Mitt Romney: The Perfectly Lubricated Weather Vane

DANEY SAYLOR – OCTOBER 25, 2012

On Tuesday November 6, 2012, the United States will vote to decide who will lead our country over the next four years.  The choice in this election could not be clearer between the two dominant political parties – the Democrats and the Republicans.  What is at stake in this election?  President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, have very different visions for the future.  They also have very different positions in policy that map the journey along these two distinct paths.

Figure 1: Former Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama at the first presidential debate (AP), Image Source: http://news.yahoo.com/

Walking into the Oval Office on his very first day on the job, President Obama had to reckon with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression along with two wars in the greater Middle East.  Under the leadership of President Obama, the country’s economy has stabilized and added jobs for the past 31 months with the rate of unemployment recently falling below 8%.[1]  As Commander in Chief, Obama stopped combat missions in Iraq and ended the nine year manhunt of Osama bin Laden by launching a mission resulting in bin Laden’s death.  President Obama has signed health care reform, repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and Wall Street reform.  President Obama has made progress despite the Tea Party and Republican intransigence; the opposition has made the filibuster commonplace and expected for every vote in the Senate.[2]  But the larger point is that the American people have gotten to know President Obama for the past four years.  Every movement, every decision, and every statement the President has made have been scrutinized by the public, the media, and politicians.  What the American people have seen is a President who has worked tirelessly to promote equality, prosperity, and safety.

Governor Mitt Romney’s career has been primarily in the private equity field where he has accumulated a vast fortune.  Mitt Romney served as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007 and led the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.  A comprehensive review of Romney’s past indicates a character that drastically changes his positions, knowingly misleads the public, and shields evidence that would most likely reveal his true character or policy.  Mitt Romney is a deft politician willing to do or say anything to become President of the United States, arguable one of the most powerful positions in the world.  So it is difficult to determine which Mitt Romney would be president.  Will he be the aloof robber baron of the Bain Capital days, the Republican Governor of Massachusetts who passed universal health care in his State, or will he be the Republican nominee for Presidency who said 47% of Americans will not take responsibility for their own lives, argued that illegal immigrants should self-deport, stated he would withdraw funding for Planned Parenthood, and asserted gay marriage and civil unions are wrong?[3]  It’s hard to say.  It truly is.  But one thing we know with 100% certainty is that Mitt Romney is part of the Republican Party, a party that has endorsed radically regressive policy, discouraged diversity while promoting uniformity, and continued to introduce tired economic ideas that have proven dangerous with results that our country is still trying to overcome.  We cannot move the discourse of our country backwards; we cannot hand over power to the Republicans who just four years ago wrecked our country and reputation.  We must move Forward.

The Janus Faced Candidate

Mitt Romney has been labeled a flip-flopper for good reason.  The former Utah governor Jon Huntsman characterized Mitt as a “perfectly lubricated weather vane.”[4]  Mitt is particularly gifted in changing his positions to suit his needs, being able to know the audience and say exactly what they desire to hear.  Mitt Romney is too successful and smart to be just a wavering, indecisive bandwagoner; no, Romney is a cunning deceiver.  His own advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that Romney can shift from his regressive and conservative positions he took during the Republican primary debates and “hit a reset button in the general election.”[5]  Fehrnstrom said, “It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch.  You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”  This appears to be a conscious effort to state different positions to different people at different times, to take whatever position is politically advantageous.

Figure 2 – Image Source http://www.calbuzz.com

 

Instead of pushing back on these claims of misleading, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s campaign are defending their position to say whatever they want regardless of reality.  During the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Nick Newhouse, a Romney pollster stated, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”[6]  Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, interpreted this statement to mean “facts don’t matter to the Romney campaign.”[7]  I could not agree more.  How else can this statement from Romney’s campaign be interpreted?

During the Presidential debates, I expected to hear Mitt Romney defend the positions he has been campaigning on since 2008.  Instead, Mitt Romney quickly dropped the regressive tone, disowning the positions he had stated just weeks prior.  So who is Mitt Romney?  What are his core principles?  Will they be his core principles tomorrow?  It is impossible to know.

The following is a list of Mitt Romney’s flip flops:

1.      47% OF AMERICANS BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE VICTIMS

  • FLIP– Romney was exposed on a secretly recorded video candidly stating what he really thought of 47% of Americans:[8]

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.…These are people who pay no income tax…And my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

  • FLOP – When asked by host Sean Hannity just 17 days later, Romney replied, “in this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong…I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life.  And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it will be about helping the 100 percent.”[9]

Romney’s change in position took 17 days; the day following the release, Romney gave a full-fledged defense of his initial statements and claimed they were simply not articulated in a thoughtful manner.  Do you think astute individuals can make statements like Romney did and literally change their philosophical view of society in just over two weeks?

2.      EMERGENCY ROOMS AND HEALTH CARE

  •         FLOP– September 23, 2012, Romney on 60 Minutes:[10]

PELLEY: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and — and die. We — we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY: That’s the most expensive way to do it.

ROMNEY: Well the…

PELLEY: In the emergency room.

ROMNEY: Diff — different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some — some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, “You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.”

Romney first argues that sick or injured people lacking insurance should not be allowed to just show up at hospitals and expect medical services.  The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act passed in 1986 requires hospitals to provide care for “anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.”[11] Romney later suggests this as a viable solution to uninsured individuals who require medical attention, even though emergency treatment is the least efficient and most expensive alternative that has led to numerous closures of emergency facilities.[12]

3.      ONLY WHAT THE TAX CODE REQUIRES

  •        FLIP – “I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due, I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president,” Romney told ABC News in July. “I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”[13]  On August 16, 2012, Romney stated that he “has paid no less than 13% in personal income taxes over the past ten years.”[14]
  •          FLOP– After a tough week dealing with the leaked fundraiser video, Romney decided to release his 2011 tax returns to change the conversation.  Romney limited his deductions of charitable contributions to boost his tax rate to 14.1% to conform to the statement that he did not pay less than 13% in income taxes.[15]   It was determined that if Romney had claimed all deductions for his charitable giving, his effect tax rate for 2011 would be closer to 9 percent.[16]

So Romney kept his word of paying “no less than 13%” in taxes by conveniently limiting his deductions.  However, he seems to have disqualified himself to be President by his own standard by paying “more than are legally due.”  Ouch.  It’s also important to note, Romney can file an amendment to his tax return to recoup the extra payment.[15]  So after the election, win or lose, Romney can quietly amend his tax return to claim those deductions and lower his income tax rate to 9 percent.

4.      ABORTION[17]

  • FLIP – “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.” — Debate with Sen. Edward Kennedy, 1994

“I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.” — Massachusetts Gubernatorial Debate, 2002

  • FLOP– “Look, I was pro-choice. I am pro-life. You can go back to YouTube and look at what I said in 1994. I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I changed my position.” — Iowa Straw poll debate, 2007

“What I would like to see happen would be for the Supreme Court to say, look, we’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states the authority to decide whether they want to have abortion or not, state by state. That’s the way it was before Roe v. Wade. So I am firmly pro-life.” — Town hall meeting, Hopkinton, NH, 2011

5.      HUNTING[17]

 

6.      RONALD REAGAN[17]

  •          FLOP– “When I was running for office for the first time in 1994, I was trying to define who I was….  I’ve said since, and continue to reiterate, that one of my heroes is Ronald Reagan.” — Q&A with Human Events, 2006

 

7.      DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL[17]

  •        FLIP – “Romney once said he was in favor of ‘gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly’ in the military.” — Letter to Log Cabin Republicans, 1994
  •          FLOP– “[Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has] been the policy now in the military for, what, 10, 15 years – and it seems to have worked. This is not the time to put in major change, a social experiment, in the middle of a war going on.” — Presidential primary debate, 2007

 

8.      VIETNAM[17]

  •          FLIP –“I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.” — Quoted by the Boston Herald, 1994
  •        FLOP–“I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam.” — Quoted by the Boston Globe, 2007

 

9.      GUN CONTROL[17]

  •          FLIP –“We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them. I won’t chip away at them.” — Gubernatorial debate, 2002

“Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts.”  — Signing ceremony for bill banning assault weapons, 2004

  •      FLOP– “I don’t support any gun control legislation, the effort for a new assault weapons ban, with a ban on semi-automatic weapons, is something I would oppose.” — Interview with conservative bloggers, 2008

 

10.  HEALTH CARE REFORM[17]

“I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing [Romneycare], then that will be a model for the nation.” — Speech in Baltimore, 2007

  • FLOP– “At the time I crafted the plan in the last campaign I was asked is [Romneycare] something that you would have the whole nation do, and I said no. This is something that was crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation.” — Presidential primary debate, 2011

Bret Baier: “Governor, you did say on camera and in other places, at times you thought [Romneycare] would be a model for the nation.”

Mitt Romney: “You’re wrong, Bret.” — Fox News interview, 2011

11.  CLIMATE CHANGE[17]

  •          FLIP – “I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that…And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.” — Town hall meeting, Manchester, NH, June 2011

 

  •          FLOP–“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” — Q&A session, Pittsburg, PA, October 2011

 

12.  BUSH TAX CUTS[17]

  •          FLIP – “[R]omney spoke at the 10th annual legislative conference organized by U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Lowell) and met with the Massachusetts delegation…Congressional sources said that a point of contention arose when Romney refused to take a position on Bush’s massive, 10-year tax cut plan.” — Boston Herald, 2003

 

  •          FLOP–“‘McCain opposed President Bush’s tax cuts,’ Romney noted. ‘I supported them,’ the former governor said.” — Quoted in The State (SC), 2007

 

13.  TAX PLEDGES[17]

  •          FLIP –“I’m not intending to, at this stage, sign a document which would prevent me from being able to look specifically at the revenue needs of the commonwealth.” — Quoted in Union-News, Springfield, MA, 2002
  •          FLOP– “Signing the pledge now sends a very clear message to those in Washington who have voted against tax relief and for tax hikes that such actions will never grow our regional and national economies.” — Romney spokesman quoted in the Boston Globe, 2007

 

14.  FLIP-FLOPPING[17]

 

Lies and Deception

Romney has embraced lying as a talent he is willing to exploit; it is now his calling card.  These are serious charges, so let’s get right into looking at Romney’s misleading statements.

1.      PRESIDENT OBAMA GUTTED THE WELFARE PROGRAM

Governor Romney has released political advertisements that claim President Obama has gutted the welfare program, essentially removing work requirements associated with welfare.[18]  Politifact has debunked the claim and rated the statement “Pants on Fire” (Politifact’s highest rating for false statements).[19]  Others who have denounced these ads as lies:

  •    Bill Clinton says the ads are, “not true,”[21]
  •    Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich “admitted that there is ‘no proof’ to Romney’s claim that Obama eliminated work requirements.”[25]

What is the purpose behind Romney’s ads?  Washington Post’s Greg Sargent states that “Romney is playing a deliberate game of racial division, trying to harm Obama’s standing with whites by connecting him to long-circulating stereotypes about African Americans” and the welfare program.[18]  This issue may be up for debate, but Romney has, knowingly or unknowingly, brought race into the election when he made a joke regarding his birth certificate while speaking to a crowd in Michigan.  Romney said, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.  They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.[26]  A statement like that not only signifies Romney’s nod to the so-called birther movement, it tends to fuel fear and hostility towards non-white races and the “other.”  Some commentators have characterized the birther movement as a “racist reaction to Obama’s status as the first African American president of the United States.”[27],[28],[29],[30],[31],[32]

Mr. Sargent contacted a couple of Republican Governors that had asked for the welfare waivers, trying to elicit an opinion on the veracity of Romney’s claim.  These were the statements he received:

  •    “Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office said: ‘Utah’s request for a waiver stems from a desire for increased customization of the program to maximize employment among Utah’s welfare recipients,’ adding that the state had needed ‘flexibility to customize work-focused solutions.’”[33]
  •    “The statement from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s office maintained that its request to the White House was ‘not a request to weaken work requirements’ or a request for a ‘waiver to eliminate welfare work requirements for recipients.’”[33]

These statements reveal that the policy changes that will be implemented under Obama’s directive are very different than the claims Romney makes of dropping work requirements.

2.      ROMNEY’S HEALTH PLAN WOULD PROVIDE INSURANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

Romney, if elected President, has said, “Day one, job one, repeal ObamaCare.[34]  This has been one of the most delicate topics for Romney because his comprehensive health care reform in Massachusetts, his signature achievement as Governor, is the model for ObamaCare.  One of Romney’s campaign slogans is “Repeal and Replace ObamaCare.”  Romney has kept his replacement plan vague, but he has said that there are provisions within ObamaCare that he plans to keep.  Romney stated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would retain the provision allowing individuals with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance coverage.[35]  Romney doesn’t want to go back to those days when insurance companies could select to cover only the healthy individuals and even rescind coverage when a person falls ill.  But it appears Romney misspoke.  Romney’s aid later clarified Romney’s position, which in fact is that Romney “does not support the Affordable Care Act’s ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, despite suggesting on “Meet the Press” that he supported that part of the law.”[35]

But more recently, during the first Presidential debate in Denver, Romney stated, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.[36]  So how long did this statement stand before being walked back by Romney’s campaign?  The same night of the debate, Romney’s advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said “those who currently lack coverage because they have pre-existing conditions would need their states to implement their own laws — like Romney’s own Massachusetts health care law — that ban insurance companies from discriminating against sick people.”[37]  So Romney’s plan in fact does not ban insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions; he leaves it to the states to require that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions…or not.  Well, well, well… seems to be a pattern emerging here.

3.   OBAMACARE WILL APPOINT AN UNELECTED “DEATH PANEL” WHICH RATIONS HEALTH CARE

Romney resurrected the myth that ObamaCare appoints a “death panel” that would ration care or limit medical care to seniors.[38]  Romney charged that ObamaCare, “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have.”[39]  Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson describes the actual policy: “ObamaCare does establish an Independent Payment Advisory Board to help constrain the growth of Medicare spending. The body has no authority to dictate the practices of the private insurance marketplace. And the law also makes explicit that this body is banned from rationing care or limiting medical benefits to seniors.”[40]

The death panel, the idea credited to former half-a-term Governor and demagogue Sarah Palin, has been awarded “Lie of the Year” by PolitiFact in 2009.[41]  The death panel claim was also called a “whopper” by FactCheck and labeled the most outrageous term by the American Dialect Society.[38]

4.      PRESIDENT OBAMA ROBBED $716 BILLION FROM MEDICARE TO PAY FOR OBAMACARE

“There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call ObamaCare,” claimed Romney on “60 Minutes.”[42]  CBS News’ Lucy Madison wrote:

According to data from the Kaiser Foundation, however, the reductions come primarily from cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, as well as in hospital reimbursements and in payments to other providers. It does not limit access to benefits for Medicare recipients, but Republicans say it creates disincentives for hospitals and doctors to accept new Medicare patients. According to proponents of the Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, the reductions streamline the system, reduce waste and fraud, reinforce the Medicare trust fund and extends its lifeline — all without stripping recipients of coverage. It’s also worth noting that Ryan’s 2012 budget would have included many of the same Medicare reductions as are outlined in the president’s health care plan.[42]

Romney and Ryan’s claim of robbing Medicare may be the height of hypocrisy, attacking Obama for something Paul Ryan used in his own proposal for a budget.

Glenn Kessler fact checks Romney’s claim and concludes, “While it is correct that anticipated savings from Medicare were used to help offset some of the anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans, it does not affect the Medicare trust fund. In fact, the Obama health-care law also raised Medicare payroll taxes by $318 billion over the new 10-year time frame, further strengthening the program’s financial condition.”[43]

5.      “LET DETROIT GO BANKRUPT”

Romney was born and raised in Michigan.  His father was chief executive at American Motors Corporation.  So it must have been particularly difficult for citizens in Michigan to read Mitt Romney’s op-ed in the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”[44]  In this article, Romney states, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”  By bailout, Romney argues for private financing during restructuring as opposed to funding from the US Government. 

 

Romney argued for a managed bankruptcy, “but economists pointed out at the time that credit markets – which were in the midst of a financial crisis – would not have permitted GM and Chrysler to come out of bankruptcy with the private financing it needed to survive and be competitiveMoody’s chief economist Mark Zandi explained in 2008 that because of the ‘credit crunch’ resulting from that year’s financial meltdown, private bankruptcy financing was ‘all but impossible to get.’[45]  Romney’s plan for private financing was criticized by Bob Lutz, vice chairman of GM at the time of the bankruptcy: “He thinks we didn’t try to borrow money from the banks?  The banks were even more broke than we were. Who had the money?”[45]

On April 30, 2009, “Mr. Obama announced a plan that would allow the United Automobile Workers, through their retirement plan, to take control of Chrysler, with Fiat and the United States as junior partners. The government would lend about $8 billion more to the company, on top of the $4 billion it had already provided. ”[46] On May 1, 2009, Chrysler went bankrupt.  Just one month later on June 1, 2009, GM went bankrupt by filing for “court protection with a government-financed plan.”[47]

So Romney’s suggestion was not heeded by the auto industry or the US Government.  For some reason, Romney sees things very differently.  During an interview with WEWS-TV in May of this year, Romney claimed, “I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy.  And finally, when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.”[48]  When “President Barack Obama says Mitt Romney is having an “Etch-A-Sketch moment” when he claims credit for the revival of the U.S. auto industry,”[49] I completely agree.

There are many more lies that Romney has used to manipulate the American public.  Some think Romney lied about his personal taxes, his tenure with Bain, his budget plan, the number of unemployed Americans he spoke of during the debate, his tax cuts for the wealthy, and so many other things.  Some of the folks in his own party have called Mitt a liar, particularly his rivals in the Republican presidential primary: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry.

The Opaque Candidate

Beyond Romney’s flip-flops and lies, he really has a problem with transparency.  Let’s look at some of the obvious issues.

1.    ROMNEY REFUSES TO RELEASE MORE THAN TWO YEARS OF TAX RETURNS TO THE PUBLIC

During an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Ann Romney was asked about her husband’s refusal to share more than two years of tax returns with the public.  Her response:

We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life, and so the election will not be decided on that.”[50]  And this is Romney’s better half?

Mitt Romney has refused to release more than two years of his tax returns.  Generally, candidates running for office release 7 years of past tax returns (7 years was found to be the median number).[51]  Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, ironically set the precedent for presidential candidates in November 1967 by releasing 12 years of tax returns.  George Romney “explained why he was releasing so many years’ worth, saying, ’One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.’”[52]  In a completely hypocritical move, Mitt Romney asked for 10 years worth of tax returns from those on his Vice Presidential shortlist, despite his refusal to provide more than two years of his own tax returns.[53]

Romney’s tax returns would shed light on how he has accumulated his estimated $190 to $250 million.[54]  How much does his Cayman Island shell companies funnel away from the U.S. Treasury? [55]  How long has he been using a Bermuda tax haven to prevent having to pay more taxes?[52] When did he close his Swiss bank account?[52]  Did he receive amnesty in 2009 for his Swiss bank account?[56]  Newt Gingrich stated during the primary, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.”[52]  Did Romney invest in companies that pioneered off-shoring American jobs?  We can only speculate about Romney’s shady financial transactions.

2.  ROMNEY REFUSES TO NAME WHAT LOOPHOLES AND DEDUCTIONS HE WILL ELIMINATE

Republicans have different opinions on social issues, some have different opinions on foreign intervention, but a vast majority of Republicans demand lower taxes.  Republican leadership is primarily concerned with the highest marginal income tax rate which is currently 35% and applies to the wealthiest individuals.[57]  As a point of reference, during President Clinton’s term — a period of growth in employment, income, and wealth — the highest marginal tax rate stood at 39.6%.  Even though 1) 35% is among the lowest marginal tax rates in the past 80 years, 2) the 35% rate has been in  place since 2003 and hasn’t spurred the so-called “job creators” to create jobs, and 3) the trickle-down, supply-side economic policies have failed to produce a viable, lasting economy, Romney wants to double down on tax cuts.  He wants to retain the Bush tax cuts set to expire at year’s end.  In addition, Romney plans to make permanent, across-the-board cuts to marginal rates of 20%, as well as eliminate the death tax, and cut the corporate rate to 25%.[58]

In order for Romney’s tax cut plan to work without increasing the deficit, the plan must 1) cut spending and 2) grow the size of the US economy.  Recall that the Republicans during Obama’s presidency have become born-again deficit hawks after their credit spending binge during President Bush’s term in office.  In order to honor their claim, Republicans have to prove their tax cuts will not increase the deficit.  Romney has talked about spending cuts, but on the other hand he’s proposed increasing spending for the military by $2.1 trillion dollars.[59]  Romney has relied on the idea that drastically cutting taxes will spur the economy leading to higher Treasury revenues.  But what rate of growth does Romney assume to keep this a balanced budget?

During the debates, Romney stated his tax cuts will not reduce the tax contribution of high income earners; he proposed doing this by eliminating certain deductions and loopholes.  Romney and Ryan have been pressed to answer which loopholes and deductions they would eliminate.  They have avoided specifics.  It’s quite odd, they claim that it will work, but they don’t know which loopholes and deductions will be eliminated.  Or do they?  I think if you propose a radical solution such as cutting revenue by 20%, details should not only exist but also be provided.  Otherwise, the proposal should be rejected.

To bolster their claim about their tax plan, Romney has stated that 6 studies corroborate their own conclusions.[60]  But how reliable are these studies?  One of the studies is a White Paper paid for by Romney.  Another “study” is a Wall Street Journal Op-ed.  Three of the studies are blog posts.  And finally, one of the studies, which actually provides details, is 17 pages in length including one table.  Because of the potential to alter the lives of 300 million citizens, the American people deserve a tax plan based on sound, detailed, and carefully reviewed studies, not one based on a partisan white paper or a two page blog post.  These studies, which would not even pass the standards the author’s graduate students must meet, seem to intentionally cloak their assumptions, number, models, and calculations.

The Tax Policy Center has conducted a thorough study stating: “Our major conclusion is that any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.”[61]  The Joint Committee on Taxation also analyzed Romney’s base broadening tax plan and found that marginal rates could only be lowered by 4%, not 20%, before the plan starts to add to the deficit, even after eliminating popular deductions like the one for mortgage interest.[62]

3.    BEFORE LEAVING THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, ROMNEY ELIMINATES ELECTRONIC RECORDS

Romney bought the hard drives of his top 11 aides prior to leaving the Massachusetts Governor’s office.[63]  These were property of the US Government before the purchase.  Romney also replaced all the remaining computers in the Governor’s office prior to Governor Deval Patrick’s term along with deleting emails, wiping clean all electronic communications from the servers from 2002 to 2006.  Romney staff spent nearly $100,000 to purchase these hard drives and computers – what is Mitt Romney hiding?[64]

Pinning Romney Down

If we can’t trust Romney’s position on issues, if we can’t trust what he says, and if he is unwilling to share details on important policy issues or past performance, how can we trust him as the leader of America?  Let’s look at what we do know.  We know that Romney belongs to the Republican Party, he has close ties to the Mormon Church, and he has colleagues from his former venture capitalist days.  All of these parts of his life will influence his priorities and decisions if he is elected President.

Figure 3 Rep. Michele Bachman speaking on behalf of Republican candidate Mitt Romney during a rally at Crofton Industries in Portsmouth, Va.  Image Source: http://www.minnpost.com

Over the past four years, the Republican Party has completed its transformation from a large tent party to a small tent party;[65] they have championed regressive social policies, fought labor unions to silence their voice, pushed for drastic austerity measures in a time of recession, promoted economic ideas that were the cause of the Great Recession,  and continued the argument to reduce taxes for the wealthy shown to cause wealth and income inequality.  After 2010, the Tea Party made significant gains in representation in the Senate, House, and various State level positions.  Four Republican Senators and 61 Republican Representatives in the House identify as Tea Partiers and meet together in caucus chaired by Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-MN.[66]  The outspoken Tea Party caucus members have had a large influence on other Republican Senators and Representatives and will no doubt be sitting at the table for important decisions in a Romney administration.  These are his people!  These folks speak Romney’s language.

By choosing Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI., as his “running” mate (pun intended),[67] Romney veered hard to the right and put forward the “clearest distillation of the GOP’s governing philosophy.”[68]  What’s so scary about Ryan?  The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal, the title of Ryan’s budget, caps future Medicare spending turning it into a voucher program and replaces Medicare with a block-grant that cuts funding by 34 percent by 2022.[69],[70],[71]  In keeping with Republican ideology, Ryan’s budget cuts income taxes which disproportionately benefit the wealthy.[72]  Forbe’s Howard Gleckman summarizes the differences in tax savings for high-income and middle-income families:

“The Tax Policy Center found that in 2015, relative to today’s tax system, those making $1 million or more would enjoy an average tax cut of $265,000 and see their after-tax income increase by 12.5 percent.”  Whereas, “nearly all middle-income households (those making between $50,000 and $75,000) would see their taxes fall, by an average of roughly $1,000. Ryan would increase their after-tax income by about 2 percent.”

Clearly, a 12.5 percent increase is greater than 2 percent.  And that’s how you represent your constituents!  Remember President Bush’s idea of privatizing Social Security?  Ryan was the “key House backer of Social Security privatization.  His bill, The Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, was so aggressive that it was rejected by the Bush administration.”[68]  We can only imagine the devastation that would have occurred if Social Security was privatized prior to the Great Recession that began in 2008.

After Ryan accepted the nomination for Vice President, he has distanced himself from some of his rigid positions.  Although conservatives wanted Ryan to have an influence on Romney’s policies, Romney appears to be rubbing off on Ryan.  Ryan has already tried to disown his own budget which uses the same $716 billion savings from Medicare, saying he “never would have included a $700 billion Medicare cut in his budget if President Barack Obama hadn’t done it first.”[73]  Ryan is blaming Obama for Ryan’s budget numbers.  What, hasn’t Ryan been championing personal responsibility?  Rep. Ryan railed against Obama’s stimulus calling it a “wasteful spending spree,” yet “he wrote at least four letters to Obama’s secretary of energy asking that millions of dollars from the program be granted to a pair of Wisconsin conservation groups.”[74]  Ryan has also led the charge on social issues – details on that to follow.

Let’s examine what the Republicans and the Tea Party brought to the American discourse over the past four years:

1.      DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL., stated, “I’m going to vote to defund it….I have problems with what Planned Parenthood does and ultimately what the aim of their organization is.”[75]  In 2009-2010, Planned Parenthood health centers cared for three million people, providing testing for sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, cancer screening, women’s health services, and abortion services.[76]  Based on the 2009-2010 statistics, roughly one in ten women who go to Planned Parenthood, go for abortion care.[77]  Figure 4 describes the breakdown of services provided by Planned Parenthood in 2010.

 

Figure 4: Patient Care Provided by Planned Parenthood in 2010.  Image Source: http://www.beachpeanuts.com

 

2.      PERSONHOOD LEGISLATION

Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan cosponsored a bill (H.R.212: Sanctity of Human Life Act) “that would give fetuses full personhood rights from the moment of fertilization, which was even rejected by voters in the socially conservative state of Mississippi.”[78]  All the effects of the personhood bill have not fully come to light, but “opponents of the personhood bill decry the legislation for curbing women’s rights to contraception, and argue that the bill is meant to serve as a ‘trigger ban,’ which would make abortion illegal immediately in the event that Roe V. Wade is overturned.”[79]

3.      NARROWING THE DEFINITION OF RAPE TO FORCIBLE RAPE

“Since 1977, federal law has allowed the use of government funds for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman.”[80] Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ., sponsored a bill (H.R. 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act) “aimed at expanding restrictions on federal funding of abortions,” the only legitimate exemption being “forcible rape.”[80]  Because the term “forcible rape” was never explicitly defined, pro-choice-rights forces “presumed the bill would preclude federal funding for abortions of pregnancies resulting from a variety of rapes where force may not be involved, including date rape, statutory rape, the rape of a woman who had been drugged, and the rape of a mentally incompetent woman. The bill also restricts abortions in cases of incest to females who are minors.”[80]  Due to an uproar from progressive groups, the qualifier ‘forcible’, was removed from the legislation.  The bill passed in the GOP-controlled House.[81]

4.   REP. TODD AKIN, R-MO., TEACHING US A THING OR TWO ABOUT WOMEN’S BODIES AND ‘LEGITIMATE RAPE’

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”[82]

 

5.  “WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN?” – THE CONGRESSIONAL HEARING WITH ALL-MALE PANEL TO DISCUSS CONTRACEPTION MANDATE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

President Obama made the controversial decision to require all employers’ health insurance plans cover birth control free of cost to women.[83]  Speaker of the House, John Boehner, R-OH., stated the views of the Republicans during a floor speech on the rule, “If the president does not reverse the [Health and Human Services] Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”[83]

Rep. Darrel Issa, R-CA., convened a hearing to discuss religious freedom and the contraception mandate.[84]  The hearing began with an argument about whether the Democrats could add a woman, Sandra Fluke, to the all-male panel of clergy set to speak on the subject.  Sandra Fluke was not allowed to speak at the hearing, prompting minority Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to question, “Where are the women?”

Sandra Fluke was the sole witness at a hearing convened by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA., the following week.[83]  Fluke described the stories of two friends who she said had been harmed by Georgetown University’s policy against contraceptive coverage. [85]  Progressives commended Fluke’s testimony.  Conservatives attacked Fluke, culminating in conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s charge that Fluke is a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’.[86]  Limbaugh said:

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.[86]

Prior to this Limbaugh debacle, Romney said, “I find it hard to disagree with Rush Limbaugh,” during an interview regarding endorsing McCain in the 2010 Arizona primary.[87]  What’s Romney’s opinion of Limbaugh’s judgment these days?

6.      STILL IN SUPPORT OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL 

After multiple Republican led filibusters, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell bill was repealed at the close of 2010. [88],[89]  Prior to implementation of the repeal, Rep. Allen West, R-FL., said gay soldiers “can change behavior.”[90]

The one year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has quietly passed.  New York Time’s Elisabeth Bumiller writes: “Gay service members say they feel relief they no longer have to live secret lives. Pentagon officials say that recruiting, retention and overall morale have not been affected. None of the dire predictions of opponents, including warnings of a mass exodus of active duty troops, have occurred.”[91]  Despite the positive results of the repeal, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN., says, “I would reinstate the don’t ask, don’t tell policy.[92]

 

 

7.      CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO BAN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

The 2012 Republican Platform called for a ban on same-sex marriage: “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”[93]

 

8.      BLOCKING THE DREAM ACT 

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act “would provide conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented residents of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.”[94]  Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL., “emphasized that President Obama has no right to criticize anyone on immigration.  ‘His party controlled Congress for two years and they did absolutely nothing’ to approve the DREAM Act – which would legalize undocumented students – or to move toward immigration reform.”[95]  Rubio misleads his listeners; the bill was blocked by Senate Republican filibusters on Sept. 21, 2010 and again on Dec. 18, 2010 when brought to the floor for passage by Democrats.[94],[96]

 

9.      ARIZONA’S “SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS” PROVISION UPHELD BY SUPREME COURT

At the time of passage, Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was “the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in recent U.S. history.”[97]  On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court “unanimously sustained the law’s centerpiece, the one critics have called its “show me your papers” provision, though they left the door open to further challenges.”[98]  Arizona police “officers, while enforcing other laws, may question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.”[97]

 

10.  DENYING GLOBAL WARMING, DENYING SCIENCE

A vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and attribute it to human industrial activity.  Back in 2005, Senator John McCain, R-AZ., said: “There is no middle ground.  You’ve got to have an immediate effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Anything less than that is a fig leaf and a joke.”[99]  So what is the discourse on global warming coming from the Republican camp these days?  Senator James Inhofe, R-OK., a ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works[100] and standard bearer for the Republican Party on the topic, wrote a book titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.  While promoting his book in a radio interview, Inhofe said, “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”[101]  The ‘He’ that Inhofe is referring to is God.  The Republican argument against global warming, therefore, has come down to religion.  Isn’t that their explanation and reasoning for everything these days, a literal interpretation of scripture?  The New York Times editorial board concluded “until the end of the 1990s, Republicans could be counted on to join bipartisan solutions to environmental problems. Now they’ve disappeared in a fog of disinformation, an entire political party parroting the Cheney line.”[102]

 

Figure 5 – Surveys of scientists’ views on climate change, Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org

 

11.  FEAR OF VOTER FRAUD LEADS TO VOTER SUPPRESSION  

Juan William wrote: “the top Republican in the state House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, declared that a new requirement for voters to show identification with a photograph on it ‘is going to allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.’”[103] The statement drew applause from Republicans in the crowd. 

Republicans won big in 2010, gaining control “of both chambers in 26 state legislatures, with 21 of those states also having GOP governors.”[104]  These GOP-led legislatures have introduced “at least 180 restrictive bills…in 41 states since the beginning of 2011.”[104] These new laws “impose a series of new restrictions on voting: strict, new voter-ID laws, limits on voter-registration drives, and closing early-voting windows, which creates fewer voting precincts and longer lines.”[104]

Republicans have long alleged that voter fraud erodes the integrity of America’s elections.  So what did a major probe into election fraud by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 reveal?   There was not a single person prosecuted “for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility.”[105]  The Brennan Center for Justice analogized in their report that according to National Weather Service data, “Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often” as a person  impersonates another voter at the polls.[106]

So through the guise of voter fraud, Republicans have implemented laws leading to potentially massive voter suppression.  Whose votes are the Republicans trying to suppress?  Huffington Post’s Waymond Hudson wrote that “each tactic disproportionately burdens the same voters: youth, students, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, seniors, low-income voters, and Americans with disabilities.”

12.  SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY., stated, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”[107]  For the Senate Minority Leader to express this quite candid statement in public shows just how narrow of a vision the Republican leadership has for America.

McConnell let loose another strategy revealing statement on Fox News speaking about repealing and replacing ObamaCare.  Chris Wallace asked McConnell “what he would do to insure the 30 million people who will get insurance under ObamaCare.”  McConnell dodged the question, but after being asked a third time responded, “That is not the issue. The question is how you can go step by step to improve the American health care system.

WALLACE: You don’t think the 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?

MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system.”[108]

30 million uninsured people in America, that’s not an issue?  McConnell always has his constituency in mind.

 

13.  THE SUPREME COURT DECISION REGARDING CITIZENS UNITED

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court decided the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[109]  The decision was 5-4, with conservative Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy in the majority.  In essence, the majority argued that “the First Amendment protects associations of individuals in addition to individual speakers,” corporations are associations of people, spending money is essential to disseminating speech, and therefore, limiting corporation’s ability to spend money is unconstitutional because it limits the association of individuals to speak.

With that decision, SuperPACs were born.  Ads backed with corporate money have flooded the media and we all get to see just how loud a few voices (Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, the Koch brothers) can be.  To be fair, liberals also have their SuperPACs but are being beaten 3 to 1 in donations received.[110]  Did these Justices sincerely think that the message coming from a corporation goes beyond the views of the executive staff and Board of Directors?

 

Figure 6 – Image Source: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com

 

14.  ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS

This Florida law received national attention when self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman “pursued, confronted, and fatally shot Trayvon Martin, 17, an unarmed black high school student who had been carrying only an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.”[111]  George Zimmerman claimed self defense “under a lenient Florida law known as Stand Your Ground.”[111] 

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich “has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states.”[112]  Some of these bills written by ALEC were submitted by state legislators “practically word for word”.[112]  The Florida Stand Your Ground law is “virtually identical to Section 1 of ALEC’s Castle Doctrine Act.”[113]  Media Matter’s Matt Gertz wrote: “since the 2005 passage of Florida’s law, similar statutes have been passed in 16 other states.”[113]

ALEC’s “big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries….many of the largest corporations are represented on its boards.”[112]  It’s reassuring to know corporations are helping draft such worthwhile legislation.  It’s worth noting, ALEC’s legislation is also associated with the voter ID laws discussed previously.

 

15.  GUN CONTROL

What do the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, in Arizona (6 dead, 13 injured),[114] the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 killed, 58 injured),[115] and the shooting at a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (7 killed including shooter) have in common?[116]  The answer is semi-automatic handguns with high capacity magazines.[114],[115],[117]

Several days after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI, was asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “Does something that would limit magazines that could carry 100 rounds, would that infringe on the constitutional right?”[114]  Chris Wallace was referring to the Second Amendment that addresses the right to keep and bear arms.  Johnson responded, “I believe so.”  Later he stated, “You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”[114]  Conservatives continue to repeat: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Well, semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines ease the burden for shooters to injure and kill a large number of people in a very short amount of time.  We wouldn’t want to slow down the shooter’s rampage, right?

 

16.  THE DOWNGRADE OF THE UNITED STATES’ CREDIT RATING

The United States lost its top tier AAA credit rating from the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor on August 5, 2011.[118] The credit rating was downgraded one notch to AA-plus.  Why?  The United States was nearing its debt ceiling, the amount of money it can borrow.  In order to raise the debt ceiling, both houses of Congress must approve.  If the debt ceiling was not raised the US would default on its sovereign debt or would need to “promptly reduce its other spending by about half.”[119]

So increasing the debt ceiling was not optional; according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner it had to be done.[120]  Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA, and Senator Jim Demint, R-SC, argued default wasn’t an eminent result of not increasing the debt ceiling.[121],[122]  Not only were Republicans arguing a debt ceiling increase wasn’t necessary, Speaker John Boehner said, “Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase.”[123]  The demands by Republicans to tie spending cuts to a debt ceiling increase led to the United States’ credit rating downgrade.  Eventually, President Obama and Speaker Boehner worked out a deal that raised the debt ceiling along with significant cuts in spending, including significant across-the-board spending reductions (sequestration) looming on the 2013 horizon.

The amazing thing about this crisis is that increasing the debt ceiling historically wasn’t a big issue.  Think Progress’ Travis Waldron wrote: “when Bush was in office, the current Republican leaders viewed increasing the debt limit as vital to keeping America’s economy running.”[124]  During President Bush’s two terms in office, Congress increased the debt limit five times.  Speaker John Boehner, Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan voted for all of them without asking for one spending cut in return.[124],[125]

Reducing the US debt and fixing the deficit are important.  How did the deficit get so big?  Politico’s Ari Melber wrote: “the majority of today’s deficit comprises congressional spending decisions made during the last administration.”[125]  The Bush tax cuts, “combined with the cost of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will account for nearly half the public debt in 2019, measured as a percentage of economic output” as shown by analysis conducted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (see Figure 6).[126]

 

Figure 7: Image Source: http://www.offthechartsblog.org

Not to belabor the point, but it is important to clarify, the Bush tax cuts, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the economic downturn occurred under the leadership of President Bush.  Guess who was right there voting for 90% of those deficit increases?[125]  None other than the “intellectual leader of the Republican party,”[125] Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan.  Paul Ryan “is the problem that he pledges to solve.”[125]  To repeat what President Obama said: “So after they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back.  No!  You can’t drive!  We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch!  We just got the car out!”[127]

17.  REPEAL FINANCIAL REFORM

Dodd-Frank is the embattled financial reform passed in order to prevent a repeat of the events that led up to the Great Recession in 2008.  Bank lobbyists and politicians alike have done their best to chip away at the teeth of the bill.[128]  Mitt Romney vows to repeal Dodd-Frank.[129]  Why, because too much regulation was the reason for the collapse of the economy?  Just the complete opposite is true.  The smart guys on Wall Street who claimed the market was self regulating, would flush out weakness allowing entities to fail if need be, were just simply too optimistic.  Did the bankers contemplate the effects of the interconnected nature of the current financial system, how the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers would initiate a chain reaction of credit default swaps that would paralyze credit and bring down even the healthy banks that didn’t have the toxic mortgage backed securities on their books?[130]  Too much regulation did not create synthetic financial instruments.  In addition, the banks were severely overleveraged; Lehman Brothers, for example, had just one dollar in equity for every 30 dollars in assets.  Too much regulation didn’t persuade bankers to take such risks.

The Republican narrative assigned blame to the borrowers who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford and the implementation of the Community Reinvestment Act for the entire financial crisis.[131]  Was it not also the mortgage institutions like IndyMac and Countrywide Financial using predatory lending in the form of ‘liar loans’ and the egregious ‘No Income No Job no Assets’, or NINJA Loan, stipulating “the only thing an applicant had to show was his/her credit rating, which was presumed to reflect willingness and ability to pay?” [132],[133],[134]  That sounds like it was built to fail.

So after the near collapse of the financial industry, with no bankers going to jail for fraud, Mitt Romney would strip away the only reforms put into place that would potentially stop this from happening again?  Even Senator Scott Brown, R-MA, has tried to water down Dodd-Frank, specifically the Volcker Rule that “would largely prevent banks from making bets with their own money, a practice known as proprietary trading. It would also limit how banks invest in hedge funds.”[135]  It seems prudent to not allow federally insured banks that accept deposits to make risky investments that potentially would put the public at risk again of having to bail them out.[136]  Sadly, the financial crisis has shifted loss onto the public while profits remain with the private financial institutions.

Nothing in the financial sector will change unless there is accountability.  How difficult is it to prove intentional fraud?  Should that be the criteria?  Do bankers lose their ability to work in the industry forever for such disastrous negligence?

18.  BLAME THE LABOR UNIONS

Do you enjoy weekends?  Do you like the 40-hour work week and payment for overtime?  Do you like working for good wages?  Do you like the fact that children do not work in factories?  What do you think about employer-based healthcare?  Do you think it is fair to take a leave of absence from work for family or medical purposes?  These labor standards are the results of labor unions advocacy for workers.[137]  Republicans enjoy vilifying unions, but they “are just folks – people who come together to improve their lives and their workplaces, because there’s strength in numbers.”[138]  Without the union’s collective voice, do you actually think corporate managers would budge on any issue affecting the workplace?  Unfortunately, that is not likely.  For corporations like Wal-Mart, corporate thinking falls more in line with the divide and conquer strategy.[139]

Governor Scott Walker, R-WI., faced and won a recall election this past summer after pushing through contentious legislation that stripped public employees of most of their rights to bargain collectively.[140]  In Wisconsin, “there was once compromise, moderation and a focus on shared sacrifice, there was now only what Walker called ’divide and conquer.’”[140]  It’s interesting to see Republicans attack unions who have been successful in negotiating favorable terms for pensions, but never focus those same attacks on CEOs and business executives that receive astounding salaries and bonuses, regardless of actual performance.

Over the past three decades, the “income of the highest-paid Americans has soared while the income of others has grown much more modestly.”[141]  Those households in the top 1% saw their after tax income grow 275% from 1979 to 2007.  The middle fifth saw after tax income grow 35.2% and the poorest fifth saw after tax income grow 18.3% during the same period.  With regards to wealth, a study in 2007 showed the “richest 1% of the population controlled about 35% of the wealth in the US, and that the top 20% controlled about 85% of the wealth.”[142]  So for the past 30 years, there has been redistribution from the bottom to the top.[143]  Still waiting for trickle-down to make its grand appearance?

Republicans argue for cutting taxes; Romney’s base broadening tax plan is shown through studies to disproportionately place the burden of the tax cuts on the middle and lower classes, allowing the wealthy to retain more of their income and wealth.  Are Republicans unhappy with the current wealth distribution in the United States?  What amount of wealth and income for the richest 1% do the Republicans foresee as fair?  Instead of 35% of the wealth in the US, would the Republicans propose 50% of the wealth to be held by the richest 1%, or maybe 75%?

CNN’s Donna Brazile wrote: “when union membership rates are high, so is the share of income that goes to the middle class. When those rates fall, income inequality grows – the middle class shrinks and the 1% gets richer.”[138]  So at a time when rates of membership in unions in the United States are at its lowest in 70 years,[144] it’s a cruel joke to blame unions as the major problem with governments’ budgets.

19.  SIGNING A PLEDGE TO NEVER INCREASE TAXES

Some 12-year-olds dream about being pilots and some dream about being veterinarians.  Grover Norquist, well, he dreamed about getting people to sign a pledge — stating they will never raise taxes or do anything that increases revenue for the US Government — when he was 12 years old.[145]  Believe it or not, Mr. Norquist was successful.  In the current 112th Congress, 238 Representatives and 41 Senators have signed the pledge; all but three of them are Republicans.[145]

This is the new litmus test for the Republican Party.  Just six of the 242 Republican Representatives and seven of the 47 Republican Senators have not signed the anti-tax pledge.[146]  Instead of a diverse group of independent-minded Republicans, pledges like this bind them to the Party.

But why did they choose taxes?  In regards to economics, why focus just on revenue?  Why did they not also sign a pledge to control spending?  While interviewing Norquist, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show asked just that question and provided an analogy:

“Here’s the problem. It’s very easy – there is nothing people want to hear more than, ‘You give us too much money, you should keep more.’ That’s the easy part. That’s like, ‘I’ve got a pledge. Ice cream and cake for everybody.‘ Here’s my second pledge. ‘You’ve got to exercise.’ Oh, but I’m not going to enforce that one. But we’re all gonna get thinner. So when you come out and say, we’re never gonna raise taxes, I understand that’s a great branding, but as a governing policy it seems too easy and pandering.”[147]

 

20.  DENYING THE RESULTS OF STIMULUS SPENDING

Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to stimulate the economy during the recession.[148]  Government spending during an economic downturn is considered a stimulus; government stepped in because private industry had largely pulled back on spending.  Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, R-WI., criticized the stimulus, arguing for austerity which consists of trimming government spending, in essence shrinking the government.  It just so happens that shrinking the government is at the top of Republicans wish list (how about that!).

So how is austerity working for the European Union, specifically those countries such as Ireland and Spain?  Some view the European Union’s primary economic policy as not working,[149] “the resulting austerity has been crippling economic growth — and, in the case of countries like Spain, all that belt-tightening seems to be making the deficit situation worse, not better.”[150] ,[151]

Wasn’t it just ten years ago when President Bush, a Republican, signed a stimulus bill in 2002?[152]  Oh but wait, wasn’t there also a stimulus bill President Bush signed in 2008?[153]  What did Paul Ryan think of Bush’s stimulus then?  He voted for it in 2002[154] and again in 2008,[155] so did 85% of Republicans legislators currently in office including the Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH., Eric Cantor, R-VA., and Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY.  So clearly, someone must have been twisting Paul Ryan’s arm.  What gives?  Paul Ryan not only voted for all the stimulus bills presented by President Bush, he pushed hard for stimulus and Keynesian economics as shown in a video of him speaking on the House floor in 2002.[156]  Ryan said, “What we’re trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed.  What we’re trying to accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation that when they’ve passed in the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work.”

Figure 8  Image Source: http://www.americanprogressaction.org

 

21.  WAR

After 7 years of war in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended in August 2010.[157]  The brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, was found and executed, but weapons of mass destruction never materialized.  The reason to engage Iraq in an elective war, the claim that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was unfounded.  Regardless of the initial premise of war in Iraq being proven utterly false, Governor Rick Perry, R-TX., said, “I would send troops back into Iraq,” during a Republican presidential primary debate in January 2012.[158]  At the time, a CBS news poll showed three out of four Americans supported President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.  It appears that Gov. Perry took the novel 1984’s motto “WAR IS PEACE” to heart.

The idea that leaving Iraq would create a power vacuum to be filled by Iran hasn’t materialized.  The argument that leaving a war creates an unstable situation is absurd. Isn’t war an unstable situation?  It’s clear this argument only benefits one group of people: the military industrial complex.  Who else profits from endless war?

With his ready, fire, aim approach to foreign policy, Mitt Romney has shown that he is more than willing to politicize events before the full intelligence is in hand; for example his press conference regarding Libya largely seen as backfiring.[159]  The Nation’s Ari Berman characterized Romney’s foreign policy: “On some key issues, like Iran, Romney and his team are to the right of Bush.  Romney’s embrace of the neoconservative cause—even if done cynically to woo the right—could turn into a policy nightmare if he becomes president.”[160]  Romney has loaded his advisory board with war hawks and neoconservatives; of “Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush,” including the mustachioed über-hawk, former Bush U.N. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.[160]  Before Romney rushes the US into a war with Iran, clearly pandering to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, maybe he should be reminded we are still at war in Afghanistan, a war which started in October 2001 and not scheduled to end until the closing of 2014.[161]

Romney has attacked Obama’s foreign policy as starting with an apology tour.[162]  A diplomatic discourse with leaders of the world regarding matters of life and death, engagements in war, and issues that should be deliberate, sober, and thoughtful, is not apologizing.  Agreeing and sharing the burden of military actions and resources, as the very last option, is not apologizing.  Republican’s doctrine of “more enemies, fewer friends” didn’t work during the Bush administration.[160]

Romney intends to increase military spending by $2 trillion dollars, pushing for an acceleration of the war machine to scare other countries into submission – a push for comprehensive American hegemony.  Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for changing the tone of American foreign policy with his “calls for peace and cooperation….pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms….ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen its role in combating climate change.”[163]  Now is not the time to return to a Bush foreign policy or a Cold War arms race.

 

Do Not Vote Against Your Own Best Interests

Republicans have mastered the ability to persuade some voters to go against their own best interests.  How?   One way is to ignore past mistakes.  Republicans will attempt to convince seniors that their plan for Social Security and Medicare is better, hoping no one remembers their attempts to privatize Social Security and produce budgets that turn Medicare into a voucher system.  They will try to convince working class Americans that a tax cut that heavily favors the wealthy will create jobs, even though the Bush tax cuts have been a failure in that regard.  Another method Republicans employ is to provoke fear.  The conservative demagogues shout night and day about the end of the world, the loss of Christian values, and the seizing of guns.  All these predictions have been wrong.  Americans must reject these false narratives, these myths, and look at the facts: the past performance.

With all the flip flops, lies, and hiding, Romney has proven extremely difficult to pin down.  But we do know a few things about Romney and his influences. We know Romney’s Party affiliation.  We are aware of the Republican Party’s rhetoric, actions, and legislation for the past four years.  We know Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate.  We have witnessed Paul Ryan’s authorship of a destructive budget and regressive social policy.  We recall the Tea Party Republicans like Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Jim DeMint, and Allen West, how they promised to focus on jobs during their candidacy in 2010, but once in office focused on social politics like defunding Planned Parenthood and writing legislation to restrict women’s access to health care.  We remember the Republicans unwillingness to work together to raise the debt ceiling resulting in the credit rating downgrade.  We recognize the willingness to place politics before the welfare of the country when Senator McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  We cannot afford to have the Tea Party and regressive Republicans passing legislation for the next four years.  We cannot afford more conservative Justices on the Supreme Court handing down decisions like Citizens United.  We cannot afford to move backwards to the failures of President Bush’s economic and foreign policy disasters.  Take a moment, recall the situation we were in just four short years ago.  Remember the path we set out on to change our course from those failed policies, now is not the time to return to those failed ideas; let’s continue to move Forward together.


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[2] Klein, Ezra. “The history of the filibuster, in one graph.” The Washington Post. 15 May 2012. Web. 13 October 2012.

[3] Johnson, Luke. “Mitt Romney Reiterates Opposition To Gay Marriage And Civil Unions Before Obama Backs Gay Marriage.” The Huffington Post. 9 May 2012. Web. 13 October 2012.

[4] CNN Political Unit. “Huntsman: Romney’s a ‘perfectly lubricated weather vane’.” CNN Politics. 28 October 2011. Web. 7 October 2012.

[5] Rucker, Phillip. “Eric Fehrnstrom, source of Etch A Sketch gaffe, is a trusted and loyal Romney adviser.” The Washington Post. 22 March 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[6] Bennet, James. “We’re Not Going to Let Our Campaign Be Dictated by Fact-Checkers.” The Atlantic. 28 August 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[7] Tau, Byron. “Obama campaign: We care about facts, fact checkers.” Politico. 4 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[8] Corn, David. “SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters.” Mother Jones. 17 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[9] DiClaudio, Dennis. “Mitt Romney Flip-Flops on 47% Comment.” Comedy Central’s Indecision. 5 October 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[10] Graham, David A. “Mitt Romney’s Mindbending Flip-Flop on Emergency Rooms and Health Care.” The Atlantic. 24 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[11] “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.” Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. n.d. Web. 7 October 2012.

[12] Husted, Kristofor. “Emergency Room Closures Hit Minorities, Poor Hardest.” npr.org. 16 November 2011. Web. 7 October 2012.

[13] Killough, Ashley. “Romney pays extra taxes to keep his word, and break it too.” CNN Politics. 21 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[14] Streitfeld, Rachel. “Romney says he paid at least 13% in taxes for last ten years.” CNN Politics. 16 August 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[15] Grim, Ryan. “Mitt Romney Could Recoup Extra Tax Payments After Election With Amended Return.” The Huffington Post. 21 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[16] Shen, Aviva. “By Romney’s Own Standard, His Tax Returns Would Disqualify Him From the Presidency.” Think Progress. 21 September 2012. Web. 7 October 2012.

[17] Items 4 – 14 come directly from the Rolling Stones article:

RS Editors, “Mitt Romney’s Biggest Flip Flops.” Rolling Stone. 1 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[18] Sargent, Greg. “Why Romney keeps lying about Obama and welfare.” Opinions – The Washington Post. 20 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[19] “Mitt Romney says Barack Obama’s plan for welfare reform: “The just send you your check.” PolitiFact.com - Tampa Bay Times. n.d. Web. 8 October 2012.

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[22] Kessler, Glenn. “Spin and counterspin in the welfare debate.” The Washington Post. 8 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[23] MacGillis, Alec.  “Say It Ain’t So, Morning Joe.” The New Republic. 21 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[24] “Mr. Romney Hits Bottom on Welfare.” The Opinion Pages – The New York Times. 8 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[25] Siddiqui, Sabrina. “Romney Campaign Falsely Accuses Obama of Gutting Welfare In New Ad.” The Huffington Post. 13 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

[26] Petri, Alexandra. “Romney’s bad birther joke: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.”” Opinions – The Washington Post. 24 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

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[32] Zakaria, Fareed. “Fareed Zakaria on Donald Trump and coded racism.” CNN. 22 April 2011. Web. 17 October 2012. http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com

[33] Sargent, Greg. “Romney again puts GOP governors in delicate spot.” Opinions – The Washington Post. 7 August 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

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[35] Stein, Sam. “Mitt Romney On ObamaCare: ‘I’m Not Getting Rid of All of Health Care Reform.’ The Huffington Post. 9 September 2012. Web. 8 October 2012.

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[48] Reilly, Mollie. “Mitt Romney: ‘I’ll Take A Lot Of Credit’ For Auto Industry Recovery.” The Huffington Post. 8 May 2012. Web. 9 October 2012.

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[50] Zuesse, Eric. “Ann Romney: “We’ve Given All You People Need to Know.” The Huffington Post. 20 July 2012. Web. 13 October 2012.

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[52] Shaxson, Nicholas. “Where the Money Lives.” Vanity Fair. August 2012. Web. 13 October 2012.

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[64] Hosenball, Mark. “Romney staff spent nearly $100,000 to hide records.” Reuters. 6 December 2011. Web. 14 October 2012.

[65] Schwarzenegger, Arnold. “Schwarzenegger: GOP, take down that small tent.” The Los Angeles Times. 6 May 2012. Web. 9 October 2012.

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[102] Editorial. “In Climate Denial, Again.” The New York Times. 17 October 2010. Web. 11 October 2012.

[103] Williams, Juan. “GOP’s fictional voter fraud charges aim to keep Democrats from voting.” Fox News. 3 August 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[104] Hudson, Waymon. “Election 2012: Voter ID Laws, Suppression, and Equality.” The Huffington Post. 20 September 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[105] Berman, Ari. “The ‘Voter Fraud’ Fraud.” The Nation. 4 April 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[106] Brennan Center for Justice. “Policy Brief on the Truth About “Voter Fraud”.” brennancenter.org. n.d. Web. 11 October 2012.

[107] Memoli, Michael A., “Mitch McConnell’s remarks on 2012 draw White House ire.” The Los Angeles Times. 27 October 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[108] Sargent, Greg. “Mitch McConnell: Covering 30 million uninsured is ‘not the issue’.” Opinions – The Washington Post. 1 July 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

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[110] Goozner, Merrill. “Conservative Super PACs Outraised Liberals 3-to1.” The Fiscal Times.  20 August 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

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[114] Stein, Sam. “Ron Johnson: High-Capacity Magazines Are A Constitutional Right (VIDEO).” The Huffington Post. 22 July 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[115] Simon, Richard. “Colorado shooting: Police groups call for tougher gun laws.” The Los Angeles Times. 26 July 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[116] “7 killed, including shooter, at Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.” Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. 6 August 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

[117] Opinion. “Oak Creek tragedy should prompt new gun debate.” Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. 7 August 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.

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4 Comments

  1. What a shame that a Political article makes it’s way into “Notes on Looking” It now appears that this is turning into a site for Politics and Social commentary and Not the Arts. So SAD to see this happening.

  2. Hello Bob, and thanks for commenting. Yes, Notes on Looking is an art blog, art discourse and the attention this brings built the site. Basically, the work of artists draws attention to Notes on Looking, and I feel a responsibility to support the voices of artists. Daney had something he wanted to say. I hope you’ll continue to read.

  3. We all have something to say. This had No Art content. Note on Looking has lost it’s way by posting this type of content. This is an Art Blog and Not a political forum. SAD.

  4. I would like to recommend that you think of the social sculpture Bob, and please try not to be so rude.

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