Archive for September 2012

Thinking About the Debates

I have been thinking about the debates and what we are likely to hear. We really have two categories, domestic (the economy) and foreign policy. You didn’t think there was a space category did you (I take that back, Mitt may complain about the Chinese going to the moon while his boys have cut, cut, cut the space program)? So let’s take them one at a time.

Everyone has thought that the Democrat’s and Obama’s weakness is the economy, but think again. As the NYT pointed out the other day, Obama was handed a bag of…well you know, but they also criticized him, “Mr. Obama is not free from responsibility for the economy. He did not push hard enough for a larger stimulus and more robust housing relief. He also changed focus prematurely from creating jobs through stimulus to reducing the deficit through spending cuts.” But for Romney to attack that performance, it creates two problems. First, what does he offer instead, and that as I have pointed many times, are the same policies that got us in trouble in the first place.

The second problem is that if you have nothing but failed policies and Obama has been too timid, that leaves the only other possibility, he should have been more aggressive with stimulus, job creation, mortgage relief, et. al. Can’t go there can you? So where does that leave poor Mitt?  To lie.  You know, the stimulus failed (it didn’t), the economy is worse (it isn’t), Obama ran up the deficit (he didn’t), government regulations are out of sight (they aren’t), he has done nothing to create jobs (failing to note the Senate filibuster of the Jobs Bill). You get the drift.  

He will have to claim the economy is much worse than it is, deny the Republican’s responsibility in this mess, or their obstructionism of policies that might have helped, and claim that he will restore confidence which is all that is required. But how? Like they are restoring confidence back in Europe?  And we are back to the root problem of the Republicans. Their how is how we got here.

Then there is the evil Obamacare, but the lies on the attack on Medicare (stealing $760 million) have been debunked and he said he would repeal the whole thing, and again we have that problem, replace it with what? They have no plan. More competition? People know that does not work.

Then there are women’s issues. Jim Lehrer could just ask where he stands on a woman’s right to choose and they are lost. Did he mean what he said when he said life begins at conception and therefore birth control should be illegal or was that just pandering? Minefield here and I don’t see how he can appeal to the base and not fall on his sword.

Immigration anyone? Latino vote could decide this election and if he appeals to his base, he is dead meat. What is the Republican plan for a sane policy other than the goals he spouts without a plan to reach them. Here, as in all domestic issues, is the Republican problem. They have no plan. “Oh, and Mr. Romney, do you believe in Global Warming and having seen the disasters we have seen recently, should not the federal government be planning for our warming future?” I am sure that will turned into a State’s right issue.

Actually his only hope is to stray to foreign affairs. He will jump on the Libya murders and the administration and their slow acknowledgement of that attack having nothing to do with the YouTube video. Here they deserve criticism. Clearly on the anniversary of 9/11 they were not prepared. And it appears to be a political maneuver to try to deflect an obvious terrorist attack as an unpredictable mob. But having said that, what would be Mr. Romney’s Middle Eastern policy? Saber rattling? More neocons? This is not going to sell either. Okay, Obama wasn’t stellar in Libya, but you guys want to get us in another war. And that opens up Iran and a preemptive strike and nobody is left in America except neocons who want another war in the Middle East.

So when you get down to it, you can criticize Obama on lots of things and that is probably the strategy, throw mud, but if the discussions turns to what you might actually do, you know, actual policies,  it is abandon ship. So I think the strategy will be to criticize and terrify (the economy sucks and be afraid of the deficit), but stay away from details in policies if you can. If he (Romney) can criticize without having to provide details of his own policies, it will be a draw. If he is forced to lay out clear plans, it will de a disaster. Let the games begin.

Footnote: I forgot energy: Drill baby drill. Doesn’t answer either our climate issues or long term energy independence, but we will hear “clean coal” (doesn’t exist) and how Obama has issued more drilling permits than Bush (he has), while Mitt will claim we are hindering oil and gas with regulations. Push here. It is not sexy, but the stimulus did more to help alternate energy than anything before or after.

Thinking About Iran

With Netanyahu rattling sabers in the UN this week about attacking Iran, and of course neocons blustering, maybe we ought to examine what we should do about Iran in a logical manner. By Iran, I am talking about their construction of a nuclear weapon. So consider:

  • Israel already has nukes, so shouldn’t Iran have parity?
  • Israel isn’t questioning Iran’s right to exist, but Iran is questioning Israel’s right to exist so is that parity?
  • Iranians as a people are more educated and westward leaning than other countries in the region. Would not a strike rally them around their dysfunctional government?
  • Would a preemptive strike on Iran cause all kinds of blow back including the interruption of oil flowing to the West?
  • What would be the impact on our troops in Afghanistan and the fragile government in Iran?
  • If Iran is left on its own, will the continued sapping of economic vitality to buy weapons slowly undermine its government?
  • Could we live with the old tactics of MAD (mutual assured destruction)? It worked before didn’t it, and back in those days we thought the Russians were as crazy as the Iranians?
  • Could a strike really take out their capability or would it just delay it and build support for radical Muslims who believe this is a jihad?
  • If Iran gets a nuke, will other countries in the area decide they need one?

Of course, Israel would attack and probably will, but our fingerprints will be all over it. So if I were President what would I do? Wish I were at a ball game watching my beloved A’s clinch the Wild Card and not have to make these kinds of decisions. Why would anybody want this job?

Reality

Just a couple of quotes from the NYTs this morning that hit the nail on the head about Republican denial, the economy, and the less than stellar economic record of Barack Obama:

Charles Blow on the Republicans denying the polls about faltering Romney: “This is just an extension of the Republican war on facts. If you find a truth disagreeable, simply deny it. Call it corrupt. Suggest that it is little more than one side of a story — an opinionated, biased one — and insist that there is another explanation. The base will buy it. Let’s just call this Operation Ostrich.”

The NYT on the Economy and the campaign: “The problem with Mr. Romney’s “blame Obama” mantra is that Mr. Obama is not responsible for the deep and protracted recession that predated his administration and is at the root of the persistently high unemployment. Job creation under Mr. Obama’s term far outpaced the job growth following the first recession of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2001. New evidence released this week showed recent employment has been stronger than previously tallied.

Mr. Obama is not free from responsibility for the economy. He did not push hard enough for a larger stimulus and more robust housing relief. He also changed focus prematurely from creating jobs through stimulus to reducing the deficit through spending cuts.”

Kind of sums up where we are in this election. A Republican Party that is living in la-la land, and a President who has been too timid to really lead on the economy and seems to have no real understanding yet of the way forward, except half steps, hence the slow recovery. Electing Republicans would be disastrous with their alternate reality view of the world, but we cannot continue the lackluster path we have been on either. The Democrats will win, but the real challenge will be after the election to force them to be bold when facing our challenges for the future.

Austerity American Style

Since I put the election away yesterday (Democrats sweep), what comes next? The answer is not what to do about the deficit, but what to do about jobs. If we attack the deficit first, then we are restricting spending, depressing the economy in a fragile state, and making exactly the same mistake Europe is making in looking for the confidence fairy, and we made in 1937 during our own Great Depression (see graph in It’s the Economy Stupid).

This point was made in an article in the Huffington Post by Robert L. Borosage in Good Jobs First. As he said:

“The presidential candidates and Congress should be pressed to adopt a budget version of the “jobs trigger.” Putting people back to work is the first step to getting our books in order. Congress should pass a fiscal trigger as part of any grand bargain: Comprehensive deficit reduction measures will kick in only when the economy is moving, and unemployment comes down to around five percent.

Great Britain, Ireland and much of the European community have demonstrated the harsh costs of inflicting austerity prematurely on weak economies. The result is economic decline, rising unemployment, spreading misery and a worse fiscal mess as revenues plummet and the costs of the unemployed rise.

In fact, most every plan for austerity assumes economic recovery. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan scorned the president for not embracing the recommendations of the co-chairs of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission (neglecting to mention that his vote against the recommendations helped block their adoption by the commission). At the Democratic National Convention, both Bill Clinton and the president suggested that deficit reduction would follow the principles of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations.

Many of these recommendations are truly wrong-headed, but Simpson and Bowles got one thing right: they argued that long-term deficit reduction should be implemented only after the economy recovered.

‘Don’t disrupt the fragile economic recovery. We need a comprehensive plan now to reduce the debt over the long term. But budget cuts should start gradually so they don’t interfere with the ongoing economic recovery. Growth is essential to restoring fiscal strength and balance.'”

The point is simple, but we can’t seem to get it through our thick heads as we ignore all the lessons of history and Europe today. Until we restore jobs, attacking the deficit will be counter productive. Mr. Borosage recommends a trigger a 5% unemployment where deficit reduction kicks in automatically. You know, in lean times spend, in bountiful times save. Just the opposite of what the Republicans did that got us into this mess.

Panic Time

Well it is panic time for the Republicans and for good reason, and no not for just losing an election, but losing their chance at their last hurrah. The Republicans, the smart ones, knew this was the last hurrah for the fat old white guy. If they could just capture the White House one more time, they could hold on to the past and their favored status. In four years the demographics will have changed even more, and make most Republicans irrelevant. The world economy and reality are making everything the Republicans stand for obsolete, but this was their last gasp. Now they are starting to realize that the party is over and they could even lose Congress so they are turning on Mitt.

Poor Mitt. They created this Frankenstein. He had to disavowal everything he used to stand for to woo the right. Now that may say something about his character, but he is reflecting what they stand for and wanted him to be. Sadly the focus will be on Mitt and what a bad candidate he was, like could we have just picked a better liar? So in the last month of the election it will be about how Mitt failed as a candidate and distancing themselves from him, but the focus should be on the policies. These are the other Frankensteins that need to be put out of their misery.

I was hoping the debates would be the place where we could finally expose what they are actually running on, you know, their policies. But I doubt that is going to happen. That is not the Republican strong point, but their fatal flaw. They have nothing to offer but failed ideas. I am an old guy, but younger people don’t really care that much about social issues, and it is too late fat old white people, women are free and they are not going back. Science is important and is not just another point of view. Most people in America work hard and just want a level playing field. And of course, white people will no longer make up the majority and hate campaigns because people are different won’t work anymore. We are all different. Oh, and least I forget, with the internet and instantaneous fact checking, blatant lies don’t work anymore and you get called on them.

No, this was the Republican’s last chance to hold on to power and disenfranchise those who don’t look like them. Now they know it is slipping away and the panic won’t be pretty. But it might be entertaining. Hang on to your hat.

Footnote:  As I noted in an earlier blog, the money will start chasing Democrats which will further sink the Republican ship.  Not that that is a good thing, they simply throw money at who they think will win so they can then own them.  We need to fix that.

The other thought is the question, could the Republicans have had a better candidate?  The answer is no.  In order to win the primaries, they had to believe or least spout nonsense.  You know, deny science, deny evolution, reinvent history, believe government does nothing but bad things, think tax cuts will solve everything, be terrified of gay marriage, think women should have no choice in their most personal decisions, and assume everyone who is poor is lazy.  Until they come into the 21st century and recognize that much of what they believe has been patently proved to be false, we are stuck with looney tunes or a Mitt who will sell his sole for power.

Mitt Losing Ground

The latest is that Mitt continues to lose ground on all fronts, the economy, foreign policy, you name it.  Why?  Well pundits think he needs to be more specific about his policies for our future.  But the reality is those policies are retread conservative Neocon saber rattling and cutting taxes and less regulation of George Bush.  And we are surprised he is losing ground?  Republicans are just terrified we won’t maintain the status quo, and for most Americans, the status quo is not acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong.  President Obama is not my ideal candidate, but at least he is trying although timidly, he doesn’t lie, and he shows us an integrity totally lacking on the Romney side.  There really is no choice.  Bye Mitt.

S.E. Cupp Ridiculous Again

“Mitt Romney’s tax return shows how compassionate he is.” Really? Doesn’t most of that go to the Mormon Church and have you been to Salt Lake City to see the buildings and massive bureaucracy that support the Mormon faith? Have you seen the cathedral in San Diego that is probably his temple/church? Those things cost a lot of money. Not to mention this was a massaged tax return to meet his 13% claim, which he can file an amended return for after the election and get his money back. This is the kind of non-critical thinking that Republicans partake in to hang on to their beliefs.  It really is sad to see a brain only functioning at less than 20% capacity.

It’s the Economy Stupid

Here is a representation of our economic plight and how it compares to other economic downturns that Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein have posted on their blogs.  The big red line is us now. There are a couple of things to note.  First, in this economic depression, our recovery started faster, probably due to the bailouts (TARP) and the Stimulus, both of which the Republicans now bash.  Second, the slope of the recovery curve is more shallow than other downturns.  This is probably a function of several factors, the collapse of the housing industry, the severity of the initial crash, the timidity of the President to offer bigger stimulus plans, and the Republican’s obstructionism to approve anything that might stimulate the economy.

The one thing you can consistently say about this is that the Republicans have been consistently wrong about what to do.  And you wonder why I think people who want to put them back into power are brain dead?  Oh and there is one other thing to notice, the dip in our depression recovery (dotted line).  That is when we got worried about the deficit and cut back.  There is a lesson here.

This lesson brings up another item I want to discuss.  The word is that after President Obama is re-elected he will then strike a “grand bargain” with the Republicans to get the deficit under control assuming they will then be willing to deal on taxes.  How sad.  The slope of the curve above shows you what austerity brings and we need to be reinvesting in the country, not worrying about the deficit.  As Dean Baker pointed out this morning, the size of the deficit relative to GDP is not important, the size of our interest payments as a percent of GDP is, and they are are record lows.

When we finally push Mitt out of the way, we still have a President who has not embraced Keynesian economics and he will have to be watched or he will go about slashing Social Security and Medicare when the problem is easily fixed with a growing economy, some adjustments on how we pay for Social Security (up the rate and take the income limit off), and for Medicare, reduce costs, not cut benefits.  See the rest of the world.  If he doesn’t want to repeat that dip we saw in the 1930’s maybe he ought to quit following VSPs (Very Serious People) who have had it wrong about the economy every step of the way, and start learning from history and maybe listening to the ones who got it right, like Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, et. al.

Who Said It Best Today and Why Focusing on the Economy is the Republican’s Achilles Heel

Paul Krugman, in his blog laid out what I have been saying about all the politicos advising the Republican candidate to focus on the economy and better craft his message (what message?):

What, after all, does Romney have to run on? True, he hasn’t offered specifics on his economic policies — but that’s because he can’t. The party base demands tax cuts, but also demands that he pose as a deficit hawk; he can’t do both in any coherent fashion without savaging Medicare and Social Security, yet he’s actually trying to run on the claim that Obama is the threat to Medicare. On fiscal matters, doubletalk and obfuscation are his only options.

And no, Paul Ryan didn’t show that it can be done differently. His plan was, as I’ve documented many times, a fraud. Furthermore, he’s basically a Beltway creation; the Ryan legend was based on the desire of Washington type to anoint a Serious, Honest Conservative; expose him to the wider scene, and it all falls apart.

Nor can Romney do the Bush thing of running as America’s defender against gay married terrorists.”

As Paul said, “But let me say that even if he does spend election night weeping in his car elevator, his critics from the right are being unfair. Yes, he’s a pretty bad candidate — but the core problem is with his party, not with him.”

A Pathological Society

Just something to mull on.  If a Democrat had held the positions Mitt had and then denied them to run for office, if they had withheld their income taxes to hide their lack of payment, if they had made the kind of mistakes Mitt did on his overseas trip, if they had written off Detroit or called 47% of the country leeches, would they not have gone berserk in attacking him/her?  Remember Obama and the guns and religion comment (although true)?  Yet they support this man?  What is really going on here?

Oh, and did I mention that he has ducked on specifics on his economic plan and the one he and his sidekick Paul Ryan proposed doesn’t add up.  Would the Republicans have a field day if a Democrat did that?  Somebody has put on the blinders and are terrified of what, that we might find out Ayn Rand was full of B.S.?  Wrote  good novels though.  I feel sorry for people beating the Mitt Romney drum. It kind of says “Look at me.  I am so afraid of a black man and the word Democrat that I put my brain on hold.”