the foremost part of the record voters should focus on when they think of the devastation of unemployment. And the Obama campaign should stop engaging in character assassination by trying to get voters to focus on his history at Bain Capital.
After all, he should get credit for creation of 10,000 to 100,000 jobs. The precise numbers don't matter. Voters matter. He has confidence voters will keep that in mind as the Obama campaign parades former workers in front of cameras. They are merely performance art.
The Obama record is one of bailouts and interference in the marketplace, which Mitt is firmly against. He is on record. And he should get a lot of credit for the auto bailout he was against.
One thing you can count on. When Mitt Romney becomes President, unemployment will go down to 4%, as he promised in Pittsburgh. That's a fact, Jack. Or 6%, as he said a few days later to Time Magazine.
The precise number doesn't matter. Votes matter.
As if robocalls didn't have a bad enough reputation in the world of Baltimore media and politics thanks to consultant Julius Henson's activity in the last gubernatorial election, along comes WBFF (Channel 45) Monday night with its own questionable computer-generated calls into hundreds of thousands on Maryland homes.
And the calls continued Tuesday. I received one at my home in Baltimore City both days. Racquel Guillory, director of communications for Gov. Martin O'Malley, also received one at home in Howard County Monday night around dinnertime.
- More -
Taegan Goddard, at PoliticalWire.com has the pertinent part of the transcript and the clip from Fox, as Ronald Reagan's Budget Director, David Stockman, explodes the main reason Mitt Romney says he is qualified to be President.
"I don't think that Mitt Romney can legitimately say that he learned anything about how to create jobs in the LBO business. The LBO business is about how to strip cash out of old, long-in-the-tooth companies and how to make short-term profits...All the jobs that he talks about came from Staples. That was a very early venture stage deal. That, you know they got out of long before it got to its current size."
She pointed her finger at me in yet another moment of drama and issued her accusation. It was an argument about our all too frequent arguments. "You always think you're right."
We have moved on. Married to others and gone to different parts of the country. It was years ago, and yet it still amazes me. We were supposed to have a disagreement in which I began with a supposition that I was wrong? What is the sound of one hand arguing?
Many seasons back, I was enamored with a television series based on a movie based on a book. The Paper Chase was a scholarly work about scholars at work. It centered around the adventures of a law student. Each week young James Stephens, playing a Harvard student, was schooled by John Houseman on some vital but obscure legal principle.
One week, the lesson had to do with resolving differences. What, demanded Houseman of his classroom, is the first requirement for a meeting of the minds? The hour was filled with students struggling to find the answer. A willingness to compromise? Common ground? A definition of terms? Reason? Logic?
The answer, toward the end, was as obscure and obvious as any week's episode. The first requirement for a meeting of the minds is . . . disagreement.
Over the years, I have formed some strong opinions. I'm very tough in defending of those opinions. Very tough. One reason I know I'm tough is that she whom I love tells me I am tough. She says, "Of course you are, dear." Then she goes back to assembling something complex and electronic.
One reason I took to blogging, I suppose, is that I enjoy the examination of ideas. It is true that I also appreciate a good rant, especially if it is conducted with some degree of creativity. But I seldom engage in it myself. Instead, I like the give and take of debate.
The Jeffersonian ideal is that debate informs those who listen. That could be one reason I enjoy it. While he walked among us, I liked the repartee of a William F. Buckley exchange, not just for the resultant winning or losing, but for the clash itself. The process also tends to inform advocates, even the most partisan. You can't win such an exchange without acquiring at least some sense of the arguments with which you disagree. Sometimes opinions reverse. More often they change only to the degree of a slight angle. That angularity does sometimes stay with us, however.
Several months ago, I was encouraged by a statistically promising national employment report. Hardship erased is easy to cheer about, at least for me. and a lot of good people have been hurt by the economic crash.
Heathen Republican, who writes for a blog called, by some strange coincidence The Heathen Republican referred to the same encouraging statistic, pointing to a related indicator, the percent of those employed in relation to those not actively seeking work. When people are too discouraged even to try, shouldn't that be counted as well?
As I recall, I suggested that the rate of economic participation was at about the center of developed economies. European economies, in fact, had retirement policies, vacation, and youth educational stipends that influenced their participation rates, since huge groups were routinely not counted. And we were still about in the center.
Heathen published news of a spike in the monthly non-participation rate in January. No matter what long term factors influence overall levels, the direction was not a healthy one, right?
I discovered another reason. The monthly rate of non-participation has spiked in pretty much every January since the beginning of economic statistics. That happened to be when census figures, the kind compiled every year, were added in. The spike was an artifact.
And so it went. And so it went some more. And so public debate always goes.
At the heart is a more fundamental disagreement, of course. Conservatives are, I think, biased on principle toward balanced budgets in good times and bad. I can see a combination of intuition, mixed in some cases with a sort of moralism one degree removed. It just sounds so right, this rock bed idea that we pay as we go. It can't be wrong.
I am not conscious of a corresponding bias in favor of deficits. In fact, I have a hard time imagining anyone having a prejudice in favor of deficits. If there exists such a person, would the bias come from a fascination with minus signs? Would it come from an obsession with red, and a fetish toward red ink? Some childhood trauma involving crayons?
I think those on our side, the opposite side from conservatives, are more biased toward what experience, and evidence, and the Economics 101 lessons we learned as youngsters, all combine to tell us. Deficits are good as short term moderation for recession. Balanced budgets are good during economic boom times. Our bias, if you can call it that, is toward what we think will work.
So, when I see the debate, and when I participate in it, I tend to trust those whose bias is toward what seems to work, rather than those who have an intuitive agenda. That's just me. Your mileage may vary.
I make my points, Heathen makes his. In the light provided by a loving God, we both have a better understanding of opposing views and even our own positions, as a result of the interaction. Jeffersonian debate is a good idea on its own merits.
I like and admire John Myste. He is a friend. Behind the scenes, he inquires about my health, which is not always the best, and about the state of my writing. When I'm away for a few days, I can count on a private message asking if everything is okay. He is a thoughtful, dependable friend.
As I see it, he objects to the process of debate itself, or at least to the place of evidence in that debate. At times I see him as a cynic, sneering at and rejecting evidence. He protests that my observation is flawed. "I don't deny evidence," he says, "I deny faith. When you try to reduce the economy to a specific set of data you choose to claim represents it, you are not looking at 'the facts.' You are selecting 'the facts' that best support your position."
In practice, however, I seldom see him challenge facts or, as he refers to them, "facts" with evidence. I see him rejecting evidence. As he puts it, "I have enough data to form a rational evidence based conclusion, not about the economy, but about some(one) else’s 'scientific method' in evaluating it."
John's wave of the hand dismissal of evidence because it backs one side or the other, because it is not objective, because it does not provide a sufficient degree of scientific certitude, suggests to me an unreasonable standard. His insistence on purity of scholarship spares him from the dreary task of countering what he finds faulty.
Heathen comes across to me as delightfully acerbic, attacking to a fault. He does me the courtesy of telling me why he thinks I am wrong.
Heathen presents "facts," John proposes, but his opponent Burr has "evidence" too. John's examination of that evidence and those facts frequently begins and ends with that superficial observation. Both sides have opinions and John can't be bothered. After all, neither side is sufficiently, scientifically, dispassionate.
For me, that approach to evidence, that refusal to engage in testing its validity, that gentlemanly avoidance of the dirty fingernails that come from the common labor of digging through argument in a test of value, comes down to an all too familiar voice from an unfortunate past.
I think Heathen is wrong for reasons.
John thinks Heathen is wrong because Heathen always thinks he's right.
Is it just me? Or does anyone else think its a mistake for the Romney campaign to keep public attention focused on those workers thrown out of their jobs by Bain Capital?
It is true that conservatives have been having some justifiable fun with televised remarks by Newark Mayor Cory Booker this week. Mayor Booker certainly provides a better response on behalf of the Romney campaign than anything they have come up with so far. "Obama doesn't understand the free market" doesn't quite do it. For anyone who was sleeping since Sunday morning, this is what Cory Booker said, while ostensibly representing the Obama campaign.
I have to just say from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with.
He went on to compare his own downsizing with the liquidation of businesses by Bain when Romney was running it.
This is not about what happened at Bain Capital. Heck, I've reduced the employees in my city 25 percent because it's the only way my government would survive. Call me a job-cutter, if you want.
He drew a moral equivalency between criticisms of the Romney record at Bain Capital and attacks on Obama's Christianity.
It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.
As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity.
In the resulting firestorm, Mayor Booker tried to clarify his remarks. The Obama campaign was justified after all in exploring the Romney record at Bain Capital. Uh huh.
Harold Ford, Democratic candidate in 2006 for Senator from Tennessee, was quick to pile on. He criticized the Booker walk back and agreed with the mayor's original criticism.
The substance of his comments on Meet the Press, I agree with the core of it. I would not have backed them out… private equity’s not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances.
Republicans have started a tongue in cheek online petition, "I stand with Cory."
The questions raised by Mayor Booker represent a valid topic of discussion.
The Obama ads are not balanced in their analysis. Certainly the evidence presented by the Obama campaign is not part of the dispassionate examination some purists might insist upon. The presentation is an advocacy for re-election.
The workers, now ex-workers, on camera are not objective jurists. They have lost everything they worked for for decades. They have fully formed opinions about Mitt Romney, opinions not not likely to be affected by campaign advertising.
That back-and-forth is pretty much how public debate is conducted in a democracy.
Still, some tactics are pretty much off-limits. The Romney campaign has taken an attitude of winking and nodding at attacks on President Obama's religion. But they are unlikely to engage in Jeremiah Wright attachments themselves. "He sat for years in the pews while Reverend Wright attacked America" is unlikely to become a direct Romney campaign topic. Similarly, we are unlikely to hear the Obama campaign talk about "Mitt Romney sat for years in the pews while the Mormon church preached that Black people are inferior, judged by God with the Curse of Ham."
The argument is that attacks on Bain Capital fall into a similar class. In fact, Cory Booker was correct to the extent that private equity companies do a lot of good. In many cases, they help finance expansion, or product development, or simple restructuring. A lot of revitalization has happened in Cory Booker's Newark as a result of private equity.
Sometimes private equity takes a darker turn. Companies are purchased, assets sold off, long time loyal employees thrown into unemployment. The streamlined, bare bones company is then sold off for a quick profit. Some corporations specialize in distressed investments. This form of private equity is often viewed with some disdain, even within the financial industry. Jim Cramer, exuberant television host on CNBC almost always supports financial investment groups. He was quite frank this past weekend about Bain's history under Mitt Romney's leadership. He was asked about whether Cory Booker had dome any lasting damage to the Obama campaign.
Romney’s known as a job destroyer, not a job creator. I just don’t think that this will stick. I think Bain sticks. I think the idea that you bring in Bain, which is what happened in the 80s, they fire a lot of people and that’s how they get prosperity for the rich. That is a more resonant theme, I think, than anything Romney’s come up with.
The issue itself would arguably be unfair for the Obama campaign to bring up at all. The Romney public record is well established. He was the Governor of Massachusetts for four years.
The Romney campaign has trumpeted the Bain experience as a predictor of how Mitt Romney would conduct the executive branch if he is elected President. He boasts that he created 100,000 jobs as head of Bain. In previous campaigns the boast was 10,000 but why quibble over mere numbers?
The real question is this. If the Bain record is put forward as a reason to vote for Romney, why can it not be put forward as a reason to vote against him? Here is why the original Booker equivalency falls apart:
Barack Obama has emphatically disowned Jeremiah Wright. And Mitt Romney has never indicated the slightest indication that he shares the position that his church maintained until 1978, that people with Obama's skin color are spiritually inferior to white folks. So religion is considered pretty much out of bounds. When you renounce an association, that renunciation ought to be respected.
If Mitt Romney seriously argues that his leadership of Bain Capital should not be a topic of debate, his case will become compelling the moment he renounces Bain Capital. He can simply turn his back on that part of his record. An apology to those workers Mitt Romney fired would solidify his position.
As a partisan Democrat, I point that out in all sincerity.
There was good news from an economic summit of sorts that happened at Camp David over the weekend.
Basic expansionary economics lessons, the sort that have been in the first chapters of beginning economic textbooks for more than seven decades, say that most depressions, recessions, and downturns can come to a more rapid recovery with massive infusions of money from the government. Deficits are a good thing when the economy is way below capacity.
That's not why the news from Camp David was encouraging.
You see, the key word here is "most", as in most depressions, recessions, and downturns. The exception is the presence of high interest rates. When it costs a lot to borrow, that keeps potential employers from becoming actual employers. Customers can be beating down the door. In fact, since high interest is the traditional "monetary policy" cure for high inflation, consumers often have money in hand that will be worth less tomorrow, which would be an incentive to buy, thus driving up prices.
That's also not why the news from Camp David was encouraging.
Employers are in no mood to hire and sell when profits will be eaten away by high interest rates on loans required to expand. When interest rates are high, businesses are not the only ones having a hard time justifying borrowing. Consumers think twice about borrowing on high end items.
Nope, that's not the encouraging news either.
When interest rates are high, sometimes, austerity is at least part of the answer to economic slowdown. The sometimes here is simple enough. When the economy has slowed way down and interest rates are high, governments sometimes have no other choice but to balance budgets. When the economy is roaring, balanced budgets really are the key.
On the other hand, there is another hand. When it costs very little to borrow, that means interest rates are not a barrier keeping potential employers from becoming actual employers. Customers are the problem. You can have the lowest interest rates in the world, and employers would still be crazy to hire employees and and to invest in expansion, all to meet a consumer demand that isn't there.
So, here's the simple lesson from lots of experience, what the history of depressions and interest rates and deficits and recoveries and government action have taught us.
And THAT's why the news from Camp David was encouraging. Wanna know how it works?
When the economy is lagging, you want recovery, and interest rates are low, low, low, that's when deficit spending is the way to push money into the economy. It's cheap for government, it won't make it harder for businesses to borrow when the recovery is in full swing, and pushing money in gets more in the hands of consumers. Money in the hands of consumers means businesses want some of that money, so they borrow and hire and gorw and profit, and the upward spiral begins.
And here's the good news.
There's now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now.
That was a quote from President Obama, issued to summarize the new direction of European leaders.
Harsh, harsh austerity has been the key strategy in Europe to creating jobs. It's been what Republicans want to copy into the United States to create jobs here.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the leader calling for the policy. Ireland has been pushed as the ideal. Except real economic harm has been the result wherever and whenever austerity has been tried. Ireland went from being near disaster to way past disaster. Irish economy makes the Titanic attractive in comparison. England went from recovery to an economy that is actually shrinking, smaller today than it was yesterday - consistently the case during every day that ends in "day". Governments have been toppled in elections held in Greece, and France, and Spain, and now in regional elections in Germany.
Horrible economic suffering on the part of ordinary people has been a calculated part of what Chancellor Merkel still advocates. You know, have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. So the German elections against Merkel were a special embarrassment. Like a television faith healer who tells people to ignore doctors waking up one morning with appendicitis.
The destructive policy of starving the patient back to health is on the way to becoming the former policy of starving the patient back to health.
The new policy is a bit muddled right now. But it seems to be heading toward feeding the patient back to health, then going on a careful diet once the crisis is over.
Deficits now. Debt reduction when economies are thriving.
Kind of like the basic textbooks teach.
Introduction, Traditional Service, May 20, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
This is God’s house.
And in this place of worship there is a message.
In a world of too much suffering
and too little healing,
God has sent Jesus to heal us,
and to call on us to be healers in his name.
If you are in pain, the message of Jesus is yours.
If you live in guilt and shame,
the message of Jesus is yours.
If you look into your heart and find emptiness,
the message of Jesus is yours.
There is beauty more profound than you can see,
that your Creator writes into the story of your life,
that Jesus whispers to you in every moment.
For you are God’s child. This is your home.
And there is love and acceptance for you
in this house.
"Let There Be Love" by Loonis McGlohon
could not be found on line.