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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Get off my lawn"

Four years ago, the Republicans nominated an angry old white man for president. This time around they had to settle for a substitute.

Clint Eastwood's bizarre conversation with an empty chair was a fitting coda to a convention where the GOP nominated an empty suit as its standard bearer. And the stereotypical insults of the Eastwood "performance" were as out of tune with reality as Mitt Romney's claim that the GOP wanted Barack Obama to succeed.

Eastwood may well have upstaged the nominee -- from the buzz generated over his "surprise" appearance to the disrespectful monologue in which he told an imagined Obama:
“I can’t tell him that. He can’t do that to himself.”
I assume the suggestion was for Romney to think for himself as opposed to twisting into a pretzel to please the party that finally gave him what he has long coveted.

Just imagine the outrage if Alec Baldwin has carried on an imaginary conversation like that with  George W. Bush.

The crowd of course took kindly to the former Republican Mayor of Carmel, California, forgiving the imaginary trespass they presumed he committed when he fronted a Super Bowl commercial the Obama haters took to be an endorsement of the auto bailout.

It was indeed a fitting conclusion to an imaginative convention where truth was not invited.

The Republican Party has offered the same tired solution of lower taxes and higher defense spending as the cure for all our ills for more than 30 years, despite overwhelming evidence that all it has succeeded in doing is growing both our deficit and the gap between the rich and the 99 percent.

Why shouldn't an actor/director who has cornered the market on the role of angry old man telling kids to get off his lawn become the spokesman for that party?

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Who built it?

For a party whose symbol is an elephant, Republicans sure are forgetful.

While Paul Ryan continued the serial fabrication that has marked the GOP convention (cost $18 million in federal dollars) in the Tampa Bay Times Forum ($86 million in public subsidies), folks in New Orleans were riding out Isaac thanks in part to a $14 billion investment to rebuild levees that failed after Katrina seven years earlier.

Ryan went all fire and brimstone on Barack Obama -- a theme of a convention that has offered little in support of nominee Mitt Romney, save for his wife.

If you hear the GOP tell it, things just haven't been the same since the last Republican President, Ronald Reagan.

What's the you say? There have been two other Republican chief executives since then?

Even more noticeable than the absence of facts has been the disappearance of George Bush pere and fils, who along with Reagan oversaw the massive explosion of debt that Ryan and Romney propose to eliminate by cutting taxes yet again on the rich.

Bush 41 became anathema to the true believers (and like Romney, they never really trusted him) after he failed to read his own lips about new taxes.

Bush 43 -- who took over the Clinton surplus and ran up the credit card with two wars, an unfunded Medicare prescription benefit and massive tax cuts for the rich -- is as invisible as non-angry, minority women at the convention. The party line is history ceased between Bush v. Gore and the Obama inauguration.

Is it any wonder Ryan, whose House GOP colleagues have worked to lower the nation's credit rating, would join the amnesia set and focus on the alleged inaction of Obama.

Which brings us to tonight, when Willard M. Romney achieves his quest to succeed where his father failed and accepts the GOP nomination. As regular readers know, Romney has taken more stances than there are positions on issues. And his sister Jane suggests another flip is in the offing.

It all makes for great theatrics. Until you remember that Republicans can't handle the truth.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Liar!

The GOP's divorce from the reality-based community has been on full display in Tampa as the party continues its assault on truth, justice and anyone else's vision of The American Way.

This is obviously not a new theme in the fact-based community, with these missives from Bill Keller and Charlie Pierce as elegant and angry starting points.

What's more amazing to me is how open Republican strategists are about their campaign of deceit, starting with what once would have been a startling admission by Mitt Romney pollster Neil Newhouse in defending a blatantly false ad:
"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
The party that ran up a massive deficit with two credit card wars and an unfunded Medicare drug benefit is now preaching thrift and sacrifice -- for everyone other than the rich and the military. And their weapon of choice is The Big Lie, repeating falsehoods to the point they become accepted as fact.

And we have two more days of unfettered lies ahead.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Romney and evolution

It's not often when all of Myth Romney's multiple choice positions are neatly summarized and packaged in one easy to digest place.

But Our Man Myth's "evolution" on economic issues is neatly cataloged by The New York Times' Binyamin Appelbaum,  who stopped by the Boston Globe for a cup of coffee after Romney vacated the Corner Office.

The most interesting tidbit? Romney still apparently believes in indexing the minimum wage to inflation. Wonder how long that will last now that the truth is out?

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Now where was I?

With Isaac preparing to eclipse Mitt as the name of the week, particularly with New Orleans bracing for an unhappy reminder of Katrina (and George Bush's heckuva job) Republicans are gathering in Tampa to celebrate a man they still haven't warmed up to.

That was clear in the uproar over Todd Akin's not-so-legitimate remarks about women, rape and abortion -- and the fact the Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan has said much the same thing, only more artfully.

And it was brought home again by Romney's "joke" about a birth certificate and the need to swiftly equate that well-calibrated re meat remark with Barack Obama's crack about Seamus on the Romney  roof rack.

Fantasy and reality don't really equate well.

That's apparently made even more clear by one of the Top 10 box office hits of the weekend: "2016", Dinesh D'Sousa's trip down imagination lane to conjure up a vision of America should Obama win a second term.

As a counter, the Obama camp ought to put together "2008", a stroll down memory lane at the impact of eight years of George W. Bush, complete with fiscal meltdowns and real hurricane devastation.

And speaking of video, it was good to return to Scott Brown's latest feel-good opus, taking the truck out to visit a Medal of Honor winner. About the only thing Brown has missed so far in his advertising efforts is surrounding himself with yapping puppies.

Or any discussion of what he actually believes, as defined by his voting record.

Did I miss anything else?

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Same old song and dance

It's hard to believe a presidential candidate proudly announces that he paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes. But it's better than a vice presidential candidate admitting he lied.

Just another day on the trail for the GOP Dream Team.

Our Man Myth tried to quiet Harry Reid and the calls for him to release his tax returns by declaring he paid at least 13 percent in taxes for the last 10 years. Since Romney has not held a paying job in that time (he gave up his governor's salary because he didn't need it) he paid only capital gains taxes.

That's unlike most Americans who also fork over payroll and state and local taxes, making for an effective tax rate of 20 percent or more.

By way of comparison, Barack and Michelle Obama paid and effective rate of 20.5 percent in 2011 and 26 percent in 2010.

And the Man of Many Positions still insists he won't share his returns with the American people -- just after no doubt rummaging through many years of Paul Ryan's filings.

Trust me, says Myth.

Ah yes, trust. Like Ryan saying he didn't push for stimulus money for his district before he did.

The Boston Globe caught the GOP's new Golden Boy in a juicy whopper. Mr. Slash Government Spending signed letters to the Department of Energy "seeking grants under the Obama administration’s economic recovery package. The funds were for conservation and green energy projects, and one of the organizations was later granted $20 million."

But asked by radio talk show callers in Boston in 2010 and again in Cincinnati last week, Ryan ranged from outright lie to classic political hedge:
Audio from 2010 provided Thursday by WBZ indicates that Ryan, responding to a caller, said that he would not vote against something and “then write to the government to ask them to send us money.” He added: “I did not request any stimulus money.” 

He repeated that response this week in an interview with Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV. “No, I never asked for stimulus,” he said, adding, “I don’t recall.”
Ryan said in a statement at the time issued by his office:
“This is not a crisis we can spend and borrow our way out of — that is how we got here in the first place.”
Today? It was just a routine constituent service.

So much for the breath of fresh air. What would Ayn Rand say?

UPDATE: Time Magazine's Michael Crowley goes one better on Ryan and stimulus hypocrisy. Not just his district, a matching proposal with GOP-approved "pork." Except it wasn't pork is Ryan and Eric Cantor supported it.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pot: meet kettle

The media are shocked, just shocked at the tone of the presidential campaign. Maybe reporters should look on the mirror.

Politico, the website of 24-7-365 political news and gossip, interviewed reporters who lamented over the "toxic" nature of the campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the wake of Joe Biden's comment that Republicans wanted to put people back "in chains."

The irony is too deep to ignore.

The political media have long subsisted on three things: polls, gaffes and attacks. They are the life blood of journalists on the trail, particularly television which is required to tell its story of increments of 90 seconds or less. Way less.

Way back in the old days, the average sound bite could go for 43 seconds in 1968. Twenty years later it was down to 9 seconds. Today? Don't sneeze or you will miss it.

That's prompted campaigns to build the message around short, snappy and provocative words -- the more pointed the better.

And that in turn has caused opposing sides to hang on those words in tailoring their retorts.

Who is ultimately to blame for this short-attention span war? The media -- print or broadcast -- who lap up the words to fill their stories or packages.

There have been all sort of pious pronouncements that Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan will elevate the tone of this election, prompting the candidates and the public to engage in an "adult conversation" of Medicare and the two parties' visions for America.

Don't believe it.

The nature of the news cycle, not to mention the millions of dollars available to the candidates and the super PACs, virtually guarantee a race to the bottom in defining the campaign. Can you intelligently talk about Medicare and government spending in 10 seconds? Didn't think so.

The only thing worse than the sound bite war we are witnessing is hearing journalists lament the practice, which is their lifeblood.

Until you join Soundbites Anonymous and become a recovering political reporter.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is that all there is?

It's billed as the most important race in the country, one that could decide which party controls the Senate. You sure can't prove it by listening.

After regaling us with waitresses, family and forgotten politicians, Scott Brown promised a "major policy speech" yesterday. What we got instead was the not-so-startling declaration that to Elizabeth Warren "there’s no bad time to raise a tax."

Warren in turn dismissed Brown's declaration that she favored a $3.4 trillion tax hike “a made-up number,” but offered little other than her standard stump line about how the "wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations can afford to pay their fair share."

Despite raising millions of dollars each, the race is quieter than a corporate office on a summer Friday. Brown's steady stream of advertising pablum has been met with occasional flights of Warren commercials urging infrastructure spending and help for college students in avoiding staggering debt.

There's logic in Brown keeping it personal. He continues to enjoy the image of a likable lug who has fought back from childhood adversity. A basketball player, he appears to have adopted a run out the clock strategy. In the first quarter.

Brown has let his staff do the dirty work, taking the fight to Warren over red herrings like her Cherokee heritage and the absurd notion that Warren's daughter has single handedly plotted to register welfare recipients to vote against Brown.

To say Warren's response has been passive is to be generous. She has allowed Brown to define her and the the issues, from his mock courteous reference to "Professor" Warren to failing to adequately address the heritage question.

Brown has established a clear voting record in support of the banks and financial institutions she has rightly targeted for causing the Great Recession -- and walking away virtually scot-free thanks to a compliant Congress that answers their siren song of campaign cash.

Maybe Warren is waiting until after Labor Day to unleash the message that Brown operates in a far different manner than the image her projects. A look at Twitter feeds suggest she and her supporters are out across the state engaging voters one-on-one.

But Brown, after lulling us with soft-focus commercials, is no doubt also waiting to unleash a barrage after Labor Day to keep Warren on the defensive.

The state's junior senator is vulnerable to a sharply focused campaign that indeed paints him as the difference between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. And his failure to engage directly with the media or in town hall meetings where he can't control the audience shows he knows it.

And she does too:
“He’s out and visible without having to talk about the issues or take any questions, because when he talks about the issues, he’s got a real problem,” Warren said. “And when he starts to take questions, he’s got a bigger problem.”
But unless Warren takes the offensive and engages him on his obvious weaknesses, she will be held in even deeper scorn than Martha Coakley if McConnell wields the gavel come January.

Oh yeah: Brown's news-making moment? Congress should come back to in a special session "this summer" to address the budget issues that the GOP has repeatedly stymied by refusing to consider new revenues -- on their corporate patrons -- as part of the solution.

With the two party conventions right around the corner that's about as hollow a challenge as a politician can issue.

Of course, Brown didn't stick around to let anyone challenge him on that "major policy" declaration. And Warren didn't either.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Voodoo redux

Paul Ryan appears to be a classic "do as I say not as I do" Republican, building a budget on rosy scenarios while saying one thing and doing another.

The GOP's new Super Man's track record is dissected at some length today in the Boston Globe, which not examines not only the shaky underpinnings of Brown's radical budget plan but also notes his willingness to grab for some of the same stimulus funding he decried as wasteful.

Let's start with the $787 billion stimulus, you know the one the GOP single-handedly blames for creating the debt (ignoring the Bush tax cut, two credit card wars and a Medicare prescription benefit).

Ryan lobbied hard for millions in energy grants for his district -- successfully securing $20 million to help thousands of local businesses and homes improve their energy efficiency. Of course Ryan had voted against the very legislation that provided the funding, saying it "misses the mark on all counts."

Hypocrisy is the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill and a Ryan aide at the time declared “If Congressman Ryan is asked to help a Wisconsin entity applying for existing federal grant funds, he does not believe flawed policy should get in the way of doing his job and providing a legitimate constituent service to his employers."

That did not stop Ryan himself from piously declaring:
This trillion-dollar spending bill misses the mark on all counts,” said Ryan in a statement. “This is not a crisis we can spend and borrow our way out of — that is how we got here in the first place.”
 Business as usual. And so is the much-touted budget plan that is built upon assumptions that are not backed up by details -- the same flaws that mark Mitt Romney's "plan."
Ryan’s plan “aggressively cuts tax rates and promises to recoup lost revenue by getting rid of tax preferences; but what it fails to do is specify which tax preferences it will get rid of, kicking that over to others in Congress to do the heavy lifting,” said Roberton Williams, a senior analyst at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
In the tradition of Ryan's first boss, former Rep. Jack Kemp, the Wisconsin congressman goes all in on supply side economics, the Reagan plan to created the first yawning budget gap. Both Reagan and George W. Bush built sand castle budgets on the theory that tax cuts would serve as job creating incentives, a theory now thoroughly discredited in reality if not the mind of Grover Norquist acolytes.

As the Globe notes:
An analysis of Ryan’s plan by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, released in March, made clear that Ryan’s economic assumptions are key to his plan. For example, the report said that under one current scenario the federal debt would be 200 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2050. But under the scenario envisioned by Ryan, the public debt would be just 10 percent of GDP by 2050.
The massive tax cuts envisioned by Ryan -- Bush on steroids -- are paid for by equally massive cuts in social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and education. Defense spending would continue to grow despite disengagement from Bush's two credit card wars.

And Ryan's promise to close tax loopholes inevitably mean an attack on middle class havens like the mortgage deduction.

It's best left to George H.W. Bush, the last Republican who understood how spending and taxation worked.

It's Voodoo Economics Redux.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Not even a RINO

We interrupt the GOP love fest over Paul Ryan for this message: Scott Brown is not feeling the glow.

The Bay State's junior senator is running away from his party with an ad campaign that stresses family and friends, particularly Democrats who profess their love for Senator Barn Coat.

It's an issue-less campaign -- particularly for a candidate who could be the difference between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader.

The Globe notes there's really nothing new about Republicans running away from their party. But the stakes are considerably higher this time around -- with control over the Senate and perhaps the radical GOP budget proposals at stake.

Brown has good reason already not to run on his record of support for banks. But his campaign has been devoid of any discussion of any issues, focusing instead on fuzzy images of Brown at a diner, folding laundry and spending quality family time. On the stump, he's focused his efforts solely on Elizabeth Warren's family.

Hardly the stuff of substance, despite an economy wavering on the edge of another recession, thanks in large part to the obstructionism of his fellow Republicans.

The naming of Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate will no doubt increase the pressure on Brown to stand with -- or up -- to his party. Ryan's proposal to gut Medicare and safety net spending heightens the contrast between the allegedly "moderate" Brown stances and the hard right reality of his party.

It will be fascinating to observe him within the GOP convention and the coronation of his fellow Massachusetts Republican Romney. Although they share the same braintrust, they have not been the Bay State Twins.

But with Romney's selection of Ryan, the hard move to the right is now complete -- and the convention will be a celebration. Brown is going to need to dance even harder to avoid the backlash likely to result in the Bay State.

And you know Warren will be watching.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Trouble in paradise?

Mitt World appears to be happy with the choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, but do his local newspapers foreshadow a less glorious future?

First you have the Globe congratulating Romney for his choice, saying it will "clarify" the fall campaign. Can anyone recall the last time the Globe hailed the Mittster -- for anything other than RomneyCare of course.

But what had to send a chill down the spine of Romney brain-truster Eric Ferhnstrom was not one, not two but three columns fronting the Boston Herald website raising questions about the pick in one form or another.

First there's Joe Battenfeld's suggestion the selection puts Scott Brown in a tougher fight to retain his Senate seat. A Herald piece that doesn't dwell at length on Elizabeth Warren's family or heritage? Uh-oh.

Next up is Peter Gelzinis, who posits the only person happier than Romney right now is Barack Obama, who is offered the ultimate backhanded compliment:
Barack Obama hasn’t been a good enough president these past few years to win these two guys as opponents. I don’t believe the White House ever really thought Romney would give them the chance to run against the GOP’s chief bogeyman.
But what probably has caused more sweating than the humidity down at Romney's North End bunker is the less-than-glowing review of Fehrnstrom mentor Howie Carr:
So Paul Ryan isn’t giving up his race for re-election to the House of Representatives. Good career move, Paul. Somehow, this vice presidential choice seems somewhat underwhelming. I still say Marco Rubio would have been the better candidate — and please, spare me the arguments about Rubio’s alleged support of the DREAM Act and whether he’s a “natural-born citizen.”
Romney selected Ryan to rally the base, which includes right wing talkmeisters like Carr. Obviously Howie's gonna need a little talkin' to, probably from Fernie, maybe even a sit down with the Mittster himself, before he gets on the bandwagon.

The Herald's skepticism, much like the expected post-selection bump in the polls, probably will be short lived. And the Globe's editorial? Fish wrap by day's end.

But less-than-fawning reception for Ryan in the reliably Republican Herald surely got today off to a bad start down on Commercial Street.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rolling the dice

OK, scratch the Etch a Sketch.

Mitt Romney's likely announcement of Paul Ryan as his running mate suggests the presumptive Republican presidential nominee still hasn't closed the deal with the GOP's conservative wing. And that makes Eric Fehrnstrom's suggestion that Romney will tack back toward the middle, well, inoperative.

The selection of Ryan, an untested 42-year-old who has called for a radical overhaul of entitlement programs, is a move designed to shake up a campaign that has had its fair share of bad news lately, pummeled by Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and a Super PAC over his income taxes and tenure at Bain Capital. And that doesn't even begin to factor in Romney's overseas stumbles.

Even more significant than the horse race polls, which should not carry a lot of weight this early, are Romney's rising negatives, now lapping the 50 percent unfavorable mark.

All that apparently convinced Romney to "go bold" and tap the conservative heart throb who got a rousing endorsement from the Wall Street Journal editorial page even before the announcement.

But is it boldness -- or desperation? That Romney feels the need to shore up his base just weeks before the GOP convention is a sign of weakness.

And in tapping Ryan he has opened up a whole new line of attack for Democrats and the Obama campaign, still smarting over the GOP's use of Social Security and Medicare fears to win the House in 2010.

Does anyone really think an Obama campaign that has not shied away from the negative is not going to feast on Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voluntary insurance program?

Even the timing of the announcement hints at the desire to change the subject: hard up against the last day of the Olympics and closing ceremonies. Yes, it is slower on weekends and Romney will now have the top spot in just about every Sunday newspaper.

But it won't be as clear a headline sweep as if he had waited even one more week, when people had already stopped talking about the Games.

The bright side of the pick? It cannot possibly be worse than John McCain's selection of a then 44-year-old first term Alaska governor.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

DGOTV*

The only thing Republicans have to fear are voters themselves. And the national GOP effort against alleged fraud has taken a very bizarre turn in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown, the son of a welfare recipient, is on the warpath against Amelia Warren Tyagi, daughter of Elizabeth Warren, for participating in an effort to have the state's Department of Transitional Assistance as part of an interim settlement over a lawsuit alleg­ing that the department has consistently failed to comply with federal voter registration law.

The legal action was brought by a Demos, a New York-based advocacy and public policy that has brought similar actions in more than a half-dozen states. Tyagi serves as chair of the organization's board of directors.

Brown is in high dudgeon over the audacity of "Professor" Warren and her daughter, who last we saw has not made any TV commercials for her mom:
“I want every legal vote to count, but it’s outrageous to use taxpayer dollars to register welfare recipients as part of a special effort to boost one political party,” Brown said. “This effort to sign up welfare recipients is being aided by Elizabeth ­Warren’s daughter and it’s clearly designed to benefit her mother’s political campaign.”
Warren quickly shot back:
“The organization that Amelia’s involved in was working on voter registration issues I believe before she ever joined,” Warren said. “And they were working in several different states, they’re working with other organizations and they were working with the commonwealth of Massachusetts before I ever became involved in the campaign.”
The GOP's national campaign efforts have been a combination of massive spending along with cries of voter fraud under every rock. The "fraud" naturally is only taking place on the Democratic side of the house, apparently as it did during the Jim Crow days of the Old South.

Scotto's outrage is especially noteworthy -- given his own personal background. But the man trying to get by, so far, on endorsements from family and politicians,  obviously has forgotten those roots, becoming a champion of the financial services industry.

Brown later said he doesn't have a problem with voter registration efforts, even those aimed at welfare recipients. The problem is what he claims is Tyagi's use of taxpayer money to go after him personally.

That self-absorption has not gone unnoticed, according to Mindy Myers, who has run the voter registration effort:
“His entire attack is built on efforts in multiple states to ­enforce a law passed almost 20 years ago with bipartisan support,” Myers added. “Even the Bush Justice Department filed suit to enforce this provision.”
"Even the Bush Justice Department." That may be hitting below the belt.

*Don't Get Out the Vote

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Elephant in the room

A white supremacist gunman attacks a religious temple. Mitt Romney makes up a Barack Obama welfare policy. Who says America is post-racial?

The Boston Globe addresses that nasty little "secret" head-on as the campaign takes an even nastier turn, if such is possible, with Romney's twisting of Obama's efforts to accommodate GOP governors looking for flexibility in the work requirement contained in the 1996 welfare reform law.

GOP governors that included one Willard M. Romney.

The tepid recovery from the GOP's Great Recession has left a shortage of what Michael Dukakis once promised "good jobs at good wages." It has also left a lot of short tempers and long memories among working class white men without college degrees, a group hit hard by the recession.

The combination is combustible, as we saw over the weekend in Oak Creek, Wisc., a state that has been home to more than its fair share of election rhetoric about jobs and unions.

While jobs remains the centerpiece of the campaign, the social tension -- and the skin color of the incumbent president -- is never far away. The Globe cites a recent Quinnipiac University poll. that among white men across the nation, Mitt Romney leads Obama, 54 percent to 33 percent, a gap that narrows to 47 to 40 percent among all men.
“It’s just a new thing, and people don’t want to get over it,” said Frank Fantauzzo, 65, campaign director for the Cambria County Democratic Committee. “People would say, ‘He’s going to make us Muslims.’ ”
It's a prejudice at the heart of the new, highly distorted Romney ad that seeks to play on deep-seated stereotypes about welfare that have been part of the GOP playbook from Richard Nixon on.

Romney's out-of-the-blue claim declares Obama is trying to take the work requirement out of the welfare law. But as the Times notes:
That claim seemed a stretch even by the standards of 30-second political ads. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, which issued the welfare initiative in a memo on July 12, wrote later in the month that to qualify a state must “move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work compared to the state’s past performance.”
The new attack is just part of the depressing race to the bottom, one fueled by poll numbers showing Romney's unfavorability ratings almost 10 percent higher than his favorables. It's part and parcel of the effort by both candidates to make their foes unacceptable.

Obama appears to be winning that effort right now, despite Romney's built-in advantage.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Job creators?

Tax breaks aren't forever. Or at least they shouldn't be.

But one thing is very clear from the chart that accompanies the Globe's story on a new study showing that business tax breaks have doubled since 1996, with continued upward growth even as the economy faltered.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center review seems to offer a convincing rebuttal to the Republican argument that tax policy is the key to job creation.

Maybe if you are Seth McFarlane.

Yes, the surge in locally made feature films has been a boost to our fledgling film industry. But I can't help but recall long lines of trailers with California license plates doing catering at film shoots like The Town.

And the state Department of Revenue estimates the film tax credit costs more than $142,000 per job for local residents.

At least those are jobs associated with the estimated $26 billion in tax credits the state hands out, about $4 billion more than it takes in to pay for education,  public safety, transportation and infrastructure. Or more than what it cost to build the bloated Big Dig.

The report notes Liberty Mutual is getting $22.5 million in state tax credits to help build a new office tower near its Back Bay headquarters. You know, the company that may wind up spending that much just to furnish the CEO's office in its current and new location.

Or Fidelity Investments, which has consistently moved jobs to New Hampshire and Rhode Island since getting Massachusetts tax breaks nearly two decades ago.

There are valid reasons to offer targeted and time-limited tax breaks to companies that look to grow and build. But they should be carefully evaluated and not be allowed to continue forever, even after conditions changes and companies realign their priorities.

Want a bright side to this sobering look at the unequal treatment between businesses and individuals? At least Massachusetts didn't invest in Curt Schilling.

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Trust me, I'm Mitt

He won't talk about Bain Capital or his time as Massachusetts governor and his taxes are off limits. But that hasn't stopped Mitt Romney from telling Harry Reid to "put up or shut up."

The presumptive Republican nominee clearly has a bad case of Reid under the Skin as the Senate Majority Leader continues his daily taunt that Romney hasn't paid taxes in 10 years. And while no less a liberal hero than Jon Stewart is berating Reid, the issue is not going away.

Nor should it.

I'd be hard pressed to think of any political candidate of either political party who is as secrecy obsessed as Romney. Does anyone really know who he is and what he stands for? The only comparison that comes close is Richard Nixon, but that's hardly a compliment. And at least you knew where Nixon stood on issues.

Romney's refusal to talk forthrightly about his tenure (including its length) at Bain Capital, has allowed others to offer their own scenarios. Same for his four years (actually two but who's counting) in the Statehouse.

His opacity on the subject of his taxes is downright breath-taking. He shunned his own father's example of 12 years of returns. The elder Romney actually objected to a partial release, declaring:
... "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul."
Despite his professed reverence for his father, that's where we are today: one year, one estimated year.

And a demand that Reid either reveal his unnamed source for the non-payment claim or back down.

There's only one person who can put up, then shut up Reid and it is the candidate himself.

Which is what makes Eric Ferhnstrom's channeling of Joseph Welch's calling out of Joe McCarthy all the more laughable.

At long last Myth, have you no sense of decency sir? Have you no shame?

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Bankrupt policies

The reviews are in and guess what? Mitt Romney's sketchy tax plan is just that -- favoring the wealthy and taxing the middle class.

In the process the morally bankrupt plan, built on the backs of the Bush tax cuts, would continue to bankrupt the nation's economic coffers.

Romney aides quickly decried the "liberal" analysis offered by the Tax Policy Center -- but in a serendipitous piece of timing, that denunciation came about the same time as the GOP House passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts, that ruinous policy that, in conjunction with two credit card wars and untamed Wall Street greed, led us down the the fiscal rat hole.

The economists needed to guess a lot, of course, because Romney has failed to lay out many specifics about what he would do in the Oval Office. The course offered appears to be the same one followed by George W. Bush, whose eight years added $5.1 trillion to the deficit, compared to the $983 billion projection of an eight-year Obama Administration.

Nor has Romney laid out many specifics on how he would reduce spending to offset the new tax cuts for "job creators" who have done very little of that with the tax advantages they have enjoyed.

Instead Romney has offered his support for the plan of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who would pay for the cuts by shredding the social safety net with massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Along with eliminating the tax breaks favoring the middle class, such as deductions for home mortgage interest and health care insurance expenses.

In essence, a Romney administration would be George W. Bush Redux, without the president you'd like to have a beer with. Yet Romney continues to skate by without having to explain what he has in store for a public unhappy with the slow pace of recovery from the disaster inherited by Barack Obama.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

When words matter

While Romney aide Rick Gorka may have not chosen his words carefully, apparently his boss did.

Gorka's kiss-off of the press corps garnered the lion's share of attention of Gaffe Fest 2012: Europe. But the New York Times weighs in with a revealing look at how Myth Romney, salesman supreme, offered yet another painted side to yet a different audience in his week-long trip to Britain, Israel and Poland.

Gone was the rhetoric slamming Europe as a "welfare state." In its place were (mostly) kind words for his hosts (although not everyone residing within the national borders).

Analysts insist there is no inconsistency, that Romney wasn't speaking to his European hosts in the first place:
“There’s no contradiction between the Euro-bashing and this trip,” said Thomas Snégaroff, research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris. “He’s not talking to Europe. He’s talking to American voters, and he’s saying, ‘I’m going to be more American than Barack Obama, and that means going back to old policies.’ ”
In the artificial bubble of Romney World, that's no doubt true. But it is yet another in the endless list of examples of Myth Romney saying or doing whatever it takes to close a sale.

The ultimate irony: he's being defended by a Frenchman. How will that go over with the GOP faithful who still crave Freedom Fries?


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