Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keep Our Safety Net. In Fact, Expand It.

Free healthcare clinic at the LA Sports Arena last weekend. This is a safety net?

As commentators and political observers begin to expect a second Obama administration, they begin to visualize what a second term might accomplish. Some, like Paul Krugman and Dean Baker, state the obvious right up front. Here's Krugman:
First, despite years of dire warnings from people like, well, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, we are not facing any kind of fiscal crisis. Indeed, U.S. borrowing costs are at historic lows, with investors actually willing to pay the government for the privilege of owning inflation-protected bonds. So reducing the budget deficit just isn’t the top priority for America at the moment; creating jobs is. For now, the administration’s political capital should be devoted to passing something like last year’s American Jobs Act and providing effective mortgage debt relief.
Second, contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, America does not have an “entitlements problem.” Mainly, it has a health cost problem, private as well as public, which must be addressed (and which the Affordable Care Act at least starts to address). It’s true that there’s also, even aside from health care, a gap between the services we’re promising and the taxes we’re collecting — but to call that gap an “entitlements” issue is already to accept the very right-wing frame that voters appear to be in the process of rejecting. (My emphasis.)
Dean Baker is onto the same point exactly, while delivering a smackdown to faux center-left columnist Ruth Marcus:
Contrary to what Marcus and the Serious People want people to believe, there is no spending problem, there is a problem of out of control health care costs. The United States pays more than twice as much per person for its health care as the average for people in other wealthy countries, with little to show in the way of health outcomes. If we paid the same amount as any other wealthy country we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits.
The deception here is simple and extremely important. Honest people would talk about the need to reform the health care system. That addresses the health care cost problem that the country really does face. Marcus and the Serious People would instead want to leave the broken system intact and just have the government pick up less of the tab. (Emphasis mine.)
Almost 5000 lined up on a Monday to get wristbands to get in the Arena on Saturday.

I'm a broken record on this. We pay about double what other advanced countries pay, and they get better outcomes than we do for their money. That doesn't make us an exceptional country, as the Republicans keep chanting, it makes us and exceptionally backward country for all the wealth we apparently have. Let's go to the chart:

The Y axis shows the healthy outcomes and the X axis shows the cost. The size of the bubble shows the total amount of the costs per capita that come from the private sector. All of western Europe does a better job at a lesser cost than the U.S. does.

The bottom line on healthcare is go Medicare for all, full stop. How to pay for it? Raise taxes, mostly on those who can afford it. And because we then can lower costs overall, our budget woes begin to get solved. It's also fine to raise the Medicare taxes a bit, too. It'll more than come out in the wash.

While we're at it, mandate that the money businesses and governments save on employer-provided healthcare goes straight to the workers. And, hey, Republicans, that way the money employers used to spend on healthcare becomes income, and can then be taxed, like some of you, like John McCain, and yes, Simpson Bowles, wanted to do. And we fix the declining incomes of the middle class, and, while we're at it, chip away a bit at income inequality. What's not to like?

Also, a healthier America is a more productive America, and, fat-cat job creators, that means more profits. I'm not kidding, it's the way it works.

How would it work? Check out here, here, here, and here.

Would Americans support it? Yes:

More on Social Security later.

Note. First, Obamacare would be gone. Happy now? Second, we don't have a Medicaid problem anymore. It's now called Medicare...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mitt Romney's Theme Song: The Way We Weren't

Losing is tough, huh, Ann?
As Ann Romney -- I won't call her whiner-in-chief -- recently and, unfortunately, famously said in response to criticism of her husband, "Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring." No thanks, Ann. It's you who wanted to get in the ring. Live with it.

After Mitt's 47 percent remarks caught on tape, the trajectory of the race changed, as it should have. Of course, it started back at the Republican National Convention, though Romney hasn't really led in this race at all, period.

Looking at all the reasons can be a daunting task. I'd hate to be inside the Romney camp about now, trying to suss out of the polls either a polling conspiracy theory that would make the team feel a little less dyspeptic or would offer a glimmer of a hope that there's a way forward that doesn't lead to Loser Gulch or Has-Been Corners.

Was he ever really this guy? If not, is he who he is now?

Greg Sargent of WaPo this morning wonders yet again why Romney is losing, given the tough economy, Charlie Cook -- highly trusted election observer at the National Journal -- starts talking about donors ditching Romney a la Dole in 1996, and Ron Brownstein writes a detailed description of why it's not how you thought it was American-Dream-wise and how that explains everything Greg Sargent, and maybe all of us, mistakenly thought about 2012.

As I've said before, do yourself a favor, Mitt, and don't read the papers this morning. And please, don't watch this new web ad from the preznit:

As long as I've been watching Mitt Romney run for president -- and watched all the recycled video from his prior two elections in 1994 and 2002 -- I, like many, have never been sure who he is and what he stands for. Sure it's easy to say Willard's problem is that he's a lousy candidate, as one of his own advisers apparently said today. But there's both more and less to it than that.

As a stand-out-there-in-front-of-people-and-open-yer-yap person, he is better in front of rich people: They get him, and he knows the drill. He may also know his way around a boardroom, and he does have that patrician tone of voice. In front of the hoi polloi, though, he actually is a cardboard cut-out. These kinds of things can be overcome, quite simply, with a compelling message.

Sorry, Mitt, you just don't have one. With all the material out there, one has to wonder why. I think I know.

To forge a compelling message, you have to have principles, convictions. One would think that a successful man like Mitt Romney must have needed them to become successful, but that's obviously not true. All Mitt Romney needed to succeed were opportunities, which he certainly had.

And which opportunity he chose, private equity, is the big tell. The private equity game doesn't require that you have or demonstrate empathy. To win whether your marks win or lose requires that you set aside your convictions, assuming that one of them is that you shouldn't crush humans like bugs. Sorry, Mitt, few people can see that you give a damn about anybody except your buds. If anyone had, they changed their minds with the 47 percent video.

Watching Willard Mitt Romney etch-a-sketch his way through several campaigns based on the demographics of the situation also let us know that principles were rarely if ever involved in his policy decisions. Now, I think he did Massachusetts a solid with his health-care plan, but that might have been an accident. It polled well at the time, so he did it. It doesn't poll well now, so it's "Romneycare, what's that?"

No, the fair-weather candidate did okay and escaped his vacuousness because of his patrician voice and his perfectly graying sideburns, right up until he ran into today's Republican Party. Romney's challenge was to find a way through the Tea-Party weeds to the Republican nomination without collecting a whole lot of burrs and thistles. Sorry, Mitt, no way.

You had to run with the demographics of angry white Christian blue-collar males and all that entails, and it didn't matter who you were or who you weren't or whether or not you ever had a sincere bone in your body. You were owned, or pwned, or outright bought and sold to the highest, wingnut bidder, today's toxic Republican Party. After the purchase, they put you into a pretty little box and sent you out for delivery. How's that working out, Mitt?

It's not, and it's your fault. Like your perfect wife Ann, who's a little miffed at how hard it is, you sit and stew and connive and ponder how to get out of the box. ("Obama's lying about me." Right.) It is hard, and there are three debates and 45 days and everybody knows the race isn't over until the angry, white male guys sing, but you'd better get on it. Nobody knows what exactly you stand for. Hope it's not too hard to let them know by November 6. Good luck.

The Ryan pick: It's not so funny anymore, huh, Mitt?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mitt Romney's Long Goodbye

Mitt Romney pauses to think of something smart to say.
There are many ways to put this, and I've always liked Raymond Chandler's with the title of his novel, The Long Goodbye. If you've never read it or seen one of several film versions -- I like the one with Elliot Gould -- look for them on Amazon or NetFlix.

It's guaranteed to be more entertaining than trying to figure out why Mitt Romney has chosen such a long, drawn-out way of political demise, a suicide by a thousand cuts. Which begs the question: How many mistakes, missteps, and misstatements can one candidate make on the way to oblivion? Mitt's involved in his own version of Let Me Count the Ways.

Frank Bruni of the NY Times put it well with his "Mitt's Mortification." Wordsmith as I am -- well, I studied Latin! -- I detect in the word "mort," as in death. Snarky Maureen Dowd might have thought of calling our petrified candidate Mort Romney if I hadn't thought of it first.

So, as they say to the tape. Bruni first:
That bloodied appendage? The one riddled with holes?
It belongs to Mitt Romney, and we now know that his onetime support for gun control was all that was keeping him from shooting himself in the foot.
Throughout this campaign, he has misfired so repeatedly and phantasmagorically that his wounds make those visited upon Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at the end of “Bonnie and Clyde” look like paper cuts.
But that’s been noted, and there’s a bigger discussion beyond it. How did someone so politically maladroit — a cardboard cutout crossed with an Etch A Sketch — get this far?
Don't sugarcoat it, Frank. On to Dowd:
Sometimes in the course of human events, we must ask, as Hemingway did in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” what is that leopard doing at this altitude?
As a candidate, Mitt Romney is awkward, off-putting and hollow, so bad that if he were a Bain company, he would shut himself down.
Lest you think our wrath is limited to the "liberal" NY Times, how about some bottomscaping from WaPo's Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter:
Yet a Republican ideology pitting the “makers” against the “takers” offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. This approach involves a relentless reductionism. Human worth is reduced to economic production. Social problems are reduced to personal vices. Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class.
A few libertarians have wanted this fight ever since they read “Atlas Shrugged” as pimply adolescents. Given Romney’s background, record and faith, I don’t believe that he holds this view. I do believe that Republicans often parrot it, because they lack familiarity with other forms of conservatism that include a conception of the common good.
But there really is no excuse. Republican politicians could turn to Burkean conservatism, with its emphasis on the “little platoons” of civil society. They could reflect on the Catholic tradition of subsidiarity, and solidarity with the poor. They could draw inspiration from Tory evangelical social reformers such as William Wilberforce or Lord Shaftesbury. Or they could just read Abraham Lincoln, who stood for “an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”
Instead they mouth libertarian nonsense, unable to even describe some of the largest challenges of our time.
 At least Gerson claims Romney can't, in his heart, believe this nonsense. It's all the more damning, then, that he mouths it along with the rest.

Why quit now, in this survey of Romney oops!? Here's the NY Times editorial board (h/t dkos):
Asked about the government’s responsibility to the 50 million Americans without health insurance, Mr. Romney said they already have access to health care: in emergency rooms. That, of course, is the most expensive and least effective way of providing care, as someone who once advocated universal care has reason to know. But it also reeks of contempt for those left behind by the current insurance system, suggesting that they must suffer with illness until the point where they need an ambulance.
Mr. Romney is free to pursue this shallow, cavalier campaign for six more weeks, but he shouldn’t be surprised if voters increasingly choose not to pay attention.
 And a little more editorial board, this time WaPo, citing still more reasons why Mitt Romney should avoid interview shows like CBS's Sixty Minutes (also h/t dkos):
NOW WE GET IT: Mitt Romney’s refusal to specify what tax breaks he proposes eliminating is not a matter of dangling tantalizing goodies in front of voters now, before the election, and postponing the painful part until later. No, Mr. Romney’s dodging is, he claimed in an interview broadcast Sunday, an example of his strong leadership skills. [...] This is leading by ducking. Mr. Romney is right that the American people do not benefit from intransigent, my-way-or-the-highway governing. But his answer ignores the difference between maintaining flexibility and hiding your cards from the people whose votes you seek. If leadership means never having to get specific, why then does Mr. Romney identify a particular number — 20 percent — for the amount he wants to cut rates? The answer is obvious: voter appeal.
 "Leading by ducking." That's rich. As long as we're looking for phrases that decimate the Republican who's crossed the Rubicon into the land of FUBAR, let's look to another former Republican speechwriter turned pundit, Peggy Noonan:
But: The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant "rolling calamity."
If a picture is worth a thousand words, let's end this symposium on destroying the Republican brand by hiring the wrong guy -- Romney could turn this around by hiring Donald Trump to say "You're Fired!" -- with, if not a picture, then a graph:

Lest you think it's all schadenfreude, let me assure you, it is, a bit. But there's a larger purpose here: Call out the man and those of his ilk. We ain't buying this bunk, and we don't want the rest of America to do it either. You can call us the 99% or the 47% or just the rest of America that can figure out who's screwing who. You can cry out that Obama belongs to the "man" just as much as a Romney or a Ryan do, and I'll say hold on a sec. I know the difference and so should you. Need a little more convincing? Over and out with this vid:

See what I mean? Just this past Sunday, on Sixty Minutes, he gets a chance to be sincere and truthful. Does he do it? How should we know? Which is which and when? Then, now, next week, next year? One thing we can count on is that whichever, whatever, whenever, he'll do it Romney-style. And, friends, that ain't a picnic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mtit Romney's Troubles That Starts with T(axes)

See, I'm not one of the 47 percent of Americans who aren't like me.

...and ends with paying an effective rate of 14.1% on his 2011 taxes.Taegan Goodard's Political Wire reports that Romney took fewer charitable contribution deductions than entitled to, probably in order to stay above the 13% he claims to pay every year. This amounts to gaming his 2011 tax return to improve appearances.

Remember, Mitt Romney proudly stated that, in principle, he took every deduction he was entitled to. Not now, it seems.

I'll update this when his 1990-2009 tax amounts are released -- not his returns, just the percentages. His tax firm will release them shortly. Deep thought: Just how panicked is Romney after his 47% thermonuclear gaffe, er, I mean revelation?

Update. Fox News announces that Mitt Romney's average effective tax rate for the period of 1990 to 2009 was 20.2%. We'll see when we get the numbers if, one, they're different, and, two, if the individual years are announced.

Update 2. As suggested by Taegan Goddard, Romney intentionally overpaid his taxes in 2011 by not taking all the charitable contribution deductions available to him. Dan Froomkin just tweeted that if Romney had taken all he was entitled to, his effective rate would have been 9%. Daily Kos, for good measure, resurrected this July Romney statement:
"Frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due, I don't think I'd be qualified to become president," he said. "I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires."
 And thus, Daily Kos points out, Romney's actions on taxes do in fact disqualify him from becoming president.

Update 3. Hunter of Daily Kos points out that this is a Friday news dump, what is commonly called "throwing it out with the trash" in hopes that is gets lost in the weekend news cycle. Of course, that doesn't work as well in the Internet age. Also new details come out on that beyond the average effective rate (22.2%) in that we also learn the lowest yearly rate was 13.66%.

That the Romney campaign would put this out on a Friday night and limit the information to this paltry amount is tantamount to announcing "you're getting this and not a damned drop more. Live with it."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We Are the 47 Percent: What They're Saying About Us

Although I've done okay financially all my life -- variously middle or lower middle, but feeling fine because of my native frugality -- I am essentially retired and likely to pay little in income taxes this year. Also, I'm off the payroll tax rolls. Though I still pay about 12 percent of my retirement income in various local, state, and property taxes and fees, I am fully entitled to claim membership in the 47 percent according to Mitt Romney's fine and dandy identity politics.

So, I'm allowed to take extreme umbrage -- the high-brow way of saying I'm really pissed -- at how we're characterized. Here's what they're saying about us, and I'll keep adding as I find examples.

Conservative commentator Mary Matalin offering her take on CNN:
"There are makers and takers, there are producers and there are parasites," she said. "Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid in through no fault of their own and because of Obama's horrible polcies who cannot get a job or are underemployed. That's what the campaign is about."
Pat Buchanan, former Nixon speechwriter, perennial candidate, and conservative commentator,  on Fox News:
“Barack Obama is a drug dealer of welfare,” he said, speaking on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” “He wants permanent dependency, in my judgment, of all these folks…somehow getting benefits, benefits, benefits and paying no taxes.”
As a reminder, Mitt Romney, perennial candidate, on hidden camera in front of his peers:
"And so my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Representative Steve King (R-IA):
"Are we going to defend this Constitution that we celebrated tonight, or are we going to watch it be eroded by a Commander-in-Chief who disrespects this Constitution, doesn’t believe in free enterprise, doesn’t believe in life and families. They are core values in this country that we must defend at all costs."
Michelle Malkin, blogger, columnist, and Fox News Channel contributor:
"He’s [Romney] talking, of course, about the Peggy the Moochers and Henrietta Hugheses of the world – savior-based Obama supporters for whom the cult of personality trumps all else. He’s talking about the Sandra Flukes and Julias of the world – Nanny State grievance-mongers who have been spoon-fed identity politics and victim Olympics from preschool through grad school and beyond. And he’s talking about the encrusted entitlement clientele who range from the Section 8 housing mob in Atlanta that caused a near-riot to the irresponsible debt-ridden homeowners who mortgaged themselves into oblivion and want their bailout now, now, now."
Stephen Colbert, "Conservative commentator" and TV talk-show host:
“As you know, we are all gathered here this evening because I have agreed to accept the presidency,” Colbert said, affecting a posh tone. “But unfortunately, almost half — two score and seven percent — will vote for my opponent, that socialist Hottentot!”
Sean Hannity, Fox News host and radio talk show host:
"Do you think the government is capable of creating this womb-to-the-tomb security no-risk society where you don't have a care in the world and Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the anointed one himself, Barack Obama, they will dispense the crumbs, ah, down on to you so you can go to the grocery store and just go get whatever food you want.
...I, for one, in spite of the hysteria and the absolute madness that you see in your sell-out, failed-you, Obama mania, thrill-up-your-leg, you know, semi-orgasmic media is wrong and I bet that this is a tipping point in terms of the actual election. They're reading it wrong. Uh, the same America that embraced welfare reform under Clinton are gonna side with Romney on this."
 More to come...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Are the 47 Percent

Just who are the 47 percent?

White family farmers who rely on farm subsidies.

Women favor Obama: These get money from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Way to win over Latinos, Mitt. (Among the hardest working people I've met.)

NASA: government money bloodsuckers. Screw Curiosity!

Wait, what are these guys doing here? Oh yeah, gubmint workers.

I could go on and on. And in the next few days, I probably will.

Comparing Obama's "guns or religion" to Romney's "My job is not to worry about these people."

The unemployment line: Mitt Romney's 47 percent?

Over the years Slate's Will Saletan has often annoyed me, especially when he welcomed Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket with open arms (he later "broke up with him"). But today's article comparing Obama's famous 2008 "cling to guns or religion" comment with Romney's hidden-camera fundraising video statement is smart analysis and very telling in revealing the character of the two candidates for president in 2012:
But notice what else the recording shows. Obama tells his audience not to write off any group.  He recommends humility and openness. Even in the most unlikely neighborhoods, among “people of every background,” he tells his volunteers they’ll find supporters.
He also advises the volunteers not to write off every voter who seems unreceptive. The tough reception, he suggests, might be just a “layer of skepticism,” a “part of them that just doesn't buy it.” Beneath that layer, the whole voter is more complicated.
In particular, Obama rejects the caricature of hostile white voters as racists. Instead of assuming that they just ”don’t want to vote for the black guy,” he asks his volunteers to focus on these voters’ economic concerns. He counsels empathy. “They feel so betrayed,” he says.
The whole thrust of Obama’s answer is persuasion.
Will Saletan gets it just right this time. Good job.

Rural white America: Obama doesn't write them off.

Parsing Mitt Romney, Part One

"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Government salaries, free government health care, eventual government pensions.

 Are these Obama's 47 percent?

Even David Brooks Thinks Mitt Romney Is Out of Touch

Getting a little cartoonish, and not in a good way.

I rarely agree with David Brooks, but the hidden-camera fundraising video has raised eyebrows of even the conservatives.

Here's one quote with which I heartily agree:
But these are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
 ...and one where Brooks betrays himself (I doubt he actually believes this part):
Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?
 Sorry, Brooks, but there's nothing kind and decent -- as far as the electorate is concerned -- about a man who would dismiss half the citizens of a country, outright. Also, his entitlement ideas aren't essential. We'll never reduce benefits for the elderly, and we shouldn't. To suggest that we will assumes that we are going to let some of them die. Romney's ideas lead to that. Obama's ideas suggest streamlined care with better outcomes. Obama's going to win this debate, even if he loses this election.

Heaven forbid.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mitt Romney's Word Salad Explanation for Calling Half of America "Victims"

Keep on talking, Mitt:

"I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that." Right. " a setting like that." What's the damned setting got to do with calling half of America victims? Victims to whom you say "My job is not to worry about these people." Jeesh.

Keep talking, Mitt. Right up until November. Hey, people, get this guy a microphone, please. Please.

Every Voter in America Should See This

Holy crap. This is what Mitt Romney thinks about Americans:

(h/t Atrios)

Let this video go forth and multiply. Romney has utter contempt for the majority of voters. Oh, he lies at will, even in private. (I thought he only approved of public lying.) The lies I'm speaking of are obvious if you know anything about local, state, property, federal, FICA, hotel, airport, and other taxes. In coming blog posts, I'll parse the entire statement in this video.

One more thing: Did you notice that he thought that the people in the middle, the independents, the 5 to 10 percent of the people, were thoughtful? So, by implication, everyone else is, uh, what?

What Paul Krugman Said... much like I said earlier this morning, only better. He gets paid more, so...
Paul Krugman (NY Times)
We’re now getting a lot of “Romney in disarray” stories; we’re also hearing that the solution is for Romney to go out there and sell his five-point plan for the economy.
You’ve got to be kidding. Has anyone actually looked at that “plan”? Not only is it pathetic; its patheticity (pathos? That doesn’t sound right) is no accident. On the contrary, it reflects the same forces that have made the Romney campaign in general such a dud.
It’s not just that the plan’s rhetoric is the same as every other GOP plan since 2004. Nor is it just the complete absence of specifics. It’s the fact that the plan is written in code; Romney doesn’t dare say explicitly what he’s talking about, because his actual agenda is so unpopular.
Read on.

Michael Tomasky Nails Why Romney and Ryan Can't Trot Out Their Specifics

Here is the heart of the matter:

And it's the reason they won't get any traction with this (WaPo):

Mitt Romney refocuses campaign on economy and policy details

Fantasyland, people, Fantasyland.

I Don't Resent Mitt Romney for His Wealth

Romney's crew? Not on your life. These are commoners.
I resent Mitt Romney for the poverty of his ideas. Even more, I resent him for the poverty of his values.

Not that Mitt Romney has no ideas. Far from it, he's full of them. It's just that the ramifications of the policies he espouses and the values they imply have at their core a bare skeleton of compassion and empathy, and the slimmest notion of what human communities need in order to thrive.

As usual, this take on what makes Mitt tick is inspired by a few things I read this morning in my usual hunt for what's up. I found this op-ed in the New York Times by James Atlas entitled "Don't Show Me the Money," a very compelling read. Though it talked about money and our society's current seeming obsession with it, the most compelling takeaway was a quote by a Harvard government professor:
“The most fateful change that unfolded during the past three decades was not an increase in greed,” [Harvard professor] Mr. Sandel observes. “It was the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don’t belong.”
Exactly so. This is a defining, perhaps the defining judgment of our age. And it's an observation that works very well as a means of analyzing what makes Mitt tick and whether his notions have any value for the wider society.

Tax policy -- and the obvious implication that shrinking revenues lead to limiting government's ability to preserve public services or help people in need -- is closely aligned to favoring markets and market makers over consumers. To explore this controversial area, read David Leonhardt's sober analysis in the New York Times. If tax cuts do stifle economic growth, Mitt Romney's core convictions on the economy ring hollow indeed.

Values voter?
Yes, decent people in civilized societies can and do hold wildly opposing positions on key structures of our culture and government, but none are more emblematic of a person's soul than what they are prepared to spend money on and, what's even more crucial, what they're willing to take out of the realm of money altogether.

To clarify, what I mean by taking a practice out of the realm of money is that certain areas of human endeavor constitute a human right regardless of cost. In such cases societies then ban together to afford such endeavors based on membership in the society, not status in such. Endeavors I find critical to examine are healthcare, education, and other services such as public safety and justice.

Using Professor Sandel's mirror, then, how do we judge Mitt Romney, his ideas and his values?


Mitt Romney, as well as his running mate Paul Ryan, favors so-called market-based solutions to the healthcare needs of our society. Romney clings to this notion that markets are not only perfect -- in the academic sense -- but also tailor-made to manage the production and distribution of medical services. This he believes in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. All the advanced nations of the world, and a number of developing ones as well, have single-payer, government-operated, and/or highly, highly regulated insurance systems that deliver the needed healthcare services to their citizens at often less than half the cost of American care, often at much better success rates.

This is market-based healthcare?
Mitt Romney's market-based healthcare ideas, especially his notions of voucherizing Medicare and having government support rise at the rate of inflation as opposed to the real and historically higher rates that healthcare costs tend to rise, are fantastical at best and fraudulent at worst, and still he persists with them.

His views on healthcare are made all the more preposterous because he once championed a healthcare system that was less market-based but now insists that his Massachusetts system can't work for America. More likely, he now feels it's too dangerous politically for him to support it any longer.

Now, on healthcare, Romney is left with the barest skeleton of useful or humane ideas or values. His system ends up meaning this: You have enough money to pay the market for healthcare or you suffer and die. What other assumption can one make?

Judgment? Mitt Romney fails the human decency test on healthcare.

If you don't trust my analysis of Romney's position read Joe Klein's take in the latest Time Magazine.


Mitt Romney favors voucherizing education and banning or severely curtailing the rights of teachers' unions. Essentially he maintains that the privatization of education is good for it. This is a very disingenuous position, of course, as offering vouchers to parents to help them remove their children from the public system is actually underwriting government support of private education. For one who stresses private markets as the solution to our societal needs -- and stressing that governmental intervention is bad -- Mitt Romney is sure ready to spend public dollars on private enterprise. Just how is that consistent?

Strict constructionists, as Mitt Romney claims to be, often conflate the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence with the rule of law actually laid out in the U.S. Constitution. Thus a person like Mitt Romney would support the right to pursue an education, not the right to get an education. I've never heard him issue exactly that statement, but everything I've heard him say lays the foundation for such an assumption.

It's constitutional to fund religious education?
Voucherizing public education and siphoning off public money for private purposes damages the ability of public education to do its job, and that's to provide every citizen the best education society can offer. By the same token, denying teachers the right to bargain collectively limits the ability of the profession to attract well-qualified teachers. Simply put, if teachers can't achieve acceptable levels of compensation, fewer citizens will be willing to teach. And that's a market-based decision if I ever saw one. Bargaining collectively to set compensation levels is a market-based practice. Why would Mitt Romney object to that? It doesn't pass the logic test.

It's well established that other nations where teachers earn less than their American counterparts nonetheless don't offer professions that pay more for the same amount of education required of teachers. In this country, though, teachers -- like myself, for example -- can take their six years of college and go to another profession and make 10, 20, even 50 percent more. How does America then attract highly qualified, highly educated people to remain in the education workforce? The answer is that is doesn't. Most teachers leave the profession in less than five years. It's very destabilizing and self-defeating.

I don't begrudge those who have the desire and the means to have their children educated privately. Do it to your heart's content, but don't expect me to pay for it. My taxes are meant for public goods, right?

In his heart, by his own policy positions, Mitt Romney doesn't support a vibrant public educational system. He neither supports public education nor the public servants who would provide it. Romney's stance on public education is a muddle, one that doesn't guarantee education as a human right. In this he promotes a society of classes, where some deserve what others can't afford. And this applies to both secondary and college education.

Judgment? Mitt Romney doesn't wish to guarantee American citizens educational opportunities and therefore would undermine the public good and, by extension, the private sector dependent on a well-educated workforce. He also would undermine the constitutional right of the teaching profession to bargain collectively, thus weakening the education profession. The opportunities of students and of teachers, by the way, do go hand in hand.

If you doubt my judgment, read this article in the Kansas City Star, hardly a liberal rag.

Public safety and public health:

Here's one area in which one would assume Mitt Romney wouldn't want to get by on the cheap. Yet how can one imagine, with Romney's fiscal policy positions, that the U.S. could afford the kind of public services necessary to provide what we've historically had?

A federal response without funding?
Romney not only is against rolling back any part of the Bush tax cuts but also has proposed yet another round of tax cuts, further trimming federal taxes by 20 percent. His obscure "we'll end loopholes so that these tax cuts are paid for but what these loopholes are, I'll never tell" is not a plan that affords very much in discretionary spending. Under a Romney administration, there's no credible way to pay for what we've got now, meaning public safety and public health spending will decline. Would food inspection and drug testing be maintained under a Romney/Ryan budget? Analysts question how they can afford it.

Judgment? Mitt Romney's approach to fiscal matters can't help but undermine public safety services, and we can't expect the federal government to help underwrite the cost of state and local services. We'll be a nation in decline in the public services area, and nothing Mitt Romney has offered seems to deny this eventuality.

If you doubt my judgment, read this editorial in the Washington Post.


Mitt Romney supports tort reform, which is code for weakening citizens' access to relief from corrupt or dangerous medical, business and manufacturing practices. He also supports the nomination of Supreme Court justice candidates who would limit awards to victims of corporate malfeasance. When citizens cannot rely of our justice system to provide due process or the ability to petition the government for the address of grievances, which courts have throughout our history provided, then citizens are increasingly at the mercy of market-based abuses.

Judgment? Mitt Romney is not on the side of the individual citizen but on the side of the corporations that tend to control the markets.

If you doubt my judgment, read this article, which quotes Romney as saying:
"Another burden on our economic future is our out-of-control tort system. Last year, U.S. healthcare corporations spent more money on tort claims than they did on R&D. If innovation is the key to our long-term leadership, then some tort lawyers are cashing out our country's future. I spoke with one member of the plaintiff's bar the other day. He said that the tort lawyers are ok with state reform, but not national reform. You know what state level tort reform means - it means that as long as there is one lawsuit-friendly state, they can sue almost any major, deep-pocketed company in America. No thanks, America needs national tort reform."
As for judicial nominees, read this excerpt from an interview (or the whole thing to understand just how anti-gun control Romney is):
Romney: Chris, I believe the next president could indeed have the opportunity to shape the Court for decades to come, and that’s a key reason why the tens of millions of Americans who support the NRA should support my candidacy. My view of the Constitution is straightforward: Its words have meaning. The founders adopted a written constitution for a reason. They intended to limit the powers of government. The job of a judge is to enforce the Constitution’s restraints on government and, where the Constitution does not speak, to leave the governance of the nation to its elected representatives. I believe in the rule of law, and I will appoint wise, experienced and restrained judges who take seriously their oath to discharge their duties impartially in accordance with our Constitution and our laws—not their personal policy preferences.
Robert Bork, rejected for racist leanings?
Though the interview is more about gun issues than judicial nominees, Mitt Romney did his best to use the code words that add up to "my judicial picks will not favor a living constitution but rather a fossilized version of what the founding fathers believed in the late 1700s." How that adds up is anyone's guess, but I'd say he means thumbs up for Antonin Scalia and thumbs down for Stephen Breyer. From my point of view it was also very disheartening that Mitt Romney is against any limitation on assault weapons and large-capacity clips and magazines.

I also was able to find this link to a Media Matters post on Mitt Romney's support for Robert Bork, one of the few rejected nominees to the Supreme Court. His views on Robert Bork are very telling. Does this support add up to more racist and misogynist code words?

My analysis of these key issues of public policy do not preclude that today's Republican Party should be held responsible for Mitt Romney's policy positions. On the contrary, the Republican Party is centrally responsible for Mitt Romney taking these positions. A less strident political party, for instance, might have allowed Romney to tout his healthcare achievements rather than disavow them. So I hold the Republican Party in equal contempt for the poverty of their ideas and values.

You don't have to rely on me here. Rely on conservative columnist David Brooks.

Republicans and their standard bearers cannot be trusted with America's future. This much is clear and should influence all voters as we move toward November.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Should Muslims Control Our Free Speech?

As Muslims around the world riot and attack U.S. and other Western embassies over an amateurish and murky YouTube video that insults Islam, serious discussion has erupted in the press dissecting the whys and wherefores of the explosion across the Islamic world.

A Forbes article, written by digital media observer Jeff Bercovici, attracted my attention because he seems to get the situation concerning social-media censorship exactly right:
[Google's] Censoring the video for a limited period of time and in a limited region no doubt looked like a common sense way to balance competing interests. It’s reminiscent of the compromise Twitter struck for dealing with legal takedown orders in foreign jurisdictions, which my colleague Kashmir Hill applauded as “doing censorship right.”
Even the staunchest of free-speech defenders recognize the difficulty of the dilemma Google faced. Kevin Bankston of the Center for Democracy and Technology told the Times he fears that Google inadvertently just told the world “that if you violently object to speech you disagree with, you can get it censored,” but still thinks the call it made is “kind of hard to second guess.” Eva Galperin of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, on the other hand, calls the decision “disappointing” and says, “I’m not sure they did the right thing.”
I’m pretty sure they didn’t. The problem is that for Google’s calculation to work, its actions need to be effective in dampening the violence. So far that hasn’t happened, and no wonder. More often than not, banning a piece of political speech is the surest way to amplify its power, especially when it’s speech that lacks much intrinsic power of its own.

The answer to the question in my title is a decided no, Muslims should not be ceded the right to control speech in the Western world even as they will succeed in fits and starts during these eruptions. The easily enraged, deeply ashamed and humiliated youth of the Arab world -- mostly unemployed and disenfranchised -- won't gain an understanding of the modern world overnight. Their psyches, already raw and defeated, will cause them to fly off the handle and attack the West, especially the U.S., at every perceived slight to their dignity. Why? Because they essential have none. The West, over the past decades of domination, have never granted the Muslim world the smallest shred of dignity. The memory of this humiliation will run deep for who knows how many decades to come.

George W. Bush didn't offer any respect to the Arab world with his "freedom agenda," corrupted as it was by death and domination, and Barack Obama's well-intentioned rapprochement, mixing as it did his Cairo speech with stealthy drone attacks, has so far had little positive effect.

And it's no wonder. The surgical removal of Osama bin Laden should have been a relief to the Pakistanis -- as deeply destabilizing as al-Qaeda's presence is, or was, in Pakistan -- but instead it was yet another horribly humiliating event. The U.S. doesn't care a whit about Pakistani sovereignty, and the bin Laden takeout demonstrated it.

Don't get me wrong. As a liberal progressive who's against the death penalty, I confess I'm ambivalent over bin Laden's death, even as I felt the same about Timothy McVeigh's execution. It's hard to get worked up over the human rights of people like them, putting the lie to the depth of my anti-death-penalty commitment. I'm (somewhat) ashamed of it, but there you are.

Free-speech zone at the DNC in 2004. What Bill of Rights?
Ambivalence toward our Western values is a strong current through these turbulent times. I should discuss it in greater detail in another post, but for now I'll say that it's easy to think, what the hell, Google should just remove the ridiculous video that has so unleashed the hatred and violence harbored in the hearts of Muslims throughout the world.

But no. We cannot afford to cede our free-speech rights to a culture that doesn't understand Western values even as it yearns to gain the freedoms the West offers. Some day, somehow, we in the West will find a way to win over the 1.3 billion souls who are held captive by religious values that doom them to living in the distant past. That day, regrettably, is in the distant future.

I should remind readers at this point that I find all religions to be based on superstition, and though some aspects of religious morality are worthy of adopting, I find religion, in the main, to be the cause of more death and destruction than enlightenment and liberation, let alone salvation. Please know that I hold Islam in no more contempt than I do any religion, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, or Zoroastrianism, for that matter. Yet people have a right to hold these beliefs, especially in modern nations where religion is not allowed to overwhelm secular matters.

Calat Alhambra in Spain: the caliphate at its zenith.
As promised, here's a bit about why the Arab world is so easily offended. I point you to an article in the Washington Post entitled, not surprisingly, "Why is the Arab world so easily offended?" It's written by Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution. It's a good read and makes its case quite convincingly. It explains how the dynamism of Islam broke out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century and conquered a vast region that stretched from Persia in the east to southern Spain in the west. It reached great heights and great achievements before falling over the next centuries into utter defeat and decline. Ajami explains:
Even as Arabs insist that their defects were inflicted on them by outsiders, they know their weaknesses. Younger Arabs today can be brittle and proud about their culture, yet deeply ashamed of what they see around them. They know that more than 300 million Arabs have fallen to economic stagnation and cultural decline. They know that the standing of Arab states along the measures that matter — political freedom, status of women, economic growth — is low. In the privacy of their own language, in daily chatter on the street, on blogs and in the media, and in works of art and fiction, they probe endlessly what befell them.
Sony building, Ginza, Tokyo. How the West was really won.
As much as I can understand their rage and even appreciate the legitimacy of their resentment of the West's role in their decline, I uphold the rights we've gained and the progress we've made, sometimes at the expense of the rest of the world. This rest-of-the-world has a right to abhor the price they've paid for the West's ascendency, but we should hope Arabs and the wider Muslim world might consider breaking out of its (somewhat self-inflicted) shackles in a peaceful way, much as the East -- India, China, Japan, and Korea -- has done. Japan, for example, discovered that it's easier to conquer the West with commerce than planes and tanks. Let's hope decades from now some historian will tell the tale of how the Arab world rose again, peaceably, to take its place in a healthy, sane, and modern world. The journey might be long, but it's one they need to take.

It would be a good, first step to stop calling us infidels. But, nonetheless, I do wish them well.

Note. Sorry for that irresistible snark there at the end, but, as the Japanese say, shou ga nai (it can't be helped).

Note II. I'm no Middle-East expert, and I've been to the region just once, in 1954 at the age of 5. We stopped at Somalia (actually at Djibouti, then in French Somaliland) and Alexandria, Egypt. But I clearly remember that all passengers were warned to stay below and away from the portholes as we made our way up the Suez Canal, just as we were warned earlier in the journey when we made our way upriver toward Saigon, Vietnam. We were in a French ocean liner, and both the British and the French were then despised for their roles in partitioning much of the Middle East. Thus my understanding of how the Arabs might feel towards us is buttressed by this early, indelibly imprinted impression.

Beyond that, my years living in Japan helped me understand that there are civilizations that are not like ours. The Japanese are not carbon copies of Western minds, but they're enough like us to essentially share our basic values, though there still are a very few fanatics that would threaten to blow you up for disrespecting the Emperor. Understanding that bit of Imperial cultism helps me understand how an Arab might feel toward his prophet.

By this I mean I get it. I find this kind of nonsense intolerable, however, in a modern world. Still, I get it, and I have a basis for getting it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Advice to Romney Campaign: Don't Let Mitt Read New York Magazine

Why? Because it'll break his heart, that's why. Which begs the question: So how has New York Magazine gotten so hardball when it comes to politics? Could it be because Jonathan Chait and John Heilemann are there now?

That upper lip is pretty stiff, Mitt, or did you bite your tongue? (About time.)

Jonathan Chait -- who had been at The New Republic for years -- has really gotten tough on Mitt Romney in recent days, first with his takedown of Romney's about-face on healthcare, entitled "Mitt Temporarily Forgets Plan to Screw the Poor," and now with his article today, called "Romney Tries to Defend Embassy Lies." Core quote:
On Monday night, Romney issued this condemnation of Obama: “It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” The lies here are several: The statement was issued by an embassy staffer, not by Obama; It did not express sympathy with attackers; and it was not a “response” to the attacks but in fact preceded them.
Even if you strip out all the lies, the broader argument that Romney is now trying to wage is so completely silly he doesn’t believe it himself. The general thrust of Romney’s attack is that Obama has taken some unusual step by condemning the inflammatory anti-Muslim movie that sparked the protests in the Middle East, and that he, Romney, would refuse to acknowledge any of the protestors' legitimate grievances. In fact, even under the Bush administration it was completely standard diplomatic practice to pair up defenses of the free speech principle with condemnations of provocative attacks on religion. And in his interview with Stephanopolous, Romney — after defending his pack of lies — is forced to admit that he, too, condemns the movie...
Read the entire article. Let's hope Mittens doesn't read it, it could be bad for his fee fees.

As for John Heilemann, late of The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist, also lays into Romney in his New York Magazine article today, called "Don't Say 'Desperate'." Its core quote:
For Romney, the first blaring sign that his reaction to the assault on the consulate in Benghazi had badly missed the mark was the application of the phrase “Lehman ­moment” to his press availability on the morning of September 12. Here was ­America under attack, with four dead on foreign soil. And here was Romney, defiantly refusing to adopt a tone of sobriety, solemnity, or seriousness, instead attempting to score cheap political points, doubling down on his criticism from the night before that the Obama administration had been “disgraceful” for “sympathiz[ing]” with the attackers—criticism willfully ignoring the chronology of events, the source of the statement he was pillorying, the substance of the statement, and the circumstances under which it was made.
That the left heaped scorn on Romney’s gambit came as no surprise. But the right reacted almost as harshly—with former aides to John McCain, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan creating an on-the-record chorus of disapproval, while countless other Republican officials and operatives chimed in anonymously. “This is worse than a Lehman moment,” says a senior GOP operative. “­McCain made mistakes of impulsiveness, but this was a deliberate and premeditated move, and it totally revealed Romney’s character; it revealed him as completely craven and his candidacy as serving no higher purpose than his ambition.”
Don't sugar-coat it, Heilemann! Oh, and, ouch, here's Jonathan Chait again in NYmag from yesterday with his "Romney: My Magic Tax Plan Will Repeal Laws of Arithmetic." Chait sez:
What Romney actually said, in his interview with George Stephanopolous, was that he would not raise taxes on people earning below that level. Here Romney is trying to wriggle out of a trap he blundered into. He has promised to extend the Bush tax cuts and then reform the tax code in such a way as to hold revenue constant, lower tax rates by 20 percent, and close loopholes. This was a vague enough plan that Romney believed he could get by without making any of the ramifications clear, except the good stuff about cutting tax rates. But the Tax Policy Center ran the numbers and found that, even if you granted Romney a series of optimistic to wildly implausible assumptions, he would have to raise taxes on the middle class, by a lot. The rate cuts would lose so much revenue for the rich that there wouldn’t be enough to gain from reducing deductions.
Republicans have been frantically denying the math, which Obama has turned into the potent (and accurate) accusation that Romney’s plan would cut taxes on the rich in order to raise them on the middle class. Republican economist Martin Feldstein tried to defend Romney by doing his own study showing that Romney’s math could work, but in an epic blunder, inadvertently confirmed the charges. Despite cutting all kinds of methodological corners, Feldstein’s study found that the threshold above which Romney would have to raise taxes was not the $250,000 he promised but $100,000 a year. That means Romney would have to raise taxes on a huge chunk of income below $250,000 a year, just as the TPC study found. Feldstein dealt with this problem by writing his column about his study as if it disproved rather than confirmed the TPC, and other conservatives have gone on pretending the same thing.
Chait is generous to Romney on one point, maintaining that Romney didn't mean to say that $200,000 to 250,000 and less was middle income:
Let’s stop this meme before it gets started. Mitt Romney did not say that a salary between $200,000 and $250,000 a year counts as “middle income.” I suppose you could say he asserted that if you used the truth standards of the Romney campaign — which allow you to clip phrases to change their meanings or even to present a person quoting something he disagrees with as his own position — but those aren’t truth standards I’d care to live by.
I didn't read it that way, going with Jillian Rayfield in Salon, who heard the same interview I did. My takeaway was that Romney was defining $250,000 as the top end of middle income. Nonetheless, it's good to see a major writer like Jonathan Chait routinely calling out Mitt Romney and his Republican allies on their constant stream of lies.

The media narrative is starting to turn against Romney, and once it does the money people start to pull their money from a losing cause. They're also likely to start sending it the other way in hopes of gaining influence with the winners. That's why Barack Obama got so much Wall Street money in 2008. He was perceived as the likely winner. Still, Obama backers are wise not to get over-confident. I know his campaign isn't taking anything for granted.

Nonetheless, sorry, Mitt, for hurting your fee fees, but don't look now, Sheldon Adelson may start sending boxes of chips to the other guy.

Together we will go to a magical realm where two plus two equals eleven.

(Hat tip and attribution of photo and caption to New York Magazine.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mitt Romney Loses Mind, Looks Around, Doesn't Find It

"Remember, George, this is impromptu, I could say anything."

Okay, I just wrote a post declaring there's not as much dividing Americans as we think. After what Mitt Romney said this morning, I suspect there will be even less dividing Americans, assuming they're awake enough to find this more than disturbing:
In an interview with “Good Morning America’s” George Stephanopoulos, Mitt Romney was asked: “Is $100,000 middle income?” “Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less,” Romney replied.
“I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people,” he continued. “Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these.  Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people.  So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.”
Holy out-of-touch-open-head-remove-brain, Batman.

Want my brain? I sure don't use it anymore.

Please, please, people don't elect this, uh, entity that has personhood.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When Worlds Collide: The Political Divide in America

One of the most frustrating things about livin' in the USA is that we don't know that much about ourselves. Strange as that may sound, for me it rings true. Leastways, the media doesn't give us much time to stop and think about who we are, they're so busy constructing our narratives for us.

I play A LOT of golf, I mean A LOT. (It's my low-level cardio, plus maybe my heroin.) A common practice on golf courses is that if you show up alone or as a twosome, you get paired with others in order to use and pace the course wisely. Now, based on demographics, I'd expect that approximately half the people I play with are Republicans with a plurality of of them being self-described conservatives.

I'm making assumptions, even though I live in liberal SF Bay Area, that golfers with money and time to burn skew toward conservatives. Hell, I played a whole round with a long-haired, long-bearded winemaker before finding out that he was a staunch Ron Paul advocate.

Okay. My point is that all of the mostly men and, occasionally, women I play with are kind, courteous, and genuine people. We shake hands at the beginning and the end, wish each other well, and say we hope we run into each other again. By and large, I'm sure we mean it.

Not much hate speech out there, except about that friggin' putt.

It makes me wonder: What's with the bile and hate speech one finds in the cable media, the right-wing talk radio (face it, there is almost no left-wing radio), and the blogs? I mean, what gives with this "I hate the freaking other dudes" mentality that permeates our politics? I mean really, what's with it?

When pollsters ask rational, unloaded questions, we find that we're a center-left nation. We find, unsurprisingly, that most people rationally still blame the Bush years for the financial crisis that lingers today. We find that the majority of people think we were sold a bill of goods about Iraq and that we shouldn't have gone to war there. We find that the majority of citizens would accept higher taxes if it saved or preserved Social Security or Medicare. We find that a majority of people would prefer higher taxes if it helped our country and agree that the wealthy should pay their fair (higher) share because we all paid for the America they were lucky enough to get rich in.

For almost all of the crucial controversies, most people tend to buy into the center-left philosophy. This holds true for abortion, birth control, gay rights, sex education, military spending, etc. The only place where viewpoints -- from a liberal, humanist perspective -- go awry is with gun control and the death penalty. This is sad, but it's true. But, roughly speaking, Americans aren't unbalanced.

There's a caveat here. Views in the southern states (basically the Sun Belt sans New Mexico) diverge from the general North American view, as do the northern Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The Dakotas maybe, too, plus Kansas and Nebraska. I leave to you to figure out why.

But even in these regions where I worry their views are too skewed to the right, I'd probably enjoy a round of golf and even a round of drinks with the vast majority I'd meet. I do suppose it would help if we avoided politics. And if we did avoid politics (and maybe gun control, the death penalty, and religion), I suggest it would be hard to distinguish between the raving idiot and the genteel person. We actually are built, in this day and age in America, to get along.

Does this guy really speak for you?

Please remember that the next time you hear a political statement, especially from the peanut gallery of Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Ann Coulters, Sarah Palins, and their ilk. Ask yourself this question: What is their motivation and what are they hoping to accomplish? If it's to help Americans to have happier, more productive lives, great. If it isn't, then turn off the TV or the radio. And play some golf.

Home, home on the range.

Note. I didn't provide any links for my suppositions on the general center-left views of this nation. I simply offered what I've observed and researched over the years. If you disagree, find the polling and post a comment to let me know. I suspect -- or I wouldn't have said it -- you'll find essentially what I've said to be true. Again, let me know.

Romney's Tax Return Rules: We Pass Them Around Like Baseball Cards, but Not to You

Romney's vacation home, which isn't releasing any tax returns, either.

We've already figured out that Mitt Romney is a very privileged man and in many ways accords those privileges directly to himself without noting any awareness of how active minds might view it. I've watched this kind of behavior over a lifetime of being in the blood world, fer chrissake. I've had a couple of dozen businesses and/or jobs, and in all of these pursuits I've noticed self-important people. They're hard to miss.

Rather than describe them all, let me offer a typical quote from one of these types: "You do know who I'm am, don't you?" To which the answer could be "Yes," "No," or "I don't know who you are, but I can tell you're a fucking idiot, too bad I'm you're waiter and need this lousy job."

Mitt Romney would easily fall in the last category except he's in a very special category that's limited mostly by genes or the luck of the draw. He was born privileged and has never lived outside of his class's compound, you know the one where there are few people who say, "You're rich, in charge, but it's obvious you still a fucking idiot." People who say that are variously known as ex-chauffeurs, ex-gardeners, ex-housekeepers, or even the occasional ex-attorney. People like Romney tend to have people whose job it is to be middlemen between them and the people who call them fucking idiots, so it's likely he hasn't ever had many, if any, such moments.

Release my tax returns? I'm running for president, for pete's sake!

That's why he makes weird rookie mistakes while trying to run for the highest office in the land. How he's handling his and other's tax returns is a case in point. Here's how it lays out:
  • He releases one incomplete tax return for 2010 and claims that he intends to release his 2011 tax return at some date, maybe in October. That's all, folks.
  • His running mate, Paul Ryan, is offering the last two years, in keeping with the campaign's practice, as established by Fearless Leader.
  • Mitt Romney, when he was in the running for McCain's veep choice, submitted twenty-three years of returns.
  • Paul Ryan, at the request of Fearless Leader, submits ten years of tax returns to be considered to be Fearless Leader's veep choice.
Now, it's apparent, one would think at this juncture, that Mitt Romney must think we're bleeding, fucking idiots to accept this as anything but unmitigated gall and nonsense. But here's the thing: He doesn't. He grew up -- and has never really been offered an opportunity to suss it out -- believing that the rules don't apply to him.

What's worse is the likelihood that he doesn't even know that there are rules, conventions, whatever you want to call them, that govern the elite's behavior. Well, folks, he's right, from his perspective. So there's only one thing the collective American will can do, and that is to reject a man like Mitt Romney, just don't let him get away with the kind of contempt he displays toward the American people.

Mitt's La Jolla home: no tax returns here, only loopholes.

Now, just to lay it out: Mitt Romney thinks he deserves to see more tax returns from Paul Ryan than the American people, aka voters, deserve. He thinks that John McCain deserves to see more of Mitt Romney's tax returns than the American people deserve.

And it's fun to remember that, after reviewing Mitten's tax returns, John McCain chose as running mate one Sarah Palin, mostly likely because she was one crazy-sexy-pretty hockey with more lipstick than a mama grizzly.  Also, maybe her tax returns didn't blow.

Here are some links. The Daily Beast spills on the beans on Ryan's tax returns. The same story verified how many tax returns (23) Mitt gave to Steve McQueen John McCain. Here's the NY Times reiterating Mitt's stance. The google hasn't yet shown me how many tax returns Palin submitted to McCain. Here's a Politico story that "explains" why McCain chose Palin over Romney. Believe it at your peril.

My advice for likely voters is, one, plain just don't vote for someone who holds you in contempt, and two, write, email, phone, or submit comments to every person, congressman, reporter, newspaper, or magazine that you think might send the message on to the Mittster: Give us your tax returns. Man up and act like your father. Otherwise, stay away from government and go find a corporation, cuz they're people, too, my friend. Just pray they don't want to see your tax returns, too.