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Conservatives at a Dead End?

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Election day has finally arrived and to true conservatives the final outcome will probably be nothing more than a mixed blessing at best. First and foremost Mitt Romney is hardly a rock ribbed conservative, not if you base your assessment of him on his political track record. He has migrated politically from a Northeastern liberal Republican to a faux “severe conservative” and then back to the center as the political winds have necessitated. Just look at his political maneuvering in the post primary run up to today. He may have disavowed the “Etch-a-Sketch” comments of Eric Fehnstrom but he has surely followed just that strategy, even to the point of largely agreeing with the foreign policies of Barack Obama as evidenced in the third presidential debate. In short there’s little reason to believe that Mitt Romney is anything but a shrewd political charlatan.

For conservatives whatever happens tonight there will still be several nagging questions to address. For one, what became of the “conservative counterrevolution of 2010″? In the wake of the widespread Republican by-election victories we were treated to all manner of editorials and op-eds, both written and on talk radio and Fox News about how America had seen through and rejected the “Socialism” of Barack Obama, returning to a more conservative political mindset. I however always believed that 2010 represented more of a protest vote than anything significant in the way of a fundamental shift in the political paradigm. Support for the notion that 2010 amounts to a protest vote rather than a fundamental shift in the American political landscape can be seen in the decline in popularity of the Tea Party Movement, the increased frustration on the part of the public with Republican Party obstruction in Congress and the increasing numbers of Republicans who have distanced themselves from Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge. Neither does Norquist’s idea that “all that we need is a Republican president with enough digits to sign what’s put before him” appear to resonate very well with the voting public. While more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals, the net number of those who identify as conservatives is roughly around one third of the American public. If conservative thoughts had really taken hold you would see the numbers of people identifying as conservatives being north of 50% and the presidential race would look a lot different than it does today. Likewise the conservative attacks on Obama’s handling of the economy and posture as a world leader have failed to register with a majority of Americans. If they had Mitt Romney would be ahead by at least 6 to 10 percentage points rather than trailing within the statistical margin of error.

The myth that America is a “center right country” has been faithfully kept alive in the warrens of conservative media but as the polling numbers show on the day of the election, there’s no reason to believe that that idea has anymore validity today than in did in 2008 when Dick Morris claimed the same thing on the weekend before the election saying that: “Republicans were coming home and John McCain would win the election.” If there was anything in the way of a true conservative counterrevolution then where were the true conservative leaders during the Republican primary process? Out of the length and breadth of the conservative movement not a single viable candidate arose to challenge Barack Obama, instead Mitt Romney merely waited out the self destruction of one flawed conservative challenger after another till he was the last man standing. Quoting political commentator Steve Bogden: “Normally, you have a competitive primary. This year, it was an ongoing audition for whoever was going to be the anti-Romney. Almost everybody had their surge, but there were no credible challengers. Cain? Ging­rich? Santorum? Romney didn’t have to ‘win’ this year. He just waited for everyone else to lose.”

If Mitt Romney is lucky enough to win tonight it will be a squeaker and being the shrewd politician that he is he will continue to drift around the center no matter the tone of his rehtoric. He’ll have no other choice if he hopes to be reelected in 2016 and that bodes ill for conservatives who will be hoping that he pushes their agenda forward. I seriously doubt that Romney would ever subscribe to Grover Norquist’s notion that he should be a rubber stamp for a Tea Party Congress. I doubt that Romney sees Norquist and his anti-tax movement as anything more than a political sideshow to the big show of governing. If Barack Obama is lucky enough to win this evening I fully expect to see the usual crisis of confidence reemerge among conservatives when they beat each other up over the idea that “every time we nominate a candidate who moves to the center we lose.” The great irony of this debate is that if they did nominate a far right conservative, and why didn’t they, they would lose anyway. Like the Romney-Ryan economic plan the math just doesn’t add up for conservatives. For all of the bluff and bluster that one hears on Fox, Limbaugh, and across the entire spectrum of right-wing media about the American people being fundamentally conservative it just ain’t so. If it were true we wouldn’t be in essentially a dead heat and Romney would be way out in front. However in spite of four years of a visceral anti-Obama diatribe on the right, a lackluster economy and a threatening world scene there just aren’t enough conservative votes out there to make it happen.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/6/12

Can Mitt Romney Fix the Economy?

8:28 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

When Barack Obama first took office economist Ken Rogoff, who served on the International Monetary Fund and at the Federal Reserve, warned the president that the 2008 downturn was no ordinary event. Rogoff advised Obama that downturns resulting from bursting financial bubbles took a minimum of five years to resolve. That meant that recovery wouldn’t be expected to take hold until 2013. A compelling analysis of the crisis, the political stalemate in policymaking and possible solutions has been put forth by the New America Foundation, “The Way Forward”, referenced below. To wit: “The political stalemate is in part structural, but also is attributable in significant large measure to the nature of the present economic crisis itself, which has stood much familiar economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years on its head. For despite the standoff over raising the U.S. debt ceiling this past August, the principal problem in the United States has not been government inaction. It has been inadequate action, proceeding on inadequate understanding of what ails us.” The study is bi-partisan in its critique but to be honest, the solutions given, a substantial five to seven year infrastructure revitalization program, debt restructuring at the household and institutional level and global economic reform are not likely to be championed by a Republican administration in the present political environment. Throughout the entire Obama administration the Republican opposition has conceptualized the current crisis as a garden variety downturn made all the worse by what they believe to be the president’s incompetent policies and that if we could only return to conservative economic fundamentals everything would be alright. The election of Mitt Romney, a businessman, is he held forth as an obvious simple solution and therein lies the problem.

For one thing a nation isn’t a corporation, it has different problems and challenges, it isn’t driven by profit making. A nation is confronted with foreign policy, social and environmental problems that are beyond the scope of a corporation. Secondly, a corporate CEO is beholden to shareholders not the public and his focus is, as a result, rather narrow when compared to president’s. Conservative columnist David Brooks points out the difference: “At first blush, business success would seem to be good preparation for political success. A C.E.O. learns to set priorities, manage organizations and hone analytic skills. But these traits are more transferable to being a mayor, which is more administrative, than to being president…If you look back over history, you see that while business success can sensitize a politician to the realities other executives face, there’s little correlation between business success and political success.” We’ve had several businessmen in the White House, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush and none of them stand out as great presidents. As such a compelling question arises when we examine Romney’s record and his claims that he’s well suited to the presidency due to his business experience. For one thing Romney’s never been able to quantify whether or not, as a result of his business activity, he created a net positive number of jobs. Quoting Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal: “Assigning jobs numbers to private-equity firms has been a fairly rare exercise among researchers…As a result, there is no widely accepted accounting measure. Some academic experts said the Romney campaign’s 100,000-jobs count is flawed, because it gives Bain all the credit, even though other investors also played a role in the four key companies, and includes jobs added long after Mr. Romney left Bain in 1999…Little noticed amid the debate is that the four companies at the core of Mr. Romney’s 100,000-jobs claim were relatively insignificant in the context of his 15-year Bain career. The total invested in all four was about $25 million, or about 2% of the money Bain invested during Mr. Romney’s tenure.” There have been other studies on the topic as well and that raises the question of why hasn’t the Romney campaign produced some hard results that prove that Mitt Romney is the job creator he claims to be? Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, pointed out that if private equity companies were such efficient job creators they wouldn’t need all of the favorable tax treatment they receive. Reich pointed out that 98% of the investments channeled into the economy from private equity firms come from outside those firms and as such they aren’t effectively managing resources so much as they’re merely shuffling money around. To paraphrase Reich, through the vehicle of private equity we’ve replaced capital formation with casino capitalism and leveraged buyout firms greatly contributed to the overleveraging that brought us to the brink of disaster in 2008. The truth is that the goal of private equity isn’t to create jobs, it’s to create wealth and any job creation that results is secondary. Thus any claim made by Mitt Romney that his experience at Bain is proof positive that he’s a job creator is both intellectually dishonest and as of today, unsubstantiated.

Regarding Romney as public executive I find it interesting that he has in many ways downplayed his record as governor of Massachusetts and only talks in passing about his role in bailing out the Salt Lake City Olympics. His healthcare law is the obvious reason but his economic track record during that time doesn’t exactly burnish his image as a job creator either. An examination of several news articles reveals why Romney has chosen not to dwell on that record. Citing the Boston Globe and other sources: “Our analysis reveals a weak comparative economic performance of the state over the Romney years, one of the worst in the country. On all key labor market measures, the state not only lagged behind the country as a whole, but often ranked at or near the bottom of the state distribution. Manufacturing payroll employment throughout the nation declined by nearly 1.1 million or 7 percent between 2002 and 2006, but in Massachusetts it declined by more than 14 percent, the third worst record in the country.” FactCheck.org: “Payroll jobs in Massachusetts hit their low point in December 2003 at the end of Romney’s first year in office. And the number of jobs declined in seven of the remaining 36 months of his term, as measured by total nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted, which is the standard measure of payroll employment used by economists and journalists. The claim that jobs increased “every single month” is false. Furthermore, Romney’s job record provides little to boast about. By the end of his four years in office, Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole.” The bottom line on Romney’s record as a governor who created jobs is that Massachusetts ranked 47th overall in job creation during Romney’s tenure, not exactly a winning track record on job creation. When it comes to Romney’s “turnaround” of the 2002 Olympics the one very salient fact that is constantly ignored is that Romney rescued the Salt lake City Games with $1.3 billion dollars of federal money. Beyond the billion plus that went to bail out the games there was an additional $32 million dollars in public funding for infrastructure improvement. Is it any wonder why Mitt Romney doesn’t want to spend too much time airing out the particulars of his turnaround of the Salt Lake City Olympics? After all it was almost totally a function of public spending and in today’s Republican Party that sort of idea is nothing less than heresy.

Beyond the very real questions which arise from Governor Romney’s questionable pitch that he has a track record as a job creator there are a host of questions that relate to policies on taxes and the deficit. Starting with taxes and economic growth, the link between the two is questionable at best. Citing a piece written by David Leonhardt, “Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?” recent history shows a disconnect between taxes and growth: “The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow. The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression. Today, Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan are promising another cut in tax rates and again predicting that good times will follow. But it’s not the easiest case to make.” Now granted Romney has proposed to overhaul the tax code as an element in reinvigorating the economy but a detailed study of the plan by the Tax Policy Center has shown that “…achieving all of Mr. Romney’s top-line goals — a revenue-neutral overhaul that does not increase the tax burden of the middle class — is not arithmetically possible.” Moreover the TPC’s Donald Marron, a former Bush administration official said:”At the level of taxes we’ve been at the last couple decades and the magnitude of the changes we’ve had, it’s hard to make the argument that tax rates have a big effect on economic growth.” Another report from Congressional Research Service which analyzed taxes and growth shows: “The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.” Even Reagan era senior economic policy advisor Bruce Bartlett called current Republican Party thinking into question in an article entitled “Taxes and Employment”; to wit: “Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Republicans have insisted that tax cuts and only tax cuts are the appropriate medicine. They almost never explain how, exactly, this would reduce unemployment other than to say it worked for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s…There is simply no evidence that cutting taxes at the present time will do anything to raise employment.” The further problem with Romney’s tax proposals, beyond the fact that they remain largely a mystery on the eve of the election, is that they have the potential to explode the deficit and take the economy back into recession as is detailed in numerous references detailed below. In fact when Romney was governor of Massachusetts that state had the highest per capita debt of any state in the union, a fact that hardly inspires confidence in his ability to manage the federal debt.

There are two additional flaws in Mitt Romney’s claim that he has the heft to turn around the economy. One is a misrepresentation of the problems with regulations. Again, quoting Bruce Bartlett: “Republicans have a problem. People are increasingly concerned about unemployment, but Republicans have nothing to offer them…They assert that Barack Obama has unleashed a tidal wave of new regulations, which has created uncertainty among businesses and prevents them from investing and hiring. No hard evidence is offered for this claim; it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber…the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important…These results are supported by surveys. During June and July, Small Business Majority asked 1,257 small-business owners to name the two biggest problems they face. Only 13 percent listed government regulation as one of them. Almost half said their biggest problem was uncertainty about the future course of the economy — another way of saying a lack of customers and sales. The Wall Street Journal’s July survey of business economists found, “The main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies, according to a majority of economists.” In August, McClatchy Newspapers canvassed small businesses, asking them if regulation was a big problem. It could find no evidence that this was the case.” Again, what we are given as a way out of the problems of a less than robust economy is a solution in search of a problem to solve and that’s hardly a solution at all.

The second additional flaw in the Romney plan is it’s silence on how to deal with the structural changes that have occured in the world economy over the past forty years and how those chages have affected the American middle class. Other than to carry on about the currency of China, the Romney plan fails to address, as pointed out by Alpert et al.; “the steady entry into the world economy of successive waves of new export-oriented economies, beginning with Japan and the Asian tigers in the 1980s and peaking with China in early 2000, with more than two billion newly employable workers. The integration of these high-savings, lower wage economies into the global economy, occurring as it did against the backdrop of dramatic productivity gains rooted in new information technologies and the globalization of corporate supply chains, decisively shifted the balance of global supply and demand. In consequence, the world economy now is beset by excess supplies of labor, capital, and productive capacity relative to global demand. This not only profoundly dims the prospects for business investment and greater net exports in the developed world — the only other two drivers of recovery when debt-deflation slackens domestic consumer demand. It also puts the entire global economy at risk, owing to the central role that the U.S. economy still is relied on to play as the world’s consumer and borrower of last resort.” A number of studies have shown that these developments have wrecked havoc particularly on the middle tier of the job market, the very segment upon which the post World War II American middle class relyed on for it’s economic existence. These developments have further accelerated the “hollowing” out of the middle class as both jobs and technological innovation have moved from west to east and show little likelyhood of that trend reversing in a big way any time soon.

I closing there is little that would leave any informed observer with the any reason to believe that a vote for Mitt Romney is anything more than a leap of faith, on the part of the voter, that he can significantly effect the American economy for the better. His entire primary strategy was to outlast his advesaries by presenting himself as a safe, if not bland, alternative within an otherwise lackluster primary season. Likewise the same can be said for his contest with Barack Obama, he has stood there parroting stock conservative talking points while failing to produce much in the way of policy particulars all the while hoping that his business experience alone would somehow serve as proof positive that he could better manage the recovery. Thus there is little on offer from Governor Romney upon which a worried and weary electorate can pin theirs hopes on in search for a better tomorrow. According to James Fallows of the Atlantic this has been Mitt Romney’s stock in trade since his earliest days at Bain: “Romney also showed weaknesses that have persisted, even though he managed to minimize their effects in this year’s primary debates. His analysis of any policy rarely moved past the level of abstraction: the problem is too much regulation, so the solution is less regulation, lower taxes, and more incentives for small-business growth. In his Kennedy debates and afterward, this reliance on generalities seemed to reflect both a political and a professional outlook. Politically, a Republican skepticism of govern­ment in general reduces the incentive to learn the fine points of difference among public programs. Professionally, Romney’s background as a consultant and private-equity investor has conditioned him to offer his managerial skills and analytic ability, and to worry about specific answers only after he’s been signed on to deal with a troubled enterprise. Robert Walker, a former congressman from Pennsylvania who chaired the Ging­rich campaign in this year’s primaries, said that Romney’s trademark avoidance of detail arose from this aspect of his background. “Businessmen and consultants like to sell in glowing generalities, because they are never sure what unexpected things they’ll find when they dig into your problems.” Moreover, as per Ken Rogoff, in reality there is little reason to believe that if Mitt Romney had assumed the prseidency in 2009 that he or any other Republican would have done anything that would have produced radically different results. As such it would appear that neither Mitt Romney nor his lieutenants can provide the voting public with the evidence it needs to make a decision that they alone can create jobs and turn around the economy. The great irony of that is that Romney made business experience his trump card and yet his track record leaves so much to be desired and is, on its face and in its particulars, far from convincing. Perhaps that’s why he’s had so much trouble closing the sale with the voting public.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/5/12

Sources:

Kenneth Rogoff; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Rogoff

Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett, and Nouriel Roubini The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness;

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/sid-l/ktC5NDrSE-Q

The C.E.O. in Politics; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/opinion/brooks-the-ceo-in-politics.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Mark Maremont: Tally of Job Creation By Bain Proves Vexing; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303292204577519293959381060.html

Mitt Romney Reticent About Bain Capital Debate; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/romney-bain-capital_n_1540948.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=052412&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

After a Romney Deal, Profits and Then Layoffs; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/us/politics/after-mitt-romney-deal-company-showed-profits-and-then-layoffs.html?emc=eta1&_r=1&

Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/job-creation-campaign-promises.html?pagewanted=2&emc=eta1&_r=0

Robert Reich on the Role of Private Equity; http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2012/may/25/robert-reich-role-private-equity/

Should Romney get credit for job creation through Bain, if “any job creation was accidental”?; http://althouse.blogspot.com/2012/05/should-romney-get-credit-for-job.html

Romney’s economic record; http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/07/29/romneys_economic_record/

Myrtle Beach Blarney; http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/myrtle_beach_blarney.html

Mitt Romney plays the jobs card Commentary: Looking at his record, it’s a losing argument; http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mitt-romney-tries-to-play-the-jobs-card-2010-02-23?pagenumber=1

Mitt Romney and the Olympic bailout; http://www.democrats.org/news/blog/mitt_romney_and_the_olympic_bailout

Romney and the Olympics: What the Salt Lake Games say about a Mitt Romney presidency; http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865559550/Romney-and-the-Olympics-What-the-SLC-Games-say-about-a-Mitt-Romney-presidency.html?pg=all

Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/do-tax-cuts-lead-to-economic-growth.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Tax Topics: The Romney Plan; http://taxpolicycenter.org/taxtopics/romney-plan.cfm

Taxes and the Econom: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945; http://graphics8.nytimes.com/news/business/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf

Bruce Bartlett: Taxes and Employment; http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/taxes-and-employment/?emc=eta1

A Tax Plan That Defies the Rules of Math; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/romneys-tax-plan-defies-the-rules-of-math.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Under Romney, Massachusetts Had Highest Per Capita Debt Of Any State; http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/05/16/485035/romney-debt-massachusetts/?mobile=nc

Higher Deficits Seen in Romney’s Tax Plan, and His Rivals’, Too; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/us/politics/romneys-tax-bill-and-gop-deficit-problems.html?emc=eta1

CBO Report Says Deficit Reduction Will Cause New Recession; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/cbo-report-deficit-reduction-recession_n_1537774.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=052312&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

FACT CHECK: Romney’s Plan Would Slow The Recovery, Explode The Deficit; http://3chicspolitico.com/2012/06/12/fact-check-romneys-plan-would-slow-the-recovery-explode-the-deficit/

Bruce Bartlett: Misrepresentations, Regulations and Jobs; http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/regulation-and-unemployment/?emc=eta1

Don Peck: Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures & What We Can Do About It.

90 Million Workers Won’t Be Needed By 2020, Study Says; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/unskilled-workers-2020-mckinsey-global-institute-study_n_1609767.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=062012&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

The Seismic Economic and Political Changes that Transformed the American Dream; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec12/smith_10-01.html

The Structural Revolution; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/opinion/brooks-the-structural-revolution.html?emc=eta1

James Fallows: Slugfest; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2012/09/slugfest/309063/

Stimulus Is Maligned, but Options Were Few; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/business/economy/republicans-malign-a-stimulus-but-the-plausible-options-were-few-economic-scene.html?adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1352030442-60rkb0Mri/Am1cGfZVvyIA

Mitt Romney and Autumn’s Black Swan

2:09 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In nature black swans are a rarity. In the world of politics and economics they represent rare surprise events that have significant consequences. Of late the term black swan gained renewed currency when economist Nouriel Roubini said that economic crises weren’t “black swan events” but events that could be predicted by observing “macroeconomic and policy mistakes.” However, in the midst of the current presidential race, the extreme weather event that was Hurricane Sandy may very well represent a black swan, one that may have doomed the presidential aspirations of Mitt Romney and along with it, the conservative dream of defeating Barack Obama.

Needless to say, many would not have expected such a powerful storm so late in the season, especially those so heavily invested in climate change denial. Yet the arrival of Sandy has already had profound effects. First, it pushed the presidential race off of the news cycle for the better part of five days. That effectively precluded Romney from addressing his slowing momentum in the polls. Secondly, it allowed Barack Obama to command center stage as a bi-partisan Commander-in-Chief while Romney found his campaign relegated to a sidebar. Thus Governor Romney’s remarks on how he would “absolutely” eliminate FEMA if elected came back to haunt him at a time when Obama and Hurricane Sandy seemed omnipresent in the news cycle. As it is Obama has garnered a 78% approval rating for his handling of the federal response thus far. Third it refocused the debate on what should be the proper role of government in dealing with disasters and to what extent a crisis like Sandy could be adequately handled by a pared down FEMA, by the states or even less likely, private effort. Fourth it reintroduced the inconvenient subject of climate change into the closing days of the race, a topic that Republicans had sought to avoid.

Not surprisingly, the black swan event of Hurricane Sandy gave immediate birth to several coincident events in the form of Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia, both Republicans, praising the president’s efforts in promptly addressing the crisis. Praise of any sort form these two governors would have been unthinkable before Sandy and can do nothing but cause consternation within the Romney Campaign. Coming on the heels of the positive image of Obama and Christie touring a devastated New Jersey, New York’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsed Obama for president claiming that Obama “was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm.” These developments can only serve to heighten the anxiety level within the Romney campaign as it has to now hustle all that much harder to get back on track and on message.

That Mitt Romney was thrown off stride by the events of the past five days was evident in his Thursday stump speech in Roanoke Virginia. That speech, given with an air of rushed desperation, seemed like a presentation in fast forward by a guy who realizes he’s missed the better part of five days of effective campaigning and who seemed to want to make up for that by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his presentation. It was disjointed and topically Romney was all over the political landscape rushing from subject to subject without anything in the way of a logical segue between topics. Then there was the outburst against Christie by Rush Limbaugh, who accused Christie of “propping up Obama’s campaign.” While such commentary can be seen as a moment of comic relief it is at the same time just one more distraction for Team Romney. But the import of Rush’s latest diatribe didn’t go unnoticed by political pro Howard Fineman who observed: “Rush is sort of a kind of air raid siren for the Republicans. When he’s screaming like that, you know something has happened, something significant has happened.” It goes without saying that any image of disunity within the ranks of the right at this late date represents an unwanted development for Romney who has had problems staying on message throughout the campaign.

To make matters worse, the black swan of Sandy arrived amid other developments that make so many of Romney’s campaign arguments all the more difficult to sustain. For one thing the jobs numbers have come in better than expected and the pitch that unemployment has been stuck above 8% is no longer one that Romney can make: “The Labor Department’s last look at hiring before Tuesday’s election sketched a picture of a job market that is gradually gaining momentum after nearly stalling in the spring. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month, up from 67,000 a month from April through June.” Analyzing the jobs numbers, Alan Kruger of the Council of Economic Advisors noted that there was a big increase in the number of construction jobs, something that significantly benefits workers without college. Yesterday we learned that consumer confidence was at a five year high: “The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment rose to 82.6 from 78.3 in September. It was at its highest level since September 2007 on a final reading basis…Two-thirds of consumers surveyed expected President Barack Obama to win his re-election bid in just over a week…The barometer of current economic conditions gained to 88.1 from 85.7, while the gauge of consumer expectations rose to their highest level since July 2007 at 79 from 73.”

Another serious problem for Romney is the continuing blowback from his flagging efforts to denigrate the auto bailout and the fallout from that in the Midwest. Of particular import here is his campaign’s completely dishonest claim that the Chrysler Corporation was planning to ship jobs to China. That claim, apparently the result of the Romney campaign misreading a Bloomberg News report led to a broadside of criticism from auto industry executives. To wit: “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” Chrysler executive Gualberto Ranieri wrote in a statement “A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.” The reality of the situation is, quoting Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, that since the auto bailout Chrysler has “has added about 7,000 jobs in North America…and it continues to expand its U.S. workforce and to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in American plants. Milbank goes on to observe: “The fast-and-loose with Jeep points to a troubling Romney instinct: When the stakes are high, as they are for him in must win Ohio, the truth is often the first casualty.” Likewise Romney received a sharp rebuke from General Motors spokesman Greg Martin for his allegation that GM plans to double the number of cars it builds in China. Martin said: “The ad is cynical campaign politics at its worst. We think creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back in this country should be a source of bipartisan pride.” Romney’s problems with the auto industry were only made worse by the law of unintended consequences, another mini black swan if you will, when Donald Trump was rebuked by Ralph Giles, Head of Design at Chrysler for suggesting that the company would move production overseas. Needless to say it would appear that the Romney campaign has blown a head gasket in Ohio when it comes to how it has handled the auto industry rescue, a flawed tactic that could cost him that state as well as Michigan.

Finally what of the swing state polls? As of 5:00 PM this afternoon the Real Clear Politics average polling for eleven swing states shows Romney leading in just three and with his lead in Virginia extremely slim. Likewise the same results obtain when you look at The Cook Political Report. However in this report there is one notable exception, Cook’s findings show that four of the swing states lean Democrat and none lean Republican even though all are considered toss ups. Charlie Cook, one of the best guys in the business when it comes to crunching numbers said today on MSNBC that in terms of probabilities, Romney had a much harder climb in putting together a winning combination on the electoral map. Quoting Time Magazine’s political analyst Mark Halperin “Based on the totality of the public and private polling, the onus is still on Governor Romney to demonstrate he can get to 270 electoral votes. The President still has more paths and clearer paths.” Earlier in the week another political commentator pointed out that Romney has been able to narrow the gap with Obama in the swing states but he’s never been able to get out in front and stay there. Bear in mind that none of these poll results reflect any of the upward bounce that Barack Obama may get from his handling of the response to Hurricane Sandy.

None of this is to imply that Obama now has a lock on being reelected and the fallout from Hurricane Sandy, as it plays out over the next four days, could trend against the president. But one thing is for certain, the arrival of a black swan event, in the form of Hurricane Sandy, has greatly complicated the road to the White House for Mitt Romney. With only three full days remaining till the election it’s hard to see how Romney and his team can make up for five days of lost campaigning wherein which the president was able to take center stage and burnish his own image while Romney stood by as an onlooker, an onlooker who would only reenter the race with yet another blunder in talking about the auto bailout. This latest blunder, against the backdrop of positive economic numbers, has only worked to make Romney seem increasingly desperate in both his message and it’s presentation and that’s not a place a candidate wants to be with just a few more days to go before the polls are closed.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/2/12

Sources:

Black Swan Theory; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

Roubini and Bremmer on Global Economic Problems; http://www.economonitor.com/nouriel/2010/06/06/roubini-and-bremmer-on-global-economic-problems/

Nouriel Roubini sees ‘the roots of the next crisis in the current one’; http://blogs.reuters.com/chrystia-freeland/2010/12/08/nouriel-roubini-sees-the-roots-of-the-next-crisis-in-the-current-one/

Romney’s Momentum Seems to Have Stopped; http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/oct-24-in-polls-romneys-momentum-seems-to-have-stopped/

Presidential Polls 2012: New Numbers Show Romney Losing Momentum, Obama Gaining; http://www.policymic.com/articles/17514/presidential-polls-2012-new-numbers-show-romney-losing-momentum-obama-gaining

Romney Losing Momentum;http://www.politicalforum.com/current-events/272986-romney-losing-momentum-2.html

Bloomberg Backs Obama, Citing Fallout From Storm; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/nyregion/bloomberg-endorses-obama-saying-hurricane-sandy-affected-decision.html?hp

Rush: Christie Propping Up Obama Campaign with Hurricane Praise; http://www.newsmax.com/US/rush-obama-romney-christie/2012/11/01/id/462437

Chris Matthews Mocks Rush Limbaugh as the ‘Guy From Deliverance’; http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2012/11/01/chris-matthews-mocks-rush-limbaugh-guy-deliverance-0#ixzz2B1wSCMt5

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs; http://thepage.time.com/2012/11/02/jobs-jobs-jobs-6/?xid=newsletter-thepagebymarkhalperin

U.S. Economy Adds 171K Jobs; Jobless Rate Rises to 7.9%; http://nation.time.com/2012/11/02/u-s-oct-jobs-report-likely-to-show-modest-hiring/#ixzz2B54Mz9Ov

Consumer sentiment at highest in five years in October;http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/26/us-usa-economy-sentiment-idUSBRE89P0OR20121026

Survey: Consumer Confidence Gets a Boost; http://www.cio-today.com/news/Consumer-Confidence-Gets-a-Boost/story.xhtml?story_id=0020006NFX3U&full_skip=1

Romney goes off-road with the truth;http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-romneys-jeep-ad-drives-off-the-road-of-truth/2012/10/30/f207c606-22c9-11e2-8448-81b1ce7d6978_story.html?wpisrc=nl_wonk

Romney Caught Trying to Swiftboat the Auto Rescue;http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/romney-caught-trying-to-swiftboat-the-auto-rescue/

Auto companies hit back against Romney ads;http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/30/auto-companies-hit-back-against-romney-ads/

Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Executive, Lashes Out At Donald Trump;http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/ralph-gilles-donald-trump-chrysler_n_2060531.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110212&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

RCP – Electoral Map Polls; http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map.html#battlegrounds

The Cook Political Report;http://cookpolitical.com/story/4849

Romney and 270; http://thepage.time.com/2012/11/01/romney-and-270/?xid=newsletter-thepagebymarkhalperin

C’mon Mitt, Privatizing Disaster Relief Would be a Disaster

10:11 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with the upcoming election a factor, one thing is apparent and that is that Mitt Romney is no better off at figuring out disaster relief than he was at figuring out who constitutes our geopolitical enemies. You see Romney is busy backpedaling on his earlier comments about shutting down FEMA.

Let’s look at those prior statements that are now causing Romney such headaches: “During a CNN debate at the height of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney was asked, in the context of the Joplin disaster and FEMA’s cash crunch, whether the agency should be shuttered so that states can individually take over responsibility for disaster response.”Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?” Now let’s contrast Romney’s statements, made during the primaries when he was pandering to the far right of the Republican Party with the situation now: “Mitt Romney repeatedly ignored questions about his position on federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at an event for storm victims Tuesday…“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” one [reporter] asked.” Not surprisingly aides to Governor Romney insisted that he would not abolish FEMA. If you look at the statements made by Romney aides it’s apparent that the campaign is attempting to spin its way out of suggestions that FEMA should be eliminated: “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” Well it looks like one thing for sure, the word “absolutely” no longer has a fixed meaning in the lexicon of the Romney political play book.

Okay Romney’s original statements are full of stock conservative talking points which he relied on so heavily during the primaries, but do they make any sense when the facts of national disasters are taken into account? Emphatically not. Federal disaster aid, no matter how many problems we’ve encountered with it, still represents a better model for dealing with widespread disasters. Why, because it allows for an aggregation of resources and funding that no individual state can achieve on its own. Consider the states of Mississippi and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they couldn’t possibly have been able to marshal the resources and the funding required to deal with the response let alone the rebuilding. Here’s just one example, the 2012 budget for the State of Louisiana is $25.5 billion and that figure was still the subject of possible further spending cuts to the tune of $303.7 million. Now the rebuilding of the flood control system around New Orleans came with a price tag of $14.5 billion which represents 57 percent of the total state budget. Is it likely that Louisiana’s Governor would have allocated more than half his budget to one disaster abatement project? The answer is of course not and this is the type of example that makes Romney’s idea that federal disaster relief can be eliminated just so much farce and folly. Moreover, the idea that private disaster measures can do what state and federal efforts do is just plain wrongheaded. We already have an empirical example of the failure of private charity to address widespread disaster and that came at the onset of the Great Depression when private efforts were swamped by a unprecedented crisis. Thus we need not reinvent the wheel here so as to prove once again that Romney’s original approach is a losing proposition. Needless to say, Romney’s relief road show in Ohio and his comments that people should donate to private charities have both political and ideological overtones which can’t be denied.

Are there serious flaws in federal disaster relief, yes. Does that mean we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater, of course not and only a conservative ideologue with a lack of practical or historical perspective would suggest such an idea. Why conservatives continue to harken back nostalgically to past programs and approaches that have failed isn’t a mystery to me. It is indicative of a movement that is ideologically exhausted and that is busy pedaling old wine in new bottles for want of new and engaging ideas. I always find it ironic, if not amusing, when conservative governors carry on about trimming the federal government and slashing taxes but then look to that same government when disaster strikes, seeking the relief that their very ideas have put in jeopardy in the first place. It’s more than a bit ironic that Barack Obama’s constant critic, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has been praising federal efforts post Hurricane Sandy, the president in particular, while at the same time saying that he cares not if Mitt Romney visits the Garden State.

The solution to problems with federal disaster relief isn’t to be found in Mitt Romney’s original statements, his new spin or among the thoughts of conservative extremists. Instead we need to apply to FEMA the same rigor and discipline that presently exists in small and efficient federal organizations, such as the Marine Corps, Coast Guard or U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Branch. We have existing models that provide transferable templates for reform and as such there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to federal disaster assistance. As is the case in assessing what we can expect from a Romney presidency in the realm of disaster response the same questions come to the fore as have those in other policy areas, which version of “multiple choice Mitt” will we get if we elect him in November? For this writer, however, when it comes to this topic my response is the same as that given by Colin Powell when he commented on Romney’s approach to foreign policy: C’mon Mitt, think!

Steven J. Gulitti

10/31/2012

Sources:

Mitt Romney In GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility To The States; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/28/mitt-romney-fema_n_2036198.html

Romney ignores questions about eliminating FEMA; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/10/30/romney-ignores-questions-about-eliminating-fema/

Romney Denies He Would Eliminate FEMA; http://www.newsmax.com/US/romney-fema-hurricane-sandy/2012/10/29/id/461931

Gov. Bobby Jindal aims to cut Louisiana state budget into shape; http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/gov_bobby_jindal_aims_to_cut_l.html

Vast Defenses Now Shielding New Orleans; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/us/vast-defenses-now-shielding-new-orleans.html?pagewanted=all

Romney & Co., Beyond the Pale in Politicizing Benghazi

1:55 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I fully understand that Mitt Romney and his lieutenants want to capitalize on any and every political opportunity that comes their way, but in the case of the Benghazi deaths have they gone too far?

Ambassador Chris Stevens’ father has come out and asked that the Romney campaign cease and desist in politicizing his son’s death. To wit Jan Stevens: “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue. The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Just last week the mother of the slain Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, Barbara Doherty, asked Romney to stop using he son’s death as a political prop with the following statement: “I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.” Republican candidates have a long history of using the American military as a political backdrop during campaign season but Romney’s use of the Benghazi tragedy is beyond the pale of politics as usual and that’s why it’s become so controversial. Moreover, with Romney having made some many missteps in the foreign policy arena one would think that he would pick his fights somewhere else.

I think we’ve come to a point of “enough already” especially as the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has taken responsibility for events and in doing so, has pointed out that requests for security aren’t the sort of issues that would go across the president’s desk. That said, it’s more than a bit disingenuous to try to pin failures in day to day embassy operations on the president. Its analogous to trying to tie the price of a gallon of gasoline to Barack Obama when gas and oil prices are set in a worldwide market controlled by hundreds of traders and economic factors and not in the offices of world leaders.

The other great irony in the Republican attack on the issue of diplomatic security is that they themselves voted to cut funding for it. When asked in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley about Republican votes that cut funding for embassy security Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a Romney Surrogate said: “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have… 15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in touch economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.” What’s even more ironic about Chaffetz’s spin is that he sits on two committees that are directly involved in terrorism and security; Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. Chaffetz is Chairman of the latter. Should he have known better than to cut this type of funding, I would say so. If anything a guy who seems to be so in touch with the dangers arising in post-revolutionary Libya should have had the presence of mind to speak up against funding cuts then rather than to serve as a mouthpiece for ill considered criticism by the Romney campaign now. Rather than question Barack Obama’s judgment in commenting on the deaths in Benghazi recently, Congressman Chaffetz ought to look in the mirror and question his own lack of judgment and his current contribution in this crass politicizing of the four unfortunate American deaths in Libya.

No matter how you analyze this issue one thing is for sure, the Congressional Republicans look like the pot calling the kettle black and Romney and Co. look like a bunch of crass political operatives in continuing to use the Benghazi tragedy as a political prop. As I said above, enough is enough.

Steven J. Gulitti
10/16/12

Sources:

Ambassador’s dad says son’s death in Libya shouldn’t be politicized; http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2012/10/ambassadors_dad_says_sons_deat.html

Fox News, Stephanie Cutter, And The Politicization Of Benghazi; http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/2012/10/12/fox-news-stephanie-cutter-and-the-politicizatio/190596

Mother Of Navy SEAL Killed In Libya Demands Romney Stop Talking About Him In Stump Speech; http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/10/986301/romney-navy-seal-mother-libya/

Honoring Slain SEAL’s Mom’s Request, Romney Will Drop Story On Stump; http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story?storyid=162671671

Hillary Clinton takes responsibility for Libya US deaths; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19958739

Rep. Chaffetz says he “absolutely” voted to cut funding for embassy security; http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/10/rep-chaffetz-says-he-absolutely-cut-funding-for-embassy-security/

October 16th Talking Points For President Obama

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Obama vs. Romney 2012

(photo: DonkeyHotey/flickr)

As an avid observer of national politics I’ll be honest and admit that President Obama’s last debate performance was nothing short of abysmal. What I find particularly frustrating about Barack Obama in general, and in his performance in the last debate in particular, is that he continues to fail to counterpunch with some very basic facts when challenged by his opponents on the right. Here are just a few suggestions that should be taken to heart, if the president wants to win the last two debates.

1) Nature and Size of Deficit Spending: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the rest of the conservative community need to be called to account for misrepresenting the reason why the deficit is where it is at the present time. Obama’s critics on the right have never been honest when it comes to analyzing the current economic downturn. Rather than addressing the Great Recession for what it is, the worst downturn since the Great Depression, they’ve routinely portrayed it as a garden variety downturn made all the worse by Obama’s policies trying to link those “failed” policies with the growth in the national debt. Obama’s counterpunch here is obvious, during the next debate, and thereafter, he needs to ask Mitt Romney why he doesn’t understand that when the economy falls into a deep recession, government spending goes up as a result of increased outlays for unemployment, food stamps ad infinitum, while tax revenues decline and that those factors have played a large part in the growth of the deficit. Moreover, he could ask Romney what he and the Republican’s would have done differently and to what effect. That’s pretty easy to understand and rather straightforward yet Obama and his surrogates have failed to throw these very obvious and elemental counterpunches much to their own detriment. The second counterargument that Obama needs to make is that this administration, unlike the last, put the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the books so that those costs were reflected in deficit spending more accurately than had previously been the case. That in and of itself would have resulted in a dramatic increase in the deficit regardless of the state of the economy.

2) Medicare: President Obama needs to make it crystal clear that there is a fundamental difference between reduced outlays for Medicare that result from reduced payments to insurance companies and health care providers compared to reduced funding levels for the Medicare program per se that would result from conservative proposals. After establishing this factual difference Obama needs to press Romney on whether or not he understands this fundamental difference and to prove that it isn’t true.

3) Attacking Success: Obama needs to challenge the notion that he’s an enemy of success and that should start with the statement, based on his own life, that he himself is the embodiment of American success. Secondly, he needs to point out that asking the very wealthy to pay a little bit more in taxes isn’t the same thing as attacking success. Obama isn’t attacking the American system of private property and private initiative, he’s merely asking for a readjustment of tax rates that are now skewed to the benefit of a few in what many economists have called the greatest upward realignment of wealth since the 1920s. President Obama should ask Mitt Romney to cite a specific example where Obama conceptually, theoretically or figuratively has come out and denounced the American value of success.

4) Role of Government: President Obama needs to publicly disabuse Mitt Romney of the notion that almost everything that has ever benefited America is a function of private enterprise. Obama needs to give Mitt Romney a history lesson in the role of the federal government in fostering growth in the American economy that began in the early years of the Republic with nationally funded roads, canals and aids to navigation systems and continued through to the development of the Internet as detailed in Free Market Fantasies, referenced below. Obama needs to point out the critical fact that generally government builds infrastructure as individual companies rarely if ever ban together to build highways, bridges, dams and airports, without which there will be little in the way of an environment fostering economic growth. He also needs to point out the percentage of developmental research and development that is funded by government. President Obama needs to point out that Romney’s own proposals related to funding technical and occupational training for today’s unfilled jobs as well as those of tomorrow are unlikely to come about with out government funding and involvement. Lastly, Romney needs to be brought to understand that there isn’t a developed economy in this world that didn’t get to where it is today without significant economic policy input from it’s national government.

5) Foreign Policy: The time for Barack Obama to call out Mitt Romney on his Neoconservative power trip has long since arrived, particularly as it pertains to the Iranian nuclear program. To listen to Romney and Ryan speak of Iranian nukes one would think that the Iranians made their most dramatic advance since Obama took office. This however is factually incorrect. Foreign policy writer David Sanger pointed out that Iran made great strides in developing nuclear capabilities during the eight years of the Bush administration, while American foreign policy was distracted in the quagmire of Iraq. An analysis of the timeline of Iranian nuclear development contained the references below reveals that Iran made great strides in nuclear development from 2002 through early 2009. Barack Obama needs to put Mitt Romney on the spot and ask him how a military solution would effectively cripple Iran’s nuclear program, given that Iran’s military capabilities are considerably more formidable than where those we faced in Iraq or Libya and that much of Iran’s nuclear facilities are either underground or near population centers and that makes such a strike far more complicated.

Obama needs to ask Mitt Romney to square his implied muscular foreign policy rhetoric with the fact that the vast majority of the American people are beyond tired of overseas military involvement and want the money spent on war to be spent here at home. Obama needs to make the point that the foreign policy failures of the Bush administration have real consequences and will affect our foreign policy options for years to come. President Obama needs to distinguish between what military power can and can’t do, a point laid out by the Neoconservative Robert Kagan in an NPR interview: “Well, a lot of what people think is decline is based on a very faulty memory of what things used to be like. People have a sense that America used to call the shots, used to be able to dominate the world, get everyone to do what we wanted them to do. And of course that’s ludicrous. Anyone who remembers even the early Cold War years knows that we couldn’t do anything about the revolution in China. We couldn’t do anything about the Soviets getting a nuclear weapon, etcetera, and etcetera. So we’re making a bad comparison…In terms of military power, even with defense budget cuts that I think are unfortunate, the United States is still by far the most powerful nation in the world. So I think the United States remains tremendously influential.” Kagan, who is himself a Romney advisor, goes on to question the Romney campaigns notion that Obama believes that America is in decline. Look at this interchange between the NPR moderator Steve Inskeep and Kagan:
Read the rest of this entry →

Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

Mitt Romney’s Lehman Moment?

3:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Did Mitt Romney, in his ill timed and ill conceived commentary on the violence in North Africa, just doom his presidential aspirations the way John McCain did in 2008 when he said that the economy was on sound footing just as Lehman Brothers collapsed? In a twinkling of a political eye Mitt Romney through his remarks on the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans has taken his focus off of the one topic where he has an advantage over Barack Obama, the economy, and redirected it to foreign policy, a subject where his campaign performance thus far has been woefully inadequate if not outright abysmal. As a result Romney has introduced the issues of his own lack of foreign policy heft and judgment into the race at what couldn’t be a worse time.

By now it is more than evident that Romney jumped to conclusions, those based on an absence of chronologically verifiable facts, in framing his condemnation of the president for a statement put out by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The subject statement appeared six hours before the first protests and well over twelve hours before the deaths of American diplomatic personnel in Libya. The chronology of those events can be found in “What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya”, referenced below. This raises three fundamental questions. One, was Romney compelled to act in haste in addressing developments in Libya and Egypt as a result of the scathing criticism that he received from the far right and those conservatives who had raised questions about his chances of success only the day before, particularly those who suggested that he hasn’t been forceful enough? Or is it the case that Romney just doesn’t have the requisite background and temperament to adequately deal with fast moving foreign policy issues and as a result is prone to poor decision making when these issues are front and center? Lastly, is Romney too influenced by a claque of Iraq War era Neoconservatives who have him simply parroting those old canards that Obama is an “apologist” for America, a sympathizer who cares more about radical Islam than his own country and someone who doesn’t truly believe in American Exceptionalism?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions then Mitt Romney has proven one thing to the American people and that is that he is a deeply flawed candidate when it comes to foreign policy and crisis management and thus ill suited to be this country’s Commander-in-Chief. It’s more than a bit ironic that after doubling down on his ill conceived comments, Romney has yet to come out and condemn the man who produced the controversial film that mocks the Prophet Mohamed or the incendiary pastor, Terry Jones, whose previous actions in threatening to burn Korans set off a wave of earlier violence across the Muslim world. Political columnist Howard Fineman, appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball, summed up Romney’s performance as follows: “He got the facts wrong. And it’s a classic case of jumping out ahead of a fast-moving story, chasing what you think is some kind of immediate political gain. He [Obama] never sympathized or apologized. Mitt Romney is pursuing a political strategy that is so nakedly and obviously political…I don’t see Mitt Romney having studied his career as that much of a foreign policy guy. He never has been. He was plugged into the NeoCon view in about 2007, and that was the beginning of his foreign policy education, and that’s still where he is.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson appearing on the same program stated that Romney’s actions gave rise to questions about his overall judgment and character.

Another ominous development for Romney’s is the almost total silence on Capitol Hill and among the Republican establishment where almost no one has come to his defense. In fact most of the support Romney has received thus far has come from the very critics who just three days ago where suggesting that his campaign was doomed to failure. In stark contrast to the questionable support Romney is getting from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Laura Ingraham et al., is the flak he taking from those on the right who you would expect to be in his corner. Here are several examples. Reliable Republican cheer leader Peggy Noonan: “When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.” Mark Salter, a former McCain operative and regular critic of Obama’s foreign policy none the less criticized Romney’s actions: “However, his [Obama's] policies are not responsible for the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi or the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. In the wake of this violence, the rush by Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and scores of other conservative critics — to condemn him for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing…Moreover, the embassy’s statement was released before the attack, and was not, according to administration officials, approved by the State Department. If that’s true, it cannot be fairly attributed to the president…I understand the Romney campaign is under pressure from some Republicans to toughen its attacks on the president…But this is hardly the issue or the moment to demonstrate a greater resolve to take the fight to the president. Four good Americans, brave and true, have just died in service to their country…Nothing said or done by the president or anyone in the U.S. government is responsible for the violence that led to their deaths.” The National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “Romney’s actions are ham-handed and inaccurate.” Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: “If you think the eye-rolling at Romney is just coming from the MSM, call up some Republican foreign policy hands.” Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough: “I’ve been inundated with emails and calls from elected GOP leaders who think Romney’s response was a mistake.” Bush era Ambassador Nicholas Burns: “I was frankly very disappointed and dismayed to see Governor Romney inject politics into this very difficult situation, where our embassies are under attack, where there’s been a big misunderstanding in the Middle East, apparently, about an American film, where we’re trying to preserve the lives of our diplomats — this is no time for politics.” Conservative writer David Frum: “The Romney campaign’s attempt to score political points on the killing of American diplomats was a dismal business in every respect.” And even Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly: “I’m not sure the governor is correct on that. The embassy was trying to head off the violence” with their statement.” The bottom line is this, Mitt Romney has violated a cardinal rule of American politics, one promoted by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, that politics stops at the shoreline.

As serious a mistake as Romney has made this week it’s hardly an isolated incident. Earlier in the year when the Obama administration was locked in a controversy with the Chinese Government over a dissident who had taken refuge in the American Embassy and who then left it as part of a diplomatic deal, Romney inserted himself into the proceedings, again jumping the gun on events, saying that it “was a day of shame for the Obama administration. Romney was rebuked for his “foolish” remarks by none other than William Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard. The dissident is now residing in the United States. Romney’s misguided approach to understanding foreign policy was on display again when he stated that Russia is America’s primary foreign policy concern: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”; a statement that would lead to Colin Powell’s blunt rebuke: “I don’t know who all of his advisers are, but I’ve seen some of the names, and some of them are quite far to the right, and sometimes they, I think, might be in a position to make judgments or recommendations to the candidate that should get a second thought. For example, when Governor Romney not too long ago said, you know, the Russian Federation is our number-one geostrategic threat. Well, c’mon Mitt, think. It isn’t the case.” Earlier this summer Romney would question to what extent President Obama understood our special relationship with Great Britain only to then embarrass himself by publicly criticizing the London Olympics which, in turn, resulted in his being publicly scolded by the both the British Prime Minister and the Mayor of London. The remainder of Romney’s European tour was marred by misstatements and missteps culminating in a world wind tour of self inflicted political pratfalls.

Romney has been peddling the fantasy that if he were president or if elected that somehow he’d be able to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time he’s blaming Obama for the nuclear progress that Iran has thus far made. This of course, on its face, is seen to be an act of intellectual dishonesty coming from a candidate who is willingly ignoring the facts. In the words of veteran foreign affairs correspondent David Sanger, “The economic sanctions Mr. Obama has imposed have been far more crippling to the Iranian economy than anything President Bush did between the public revelation of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities in 2003 and the end of Mr. Bush’s term in early 2009. Covert action has been stepped up, too. Mr. Bolton has called efforts to negotiate with Iran “delusional,” but other advisers — mostly those who dealt with the issue during the Bush administration — say they are a critical step in holding together the European allies and, if conflict looms, proving to Russia and China that every effort was made to come to a peaceful resolution.” Sanger in his op-ed “Is There a Romney Doctrine?” lays waste to the claim that the president has pursued a policy of appeasement showing how “the arrival of the general election requires Mr. Romney to grapple with the question of how to attack a Democratic president whose affection for unilateral use of force — from drones over Pakistan and Yemen to a far greater role for the Special Operations command — has immunized him a bit from the traditional claim that Democrats can’t stand the sight of hard power.” To this one should add the fact that Obama engineered the removal of Muammar Gaddafi without a single American casualty and that from Osama bin Laden down to rank and file Al Qaeda operatives the Obama Administration’s actions have killed hundreds of America’s enemies. This alone stands in stark contrast to conservative claims that Barack Obama is prone to appeasement. Sanger in the “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power”, published in 2009, detailed how both Iran and North Korea had greatly expanded their nuclear programs as America was distracted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That said it’s somewhat odd that Romney has resurrected the saber rattling of the now discredited NeoCons in calling for a more muscular American military posture overseas and that just when two thirds of Americans feel that the war in Iraq did nothing to make the country safer and at a time when America’s infrastructure is in need of serious investment at home. With regard to relations with Israel Romney’s criticism amounts to nothing more than the same old sound bites on the one hand and a pandering to the Jewish vote on the other. This is hardly the commentary of one experienced in the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and certainly not one that accounts for the changed political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring.

In his quest for the Oval Office Mitt Romney has attempted to sell himself to the American people as an accomplished businessman who would use the skills acquired in private equity to better run the business of government. Yet to date there has been little in the way of “actionable intelligence” that would lead the American voter to see Mr. Romney’s electioneering as anything other than a plea to take a leap of faith in casting one’s vote for him. This is particularly true with regard to his ability to intelligently address matters of foreign policy as Commander-in-Chief, a role where the president can affect events far more significantly than he can when dealing with economic affairs. For you see America isn’t a corporation where a CEO is beholden only to shareholders. A president has roles and responsibilities to fill that are far beyond the scope of a corporate leader. We’ve elected businessmen to the presidency before, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush and none of them have been considered in the long run to be great presidents. Romney has now come under fire from John McCain for failing to articulate his own detailed foreign policy program. Then again Romney hasn’t detailed anything in the way of a detailed program as to how he would turn the economy around, an area of his supposed expertise, so why would anyone be surprised that he’s not even outlined one for foreign affairs, a subject where he has proven himself to be wholly out of his league? David Ignatius of the Washington Post described Mitt Romney as a man having “no grasp of foreign affairs” whose approach to the subject amounts to a “series of sound bites” all of which portray a candidate who knows little about a subject of the utmost importance. With Mr. Ignatius’ observations in mind I believe we may have reached a tipping point in the 2012 election much the same as we were in September of 2008. The latest polls show Romney falling behind the president in key swing states and events in the Muslim world may still go against Barack Obama. However, the poll results that hit the newswires this morning are based on data that predate Romney’s latest gaffe and as a result Americans may still favor Obama when the see the next round of polling and especially when they consider this latest episode in a recurring series of Romney foreign policy disasters.

Steven J. Gulitti

9/14/12

Sources:

What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/09/12/us/politics/libya-statements.html?ref=politics

Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones backs anti-Muhammad movie; http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/guy-koran-burning-pastor-terry-jones-backs-anti-muhammad-movie-article-1.1157522

Hardball with Chris Matthews for Wednesday, September 12th, 2012; http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49021234/ns/msnbc-hardball_with_chris_matthews/

Peggy Noonan: “Romney Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors”; http://www.buzzfeed.com/dorsey/peggy-noonan-romneys-not-doing-himself-any-favo

Noonan: Romney not helping himself; http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/09/noonan-romney-not-helping-himself-135300.html

Don’t Politicize Embassy Attacks; http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/09/12/dont_politicize_embassy_attacks_115416.html

Romney and Foreign Policy; http://thepage.time.com/2012/09/12/romney-and-foreign-policy/?xid=newsletter-thepagebymarkhalperin

Even As Experts, GOP Figures Criticize Romney’s Embassy Statement, Right-Wing Pundits Blame “The Media”; http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/09/13/even-as-experts-gop-figures-criticize-romneys-e/189862

Mitt Romney Response To Libya, Egypt Attacks Called ‘Irresponsible,’ ‘Craven,’ ‘Ham-Handed’; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/mitt-romney-libya-egypt-media-reactions_n_1877266.html

Bloody Bill Kristol Calls Romney’s Attacks Over Chinese Dissident ‘Foolish’; http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/bloody-bill-kristol-calls-romneys-attacks-o

Romney: Russia is our number one geopolitical foe; http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/26/romney-russia-is-our-number-one-geopolitical-foe/

Why Colin Powell Bashed Mitt Romney’s Foreign-Policy Advisers; http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/why-colin-powell-bashed-mitt-romneys-foreign-policy-advisers/

David Sanger : Is There a Romney Doctrine?; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/sunday-review/is-there-a-romney-doctrine.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

Marist Polling: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/

9/13: Obama Leads Romney by 7 Points in Ohio

9/13: Obama with Advantage Over Romney in Florida

9/13: Obama Up Five Points Over Romney in Virginia

Rasmussen Reports; http://www.rasmussenreports.com/

The G.O.P. and a Platform Built for the Past‏

7:04 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

To hear the pundits and political professionals talk about it, this election is all about turning out a party’s base. That’s because there are few if any undecided voters left and the only undecided voters that count are the ones residing in a handful of swing states. That said the only real purpose of a political party’s platform is to energize and excite the base so that it will turnout en mass to vote, volunteer and hopefully convince others to vote for the party’s candidate. However when you examine much of the Republican Party’s 2012 platform one thing is clear. It may excite the base but it’s not likely to broaden that base in any way that will make a difference this election day or on any election day in the future. If this election really turns out to be a battle of the bases and the Republicans lose then part of that loss may be a direct result of having structured a political platform that alienated more potential voters than it engaged. What’s most interesting is not how much the Republican platform differs from that of today’s Democrats, it’s how drastically it differs from their own of 1980 as detailed in “Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now” cited below. Today’s Republicans are heading back in time not forward and when you read their platform and observe their actions of late and it couldn’t be more obvious, particularly in issues of the culture wars.

Marriage: On the topic of marriage the platform states: “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” This position on marriage is in direct contrast to today’s social trends. If you analyze polling results over the past decade you see a distinct trend away from the idea that same sex marriages or civil unions should have “no legal recognition”, except among Republicans. However what’s interesting here as that even younger Republicans are breaking ranks with their party on social issues. Referencing a recent article “Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues”, “In a break from generations past and with an eye toward the future, many of the youngest leaders of the Republican Party are embracing views on some social issues that are at odds with traditional conservative ideology…A poll this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the percentage of Republicans ages 18 through 29 who favor same-sex marriage has grown to 37 percent, up from 28 percent eight years ago.” In fact what was even more striking about the RNC is the point to which gays and lesbians were totally absent from the proceedings as per New York Times columnist Frank Bruni: “It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.”

Voting Rights: When considering voter fraud initiatives the 1980 Republican platform seems downright liberal: “Republicans support public policies that will promote electoral participation without compromising ballot-box security. We support the repeal of those restrictive campaign spending limitations that tend to create obstacles to local grass roots participation in federal elections.” Now contrast that to the 2012 platform: “we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud.” But what about those elderly inner city dwellers that no longer have or may have never had a driver’s license or any other form of photo i.d.? To many observers the current crop of voter photo i.d. initiatives and restrictions on early voting initiatives smack of the poll taxes and literacy tests of yesteryear. More to the point there seems to be little in the way of widespread and substantiated voter fraud. An article appearing in People Politico sums up what’s been revealed in other sources: “Again we find, as has been obvious in many other reports, that voter fraud at the polls is so minute and inconsequential that it should outrage all Americans that our politicians are wasting the valuable time they have to try to tackle an issue that doesn’t even exist…Not only did this article dive deep into the entire issue of voter fraud, it used the raw data collected by News21 and their new database to illustrate just how inconsequential in-person, at the polls, voter fraud is. The number of actual cases is somewhere near the 1000th’s of a percent range. That is .001%.”

Guns: Particular specifics of the language on gun rights are especially backward: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill considered Clinton era gun ban.” While I fully support Second Amendment rights being a gun owner myself and a military reservist who trains with an assault rifle among other weapons, I can’t for the life of me see why anyone outside of law enforcement or the military needs an assault rifle or a high volume clip. Again polling shows that there is little support in the population for unrestricted gun ownership, the civilian use of assault rifles or high capacity clips. In fact polling shows a double digit decline in the opposition to stricter gun laws.

Health Care: The platform is backward looking on the issue of health care: “It states that a Republican president would use his waiver authority to halt progress in implementing the health care act pushed through by President Obama. It proposes a free-market-based plan that gives consumers more choice.” Americans, like the rest of the modern world have tried and failed to have the private sector be the primary engine in delivering adequate affordable health care. America’s Republicans are essentially the only conservative party in the world that is serious in suggesting that government supervised health care should be dismantled. Even the conservatives in Europe are seeking to balance fiscal reform with an underpinning of their country’s social safety nets. The great irony of this is that now, even Mitt Romney has begun to part company with his own party. On this Sunday’s Meet the Press Romney told David Gregory: “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”

Abortion: While deriding the role of government in our lives Republicans now propose a constitutional amendment to essentially outlaw all abortions: “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” The backwardness of conservative thinking on reproductive rights hit a new high in the commentary of Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin whose comments conservative writer Ross Douthat labeled as a blend of “superstition, sexism and stupidity.” While a slight majority of those polled now consider themselves to be pro-life, when the specifics of whether or not abortion should be legal are the issue, consistent majorities say abortion should remain legal to one degree or another. When the specifics of pregnancies due to rape, incest or where a woman’s life or health are endangered the overwhelming majority of poll responders favor abortion. In contrast, the number of respondents who feel that abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances” is seen to be consistently in the low double digits. Moreover, the Republican position on abortion is joined conceptually with backward thinking on the use of contraception and sex education as evidenced by the popularity of the idea that young people should practice abstinence until married as a way of warding off unwanted pregnancies. While the 2012 platform encourages adoption, which is part of the solution in minimizing abortions, it is completely silent on a woman’s right to use contraception and family planning services. It is also silent on the value of sex education as a way of mitigating the need for abortion.

Education: “Republicans support consumer choice, including home schooling, local innovations such as single-sex classes, full-day school hours and year-round schools.” Since when, in a democracy, has education, up to the level of grade 12, been anything but a function of government? Yes we’ve always had prep and parochial schools but they have not been the avenues through which the vast majority of Americans have obtained their educations. With regard to home schooling I’ve known people who have pursued that route and when the parents were well educated it’s worked and where they were lacking in a college education themselves one can only wonder what the final outcome could possibly be. Moreover it would seem to me that single sex classes would serve to retard the social development that coeducational schooling naturally provides. Suffice it to say that in an interconnected and technologically advancing world practices like home schooling and same sex classes would only serve to hinder American development rather than advance it. The bottom line is that ideas such as these belong to a day and age that we left behind long ago.

Taxes: For all of the rhetoric embodied in the 2012 Republican Platform, no matter how you spin it it’s nothing but the old wine of “trickle down” economics in a new bottle. One independent analyst after another has come out and said that the math doesn’t add up and there’s no way that tax breaks for the rich can be enacted without the middle class paying more. These are the policies that have already failed once if not twice already so why try them again?

Labor Unions: The Republican platform derides the current administration as being beholden to the era of union confrontation with management which is odd as only 13 percent of the private sector is currently unionized. It bemoans the now faded support of the card check while completely ignoring the established fact that companies, have for decades, engaged in sophisticated anti-union campaigns aimed at denying workers their rights under existing laws to organize and engage in collective bargaining. The platform claims it will “restore the rule of law” to our national labor relations system by “blocking card check” while remaining completely silent as to the need for restoring the rule of law as it pertains to enforcing existing laws on the books to protect workers in their right to organize and bargain collectively. It “demands” an end to Project Labor Agreements, a practice that has proven highly effective in moving the construction industry forward as it claws its way out of the financial bubble that burst during the last Republican administration. The platform promotes a “National Right to Work” environment which will do nothing but guarantee that non-union workers continue to earn significantly less than they would under a union contract. In a very real sense the Republican Party sees the economic disenfranchisement of America’s workers as a key ingredient in reviving America’s economic prosperity. Thus whatever rationale which previously existed for the so called “Reagan Democrats”, workers who could support the G.O.P., it has long since dissipated and the whole notion of such a thing has long since ceased to make any sense. In fact if you spent anytime watching the Tampa RNC you would think that everything good that ever happened in this country was the work of entrepreneurs. Odd but it never seems to dawn on conservatives that all of the great ideas and the financing that flows to entrepreneurs would amount to nothing if workers didn’t get out bed in the morning and go to work to make it all happen. Capitalism isn’t solely about the bosses; it’s about a partnership between capital, labor and public investment, an essential fact of America’s economic history that seems lost on American conservatives today.

This is not to say that the entire Republican platform of 2012 is completely backward looking. There are parts that acknowledge the need for government investment in infrastructure as an important element in ensuring economic growth but you sure don’t hear much about that from those running for office in this election cycle. Moreover, in a party so transfixed with cutting government spending where will the money come from to build this new infrastructure? Neither from the wealthy nor from the military based on the current rhetoric. The platform also addresses energy independence as if that’s something that the current administration has forgotten but yet this document is merely reiterating what the current administration has already put into motion. A recent article entitled “U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence”, along with others cited below, shows how America is in the best position in terms of energy independence than it has been in decades, lying waste to the conservative lie that Barack Obama is not even remotely interested in this country’s energy security. The G.O.P.’s reaffirmation of the need for strong military engagement differs little from that of the present administration in realistic terms and any saber rattling on the part of the Republican Party and the NeoCons needs to be held up to the realities that the American people are tired of overseas military adventures that have yielded little or nothing in the way of enhanced security. In fact today’s version of “The Take Away” on PBS showed that two thirds of the American people felt that the country was no safer as a result of the war in Iraq. That’s sad commentary when assessed against the cost of that war in terms of lives and national treasure. Just imagine what would be if we spent all of the money that went to Iraq on America’s infrastructure, we might no longer even be in recession.

Those who take issue with this article will say that, generally speaking, party platforms aren’t that important. By and large that may be true but as it turns out, this year that’s not the case. Quoting an above referenced article on the 2012 Republican platform, “a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found more people interested in the GOP platform than in the upcoming acceptance speeches by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. The survey found that 52 percent said they were interested in learning about the Republican platform, compared to 44 percent interested in Romney’s speech and 46 percent interested in Ryan’s.” That said it goes without saying that more people, especially independent voters are more likely to be turned off by what the G.O.P. has on offer than excited by it. The Republican Party lags the Democrats by around 10 points when it comes to favorability. The Republican Party in Congress is one of the least liked organizations in America. Combine that with the fact that Mitt Romney is hardly loved by his own party and a vote for Romney is really a vote against Obama and you have the makings of a major shortcoming for a party and a movement that, given public sentiment and the state of the economy, should be out in front in this election by 5 to 10 points.

In an article I wrote in February of 2009, “The Challenge of a New Morning in America”, I pointed out that the Republican Party was in a state of ideological exhaustion having little or nothing to say that was relevant for the age of globalized economic and political competition other than to watch you’re spending. When you look over the content of the G.O.P’s 2012 political platform it appears that this is still the case and that’s not good news for a party trying to recapture the government or a conservative movement that’s supposed to be ascendant.

Steven J. Gulitti

9/11/12

Sources:
2012 Republican Party Platform; http://www.scribd.com/doc/104221532/2012-Gop-Platform

GOP votes for tough-talking platform: http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/in-focus-election-2012_2012-08-29.html

Platform’s Sharp Turn to Right Has Conservatives Cheering; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-platform-takes-turn-to-right.html?emc=eta1

Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-party-platforms-now-and-then.html?emc=eta1

Ross Douthat: The Democrats’ Abortion Moment; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-democrats-abortion-moment.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Polling Report.com – Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Rights; http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm

Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/us/politics/young-republicans-erase-lines-on-social-issues.html?emc=eta1

Voter Fraud: More Evidence of No Evidence; http://www.peoplepolitico.com/index.php/2012/08/voter-fraud-more-evidence-of-no-evidence/

Election Fraud in America; http://votingrights.news21.com/interactive/election-fraud-database/

Frank Bruni – Excluded From Inclusion; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/opinion/sunday/bruni-excluded-from-inclusion.html?emc=eta1

Polling Report.com – Gun Laws; http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

Romney, Easing, Says Health Law Isn’t All Bad; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/us/politics/romney-adopts-softer-tone-in-critique-of-obama.html

It Will Be Tricky for Romney to Keep Best of Health Law While Repealing It; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/us/politics/romneys-pledge-shows-repealing-health-law-to-be-complex.html?ref=todayspaper

Polling Report.com – Abortion; http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/business/energy-environment/inching-toward-energy-independence-in-america.html?emc=eta1

Viewpoint: Gas Prices and the Great GOP Lie

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2109474,00.html?artId=2109474?contType=article?chn=sciHealth

Gulf of Mexico activity continues to escalate; http://www.workboat.com/Blogs/Offshore-Outlook/Gulf-of-Mexico-activity-continues-to-escalate/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews

Massive oil and gas lease shows ‘Gulf is back’; http://www.workboat.com/Online-Features/2012/Massive-oil-and-gas-lease-shows–Gulf-is-back-/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews

The Challenge of a New Morning in America; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2009/02/01/the_challenge_of_a_new_morning_in_america

Paul Ryan Whistling Past Reality

9:43 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I just finished watching Paul Ryan’s convention speech and I was dumbstruck by this supposed policy wonk’s complete and obvious ability to craft a speech that was so at variance to the facts and then expect the voters to take him seriously. Let’s take a look at some of what Ryan claimed.

Ryan talks about how Barack Obama has been in office for four years and even though he inherited a jobs crisis and a housing crisis he’s been unable to correct these problems. Ryan accuses President Obama of failing to focus on job creation in particular yet he never stopped to acknowledge the fact that at the depths of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said that the single most important goal of the G.O.P. was “to make Barack Obama a one term president.” Looking back at the past three years I don’t recall any great effort on the part of the Republican Party to create jobs other than to continue to advocate for more tax cuts for the rich, the supposed “job creators”, who being the beneficiaries of the most liberal tax treatment since Ronald Reagan, don’t seem to have created all that many jobs anyway. And who were McConnell’s allies in this endeavor, the House Republicans, Paul Ryan, foremost among them. Thus at a time when the vast majority of Americans were suffering through the Great Recession the leaders of this country’s conservative movement put partisan politics above the common good and now we’re being asked to return these same people to power. What, pray tell, would lead anyone to believe that these same leaders, who put the American people on hold while they pursued partisan politics, will now address the needs of the rank and file American via a renewed attempt at trickle down economics?

With regard to fiscal matters, Ryan lectured the audience on the great damage done to the country by the Obama Administration saying that the president had run up an additional $5 Trillion dollars in debt since taking office. Odd but Ryan failed to address the fact that it was his party under George W. Bush that took us from surplus to deficit by starting two unfunded wars, cutting taxes for those who didn’t need one and the increased costs of Medicare resulting from a new prescription drug plan that was never adequately paid for. The great irony of Ryan’s whole diatribe is that he himself never stood against any of the aforementioned when they were up for a vote during the Bush administration. He railed against the auto bailout yet he voted for it. He spoke of a General Motors factory in Janesville that closed after candidate Obama promised that the plant would remain open and did so by ignoring the fact that that plant closed in December of 2008, before Obama even took office. He derided Obama for his efforts to fight the Great Recession yet Ryan himself voted in favor of the Wall Street TARP bailout and gladly accepted stimulus funds for his home district. He accuses Obama of walking away from the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission yet he himself voted against it. Oh and just one more thing, he was for earmarks before it became fashionable to be against them as his track record of procuring federal monies for his home district shows.

Ryan raised the old “Socialist” boogeyman when he spoke about “central planning” but then he went on to say that he and Romney would put the government “back on the side of those who create jobs.” Pardon me but the Republicans have been carrying on for the past four years that the government should get out of the way of the “job creators” and not “pick winners and losers.” And as was to be expected, Ryan again raised the misconception that Barack Obama doesn’t believe that people build their own businesses. Of course Obama never said anything to that effect, what he did say was that private businesses benefit from public spending on infrastructure and education and to that there is no argument as the history of this country shows. Since the birth of the American Republic public spending on infrastructure improvement has gone hand in hand with economic progress. Funny that a guy who’s supposed to be so well grounded in economic theory and history would miss an obvious fact like that one. Ryan reiterated the fable that Obama believes that we can grow the economy via entitlements, again a claim that can’t be substantiated in reality.

In speaking of his running mate’s record of public service Ryan alludes to Mitt Romney’s record as Governor of Massachusetts while ignoring the fact that the state ranked 47th in job creation, that Romney governed as a moderate, that he crafted a healthcare plan that is the template of Obamacare, individual mandate and all, and, he ignored Romney’s flip flop on abortion. Ryan praises Romney’s turnaround of the 2002 Olympics while ignoring the fact that Romney received between $400 to $600 million dollars directly from the federal government and approximately $1.1 billion dollars of indirect funding for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Paul Ryan would end his speech with an appeal to the American people to put partisanship aside and: “Let’s come together for the sake of our country.” Is he really serious in thinking that after his own party said that its goal was “to make Barack Obama a one term president” that his opponents will now, as if by magic, put the vitriol and the divisiveness of the past four years behind them and follow him, a guy who on the occasion of the most important speech in his political life would produce a soliloquy that only a politically ignorant listener could love.

Steven J. Gulitti

8/30/12