Saturday, June 30, 2012

Progressive Derecho

I just liked the name--a series of thunderstorms which create winds of hurricane levels. The damage here is just two huge branches down and internet off. But over 1 million residents in the D.C. area are without energy and even water in some places. The temperature has hit 105. More storms are expected tonight with less severity.

Have you noticed how much we talk about weather these days compared to the more recent past? The chairman of ExxonMobil said this week that global warming is real and that humankind contributes mightily to it. But he said we just have to adapt to it.

Meanwhile the Western states aren't adapting so well as President Obama informed us in his weekly address from Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs,a haven of libertarians, complained as their homes were burning down that the federal government was not doing enough and blamed President Obama. The specific charge against President Obama was that he cut back funding for the tankers who can spray water on the forest fires. This was widely circulated in the Colorado papers with refutations about the utility of these tankers. In D.C., President Obama was seen as using his incumbency in a swing state to show he was presidential. I remember a candidate Obama helping out in the Iowa floods during 2008. I haven't seen Mitt Romney anywhere near a natural disaster yet. For his part, President Obama has been quite on his toes reacting to natural disasters, which seem to grow by the month,in an attempt to counter the criticisms leveled against President Bush and his non-reaction to Hurricane Katrina.

We heard that the Tea Party will return in full force on July 4th to start the campaign for repealing the Healthcare Bill. Like 2010, they argue this is a great trampling on freedom. I don't see how you are freer sick, impoverished and thrown off health insurance. In their strange logic, wouldn't you think that people who refuse to get health insurance are free-loaders or moochers? I'm sorry this leaves me cold. Tea Party "leaders" are starting to argue that the time has come for a national insurrection because of the healthcare bill. Bruce Bartlett had a mean quip,"The Supreme Court that can make you buy health insurance is the Supreme Court which can also make you serve African-Americans in a restaurant." The feel of this manufactured outrage has a lot of the animosity of expressed during the days of the civil rights movement. With a hot summer, who knows where it will lead.

Another day and another media barrage of conservatives raging against the largest tax increase in history. We've already gone over this but it is interesting to note that the increase in fees primarily rests on medical and health care businesses that don't follow the law. These were already known and were a reason that the health insurance industry spent $250 million to lobby against the bill. The other fee people forget is the tax on so-called "Cadillac" health insurance plans that few middle class Americans have.

The Republican governors are mounting a real guard action against the healthcare plan by refusing to extend Medicare coverage, a key element to reaching poorer people, and by refusing to create the health insurance exchanges. If you actually believe in markets to govern insurance premiums as the Republicans claim, then you should applaud exchanges and implement them. The exchanges in my opinion will be the engine to enlarge the number of the insured.

For all the talk that the healthcare bill will kill jobs, the CBO has pointed out it will generate about 4 million jobs. 

The kicker with all this verbiage from the Right is that the health insurance industry will be giving more than $1 billion in rebates to individuals and companies because they did not follow the caps on administrative costs. Will we see this reported anywhere when it happens? 

A doctor writing on a left-wing blog speaks about the benefits of the healthcare bill but talked about how health costs have risen over the last 3 decades. I do not know whether it is true but he blames this in part on the Reagan-era law where everyone who goes to the emergency room must be treated. He says that emergency room treatment is far more expensive than any other kind and drove the costs up and they were spread to those who were insured. Interesting theory. 

I saw that my BFD Transportation Act got covered today in the New York Times. It seems to me that "Job, Jobs,Jobs" Boehner should have touted this as one of his great achievements since it really will create jobs. 

The Transportation Act creates or saves 3 million jobs. The Healthcare Act creates over 4 million jobs. That is seven times the jobs created during the eight years of the Bush era. At this rate, we may still have an economy left.

Do you have a feeling we have lost the narrative for this election? I got the anti-Obama part but now what are the issues? Governance against no-governance? Obey the 1% versus Change? So far I have no idea what Romney's policies are. All I know is that the entire Healthcare program will cost only 50% of the costs of the tax cuts Romney will give the top 10%. I guess the choice is what kind of America do you want and what kind of Supreme Court will make that possible.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How Can You Sleep At Nights?

**John Lennon to Paul McCartney amid feud.

No, 22 million Americans with health insurance will not lose their policies because of Obamacare.

No, Obamacare does not add trillions to the national debt. In fact by the year 2021, it will cut $193 billion from the debt.

No, Mitt Romney can not repeal it on his first day of office.

No, it isn't the largest tax increase in history. Of the 21 million uninsured Americans, roughly 4 million might--might--pay a penalty ranging from $625 to $2,000+ depending on their income level. But there is no means to collect such a fine and no coercive power in the law. According to the architect of Romneycare, less than 1% in Massachusetts pay any penalties.

And students should only get the level of education they can afford. Really? Mitt Romney really said that.

Is Mitt Romney actually a serious candidate for President? He has trumpeted his opposition to the healthcare law, which is almost identical to his own in Massachusetts, to the tune of securing $4 million in small contributions to his campaign. But all of this has been done by lying, even bigger lying than anything he has said during the race. Blogger Steve Benen has pioneered the research of Romney's chronic lying but it seems it has gotten worse.

I am distressed that he has gotten away with it so long and so often. The new Romney,unlike the new Nixon, seems to have blended his identification with the .5% and the tea party and embraced the crude and cruel rhetoric of the new Republican Party. The media only eggs him on by not challenging his statements or demanding the concretes of policy. It seems to me that the spin machine of the Republicans still works but there is no evidence of any ability to govern or desire to govern. They have evolved beyond Thomas Franks' The Wrecking Crew. 

Today, the spokesman for the Romney campaign said that Obama was not presidential, when his campaign sold t-shirts saying "Still BFD" referring to healthcare. But the same spokesman encouraged hecklers of presidential rallies and refuses to acknowledge the obnoxious behavior of the Brooks Brothers hoodlums surrounding its campaign. 

That is why the prospects of a Romney victory are rather chilling. There have been few times during the campaign that he showed any empathy for what Americans are going through. Instead, he tries to use economic calamity as a weapon against the President.  And while he boasts America will revive within two years of his election, there are no concrete proposals. There isn't even the release of his tax returns. 

It seems to me that arguing endlessly over Obamacare is beating a dead horse, even if you actually made the horse to begin with. The Republicans will Repeal the Healthcare bill on July 11, knowing full well that it is a meaningless gesture on the par of the contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Democrats are beginning to again show their own ambivalence about the healthcare reform and looking for conspiracies where there are none such as Judge Roberts writings about the Commerce Clause. Instead, they should be highlighting the absolutely atrocious dissent by Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. That is the future if Romney wins the election. 

It seems President Obama is fighting this election with one hand behind his back. It is not up to him to call out Romney on every lie because that will broadcast it even louder. But Democrats after an historic achievement should trumpet this without the usual calls for the public option, lament that the health insurance industry will benefit. And the Democrats can't fall into the usual passive attitude when they are charged with raising taxes. The tax issue is losing its effective clout and they should point out--which they did not in 2010--that President Obama actually cut taxes and that those with health insurance will not pay penalties. 

It is as if the Republicans latched on to the only thing in their defeat yesterday, Justice Roberts calling the penalty a tax. So within minutes people like Senator Lindsey Graham was on television decrying Obamacare as a huge tax increase. Democrats must counter this with insisting on the benefits of the bill to all Americans--including me. They can not allow one of their greatest achievements since Medicare to be framed as a tax issue. On that, they can't allow Romney to get away with the Tea Party lie that Obamacare cuts Medicare by $500 million. I guess Republicans like Rick Scott are nostalgic for the days when they could loot Medicare.

Enough has seeped into our politics recently to show that Americans are remaining level-headed so far. Obama has his largest lead over Romney since April and leads all national polls as of today. The Gallup tracking poll actually has him at 48 to 43. But this is likely to be temporary given future job reports to come.

Democratic operatives have criticized the Obama campaign for its Bain ads but all polls and focus groups show they are working. Another theme that is growing is that Republicans are to blame for obstructing progress made by the President. Polls have shown 50% of Americans are responding to this argument and others show that 42% agree that Republicans are holding up an economic recovery. The Campaign has to keep pounding on this theme.

I was delighted to see today that the White House urged Democrats to start fighting back against the barrage of Republican misinformation. It is about time. 

The Next B.F.D. But No One Will Notice

The United States today will have it first transportation bill in five years. The last one ended in 2009 and simply limped along with a series of temporary extensions. You would be forgiven if you forgot John Kerry's idea of an infrastructure bank and the rare unity between the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO urging Congress to pass more infrastructure funding last fall. 

The news story will be that student loans will retain their low interest rates for another year--good news but one year is all they could manage?

The transportation bill passed both the House and Senate and is on the way to the President's desk as I write. The Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012 allocates $109 billion for highway construction and maintenance , mass transit costs, and various fuel efficient projects. That and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are meant to be five-year programs. The funding of the outwears remains sketchy. 

Why a BFD? Because Obama campaigned for this highlighting the deteriorating bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky--the constituencies of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the infrastructure of the United States a "D" and points out we are lagging behind the rest of the world. 

This bill makes some advance in this area but most importantly it creates or saves 3 million jobs. Most of the funding will go to States and local cities and ,unfortunately, many will use these funds simply for their highway systems. But, given the political situation in the capital, this is a BFD because no one thought it could be done. Naturally it was passed so late it can not help Obama in his re-election campaign but this is another mini-stimulus package with real benefits.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


++Mitt Romney continues to fund-raise on the decision, banking over $2 million at this point.

++Mitt Romney's full view of the decision sounded like a House Republican mime. "It was bad law yesterday and it is bad law today." Besides, in case, you never heard it Obamacare is a "job-killer" as the vast majority of the American Chamber of Commerce will tell you. However, the story is slightly different for small businesses which get tax credits to take advantage of it.

++Erickson at Redstate writes, "John Roberts just made Romney president."

++Charles Krauthammer actually had a decent op-ed praising Judge Roberts' attitude and decision even though he disagreed with the vote. Krauthammer talks about Roberts' sense of higher duty as the chief justice of the entire court and how he is committed to restoring the court's credibility. He also points out how he remains a conservative judge by his attempt to limit the Commerce Clause. It reads like Krauthammer is a little fed up with the tenor of political discussion in Washington and wanted to try out higher themes.

++Judge Roberts, the hero of conservatives in Citizens United, has become a turncoat and right-wing pundits are trying to float the mantra "Impeach Roberts". 

++Louie Gohmert has a better idea. He wants to open an investigation of Elaine Kagan because he thinks there was a conflict of interest in her voting. He didn't mention Clarence Thomas' conflict of interest with a wife who campaigned with the teapartiers against the healthcare law.

++One writer observed that Mitt Romney is trying to energize the base by exploiting the decision but has failed to articulate his own alternatives. Instead, Romney wants the status quo, even abandoning his own Massachusetts model. The problem this writer says is that the United States doesn't want the status quo but is fed up with the current healthcare system. The American people have lived with the current health insurance industry for the past 30 years and wants to be done with it.

++Supporters of the healthcare bill say it just will not be repealed, even if Republicans win the White House, Senate and retain the House. The reason is that the popular aspects of the bill are just becoming known and some just taking place. You simply can not repeal the law with a single page but instead that single page becomes 50 and then you have to restore all the popular provisions. Besides, you would have the Democrats filibuster. It just won't happen. What the Supreme Court did today was legitimize the Healthcare bill since Republicans have waged two years against it claiming it was unconstitutional. While Republicans hold the same view today, what about independents and moderates?

++Former Senator Bennett, who had been ousted by a tea bagger, said "Healthcare reform is now here to stay." Bennett, a conservative Republican,doesn't like Obamacare but says that no one has come up with anything better and that he in fact favors the individual mandate.

++Be prepared for the return of the old mantra, Obamacare is the largest tax hike in history. Rush Limbaugh today claimed the IRS was Obama's private army and you might remember the old claim that thousands more IRS agents will have to be hired to monitor the compliance of the mandate. Naturally, the penalties on the individual mandate will be marginal at best and very few people will pay anything but you will hear this throughout the campaign.

++Meanwhile Howard Dean, one of the most level-head commentators about healthcare reform, told the Morning Joe that the individual mandate is really irrelevant. Dean, who pioneered health reform in Vermont, said that the Americans overwhelmingly want to buy health insurance if it is affordable. He pointed to the development of the health insurance exchanges as the salvation for the program. Vastly enlarging the pool will cut health insurance costs and those poorer will get subsidies. He believes that with the provisions in there now enough Americans will take advantage of it to make the individual mandate moot. He taunted the tea baggers saying if they want to go without health insurance in this circumstance, let them.

++Think Progress posted ten reasons the Republicans won't be able to repeal Obamacare. It is worth a read. 

++The left is concerned about the limitations by the decision on the expansion of the Medicaid program. We will have to see whether they are right. As for the concerns about he Commerce Clause, there again progressives felt that Roberts put that in there to argue cases down the road for further de-regulation.

++But like it or not a right-wing court ratified the role of the federal government to make policy, contrary to the tea baggers, admitted Congress can pass large social policy bills and basically affirmed the whole notion of a President attempting to rectify a national crisis--something most commentators are loath to admit.

++The Republicans are now changing their line once again. They are moving away from hiding behind the constitution and just arguing it is bad policy. Mitch McConnell reiterated this point this afternoon when he acknowledged it was constitutional but said the Congress must work beginning today to repeal it.

++It's great to criticize President Obama for actually having a health reform plan but it is another to put one forth on your own. The Divisions within the Republican Party are so deep that an alternative policy is not possible. The battle cry of "Repeal and Replace" of 2010 has no replacements in it. And to raise one now would undercut the basic message about this election being a referendum on Obama.

++The GOP's deliberate coupling of the healthcare decision with the contempt citation for Eric Holder simply bombed. Eric Holder is the first Attorney-General of the United States cited with contempt by Congress. Obvious to all, he is the first African-American Attorney-General. The covert message was heard loud and clear but the story was eaten up by the Healthcare decision all day.

++How this plays out in the election depends on the Obama Campaign being able to aggressively sell the positive provisions in the bill, something they never did before. And increasingly, the election looks like organization against finances and whether people will turn out in significant numbers.

++One classy bit was the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party wondering aloud if it was time for armed insurrection. 

Random Observations on SCOTUS ruling

++Mitt Romney vowed in his first statement that he would repeal Obamacare his first day in office. What was particular was that Romney didn't offer any alternatives as his policy going into the election .

++Republicans are seizing on the Supreme Court's argument for the mandate as a tax. So naturally, Obama raised everyone's taxes. Actually the real mechanics of how the mandate would work reveals that only a very tiny segment of the population would actually pay such a fee, the rest would be given tax credits and subsidies.

++Eric Cantor said that the House would vote on totally repealing Obamacare the week after the July 4th vacation. It is almost like asking sitting members to vote for Paul Ryan's budget again. I'm not so sure that voting against the many popular provisions is a surefire to win votes.

++David Frum says that repeal is a fantasy. He outlined when the ACA was passed that it was a dark day for conservatives, which they could capitalize on in a short term (The 2010 elections) but that as the provisions become known the American people will actually like it and feel entitled to it.

++Women won a big victory today because the law prohibits health insurance companies from charging higher premiums for women than men, something that is a standard practice.

++The extreme right has been tweeting they will move to Canada. Like Rush Limbaugh's pledge to move to Costa Rica when Obamacare is implemented,it is peculiar that conservatives select countries with national healthcare systems.

++The President actually thought the bill had been overturned because of the snafus by CNN and Fox, which trumpeted the defeat of the individual mandates. D.C. wags suggest this was the President's Truman moment where he would be photographed with the Chicago Tribune saying Dewey won.

++The health care ruling ranks with Medicare and Medicaid as the largest expansion of health care in 45 years. While observers debated over the meaning of the Supreme Court's cautious approval of the expansion of Medicare,this will prove an enormous benefit to the uninsured and the poorest among us.

++Does anyone get the sense that today's contempt vote against Attorney General Holder was meant as the double sammy against Obama. To time the vote on the day of the Supreme Court ruling was a no accident. If healthcare had gone down and Attorney General Holder was cited with contempt,the double act would have been fodder for ads to demonstrate the president was weak and ineffective. Now it seems like sour grapes, particularly now that Fast and Furious has been exposed as a phony crisis.

++The healthcare ruling cements President Obama's first term as an historic achievement. Whether he can generate momentum from this victory is yet to be seen. Within an hour of the decision, the Romney campaign had raised $400,000.

++I can't help but think that Romney now has to scramble. He muffed his moment on immigration. He actually did offer some constructive ideas when he talked to the Latino community, except those ideas went counter to his primary statements. He is stuck with his endorsement of the Arizona law, which was struck down except for the Papers Please clause, its most controversial component. Now the Supreme Court has ratified Romneycare and he must campaign against the decision. How do you do that? Do you refute all the popular provisions and say you would keep them and then attack the mandate? And if you do, don't you argue against your only achievement as Governor? 

++The Most amusing reactions have been the psychobabble on Justice Roberts. Why he endorsed the mandate? Why he became the swing vote? Did he really back Kennedy's dissent and change sides? Did he sneak a poison pill in the decision about the limits of the Commerce Clause?

++MSNBC got the ruling right but was criticized early for doing so. Then they had a live feed for Boehner's reaction, which never came as he said he would comment later. He was clearly blown away by the decision. 

++Nancy Pelosi did spike the football because she had played such a pivotal role as Speaker in getting it passed. She had Mrs. Ted Kennedy, Victoria, at her side to remember Senator Kennedy's lifelong dream of this day. 

++The entire trade union movement hailed the decision and promised to keep agitating for more change. The NEA was the most effusive pointing out what it means for kids--alot.

++The bettors on Intrade took a pounding as they had driven the odds up to over 70% that it would be reversed.

++The astroturf organizations like Americans for Prosperity claimed it was a travesty. Scott Walker said he would not implement the law. Our head tea bagger Senator de Mint from South Carolina vowed to use nullification against the law. Rand Paul basically called out the Supreme Court as no longer an institution deciding what is constitutional. It all sounded like the Supreme Court just allowed blacks to vote--and not that Americans have the right to healthcare.

++Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli bragged that the wording of the section on expanding Medicare would allow him to save $100 of millions for the state because he won't allow it to occur.

++From here on, it is best to ignore the complaints about the Healthcare bill. What has been ratified serves as a good platform for ensuring the whole country and not the wealthy have access to healthcare. What are slight problems can be tweaked to work better. Think of it this way--we are becoming more like Switzerland, which does mandate every individual pay for healthcare.


For millions of people who are already benefiting from the Affordable Healthcare Act,the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court is a huge relief. Justice Roberts could not afford another disaster and he became the swing vote. 

Basically, the entire bill was upheld with minor corrections to the expansion of Medicare by the States. But that is getting into the weeds.

Politically, it gives everyone something--the American people healthcare opportunities and the Right something to scream about. Who it benefits? Right now it is a huge achievement by President Obama but it may well energize Republicans to defeat him. Presidents since Harry Truman have sought a reform of our healthcare system and President Obama achieved it.

Progressives thinking the whole enterprise was doomed started pushing single-payer the last few days. While that may be the ultimate solution, our political environment is no where near accepting that notion and it would only polarize the situation even more. 

President Obama's task is to educate Americans on the provisions in the Healthcare Act. So far he has done a poor job allowing the extreme right to set the tone of the debate. Broken down Americans by large numbers back the individual provisions but overall disapprove the bill because they think the Government is now dictating the decisions of individuals.

It will be interesting to hear the Romney campaign on the decision since it only ratified his own health plan in Massachusetts. Also, strangely enough, the Heritage Foundation's idea of an individual mandate is now law but they renounced it when it was passed by Congress. I expect to hear a lot of chaff from House Republicans vowing to repeal the whole shebang. The past week has seen Republicans stumbling all over themselves to promise keeping the provisions that are popular. Personally, I would rather be in Obama's shoes than Romney's.

Credit should be given to Justice Roberts for navigating the ideological waters and reaching the proper conclusion. A declaration that the law was unconstitutional would have foreclosed any possibility that Congress could adopt any wide-ranging programs to address any major problems in the future.

The question no one seems to ask or answer is why did President Obama bring this to the Court,knowing its controversial nature in his election year? Prior to 2010, it is true, no serious judge believed the individual mandate could be ruled unconstitutional. However, the relentless propaganda over the last two years actually created conditions where the inconceivable was suddenly possible. Obamacare will be placed center stage in the election and it will be interesting to see how the optics are when Romney debates a settled matter. Will voters think he is beating a deadhorse or actually be incensed by the Court's actions?

From a personal perspective, I can cover my son until he is 26th--a major deal for a budding musician. I eventually can join "exchanges" which should provide lower cost health plans. I will not have a ceiling in case something catastrophic happens. It probably means that I will avoid bankruptcy from medical bills but probably from other things. So thanks, Barack.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blue Time

++The hit today is Fortune's investigative piece on Fast and Furious. If you didn't understand it before, forget what you think you know and start over again.

++The NRA has announced it will mark down representatives who do not vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of court.

++The Black Caucus has vowed to walk out on the Contempt vote.

++Some Democrats from conservative districts are crossing lines and voting to hold the Attorney-General in contempt, although several officials from all administrations are always held in contempt. For history's sake, they should capture the Attorney-General and hold him in a cell in the House.

++Tomorrow is the day Washington has been waiting for The Supreme Court on Affordable Healthcare. Most pundits have written that the Supreme Court will toss at least the individual mandate and maybe the whole thing. The disaster that would ensure will not be believed. However, Robert Reich again predicts a 6-3 vote but his reasoning is all political and I don't think the 5 consider that they are in disgrace. SCOTUSBLOG very timidly predicts--not with a lot of confidence--that the mandate will not be invalidated tomorrow. SCOTUSBLOG is the place to read the decision first as this two person blog has expanded exponentially over the last few years after being sponsored by Bloomberg Law. It is the place for all Supreme Court Watchers.

++Fox News now has Obama 45-Romney 40 when last week both were tied at 43.

++By a two-thirds margin, Americans believe Barack Obama would protect the country best from an invasion by space aliens.

++Nate the Great has Obama with a slight uptick after the polls from the swing states. He has Obama with a 65.1% chance of winning. Obama at 293 Electoral Votes and Romney at 244. 

You Ain't Got a Thing,If You Don't Have The Swing

Checking back into the poll-a-sphere, Obama leads nationally by about 3,taking into account Gallup's tracking polls, but has increased leads in the Swing States by about 8. The NBC/WSJ poll has Obama ahead of Romney by 50 to 42 in the swing States but only ahead 47 to 42 nationally.  Both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls have it a horse race.

Quinnipiac University released Swing State polls today that shows Obama leading in Ohio by 9,in Pennsylvania by 6 and by 4 in Florida, after recent polls showed Romney inching forward. In Florida, Obama enjoys a 2 to 1 lead among Hispanics. 

Obama has steadied his position in Colorado as PPP shows him winning 49 to 42 and Rasmussen agrees with 48 to 43. Both PPP and Rasmussen shows Obama winning Michigan by 53 to 39 and 50-42 respectfully after two Michigan polls showed Romney in the lead.

For a hoot, PPP polled Massachusetts and found Obama beating the state's former Governor 55 to 39.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that Romney's favorability ratings have dropped in the Midwest after the Obama campaign ran Bain ads and the latest one of Romney as an outsourcer of jobs. Romney's much vaunted business career is currently seen as a negative by voters. 

Voters still like President Obama and most importantly 6 in 10 maintain he inherited the economy. What is very telling is that 58% of Romney voters are backing Mitt because they are against Obama. But, 72% of Obama voters are casting their ballots for the President because they are for him.

In the Daily Kos analysis of the combined polls, their electoral vote count went from 270 to 259 for Obama on June 14 to a 326 to 212 count today. Even they said that the first count could have been reversed if Romney had been ahead in Michigan and Ohio as his campaign claimed. 

What is remarkable is how steady the polling of the popular vote has been and how consistent Obama's strength has been so far. 

One of the interesting polls was the one conducted by Gallup which showed that the average voter doesn't believe either man can have much effect on the economy. And this might explain why Romney hasn't been able to make this a referendum on Obama. First, voters believe Obama inherited a Depression and secondly, they now believe you can't do much more for the economy. Romney himself has promised an economic revival the minute he is elected. By all accounts, every economist believes that a stronger recovery will come by 2014 hell or high water.

Slight Note on the Egyptian Election

Watching the returns of the Egyptian presidential elections in Europe, I was struck by the difference in reactions from the United States and England. A British panel basically discussed how the Egyptians had experienced voter fatigue after voting in several free elections and that the choice in the presidential election was between two bland, dull uninspiring candidates. The British commentators suggested, not without cause, that the delay in the announcement of the results was because of back channel discussions between the army and all the political parties to ensure a peaceful result. 

The American commentators stressed concerns about whether the winner would ensure the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty and whether the Egyptian people would accept the outcome, suggesting that the delay might be the result of cooking the books.

The overseas CNN broadcast had the endless statement of the head of the Electoral Commission. This was the deadliest hour statement you can imagine. The head of the Electoral Commission first defended himself from the abuse he received from all parties and the accusations challenging his integrity. The second part of his statement consisted of detailing each polling place where some votes were annulled and why. The total amount was actually minuscule compared to the whole turnout. By this time CNN commentators were cutting in and out discussing when the result would be announced as Egyptians headed to Tahir Square.

The importance of the Egyptian election can not be overstated. This was the first democratic presidential election in the modern history of Egypt. The criticism by those who spearheaded the toppling of the Mubarak regime was that this devolved into a contest between the Moslem Brotherhood, which had no primary role in the events 18 months ago, and Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. This was precisely the paradigm the people of Tahir Square was trying to change.

As for our friend at the Electoral Commission, he resembled all presidents of such commissions when they have to publicly announce the results--all technical aspects of the election and the result for them is secondary. His statement was to assert the commission's transparency and to set out the argument to refute any challenges to the electoral process itself.

The British commentators were perceptive that there was electoral fatigue. Only 51% of Egyptian's 50 million voters cast their ballots. In other words, the electoral climate was normalized like in the U.S., which barely surpasses that turnout in the Presidential election, with the exception of 2008. Mohammed Morsi , the candidate for the Moslem Brotherhood's party, won with 52%, which should be seen as a positive,showing that there exists a large democratic opposition to his victory. 

Morsi was educated in the United States and had been a professor of engineering in California. Both his daughters are American citizens. Morsi resigned from the Moslem Brotherhood just before the final tally and has promised to create a national unity government. He has floated the possibility of a leftwing woman as a Vice President and a Christian as another Vice President.  While he has said vicious things about the Jewish people, he has openly committed himself to upholding the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty but deeds will be more important than words.

The fact of the matter is that the President has very little power. His authority is not defined constitutionally and the military holds all the effective power. While Morsi promises a democratic system and a respect for all different elements in society and the rule of law, this will be a real challenge for American policy.

The United States provides Egypt with the lion's share of its aid. But the lion's share of that is for military aid, which is dependent on the Egypt-Israeli Treaty. 

The problem is the same for many of the countries of the Arab Spring. The United States must deal with the emergence of the most organized element in these societies which have been repressed, while the drivers of change lack the effective organizational capability to participate to the full extent of their influence. In essence, the Arab Spring has resulted in groups like the Moslem Brotherhood emerging as dominant players while the secular forces emerge weakened once we get into a democratic process. The problem for the United States is that it has too heavily relied on the military component of its foreign aid and has not developed a sophisticated approach to strengthening the liberal components of the civil society so it can compete with the more reactionary elements.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Polls

++So you don't go away cheering the Bloomberg Poll. As Daily Kos points out that it had a much higher non-white vote than either 2008 or 2010. Conversely, Gallup tends to err on the side of too few non-whites.
Gallup's Tracking poll has Romney winning 47-45 and Rasmussen has the identical result.

++Bloggers have asked what gives with these strange polls from Michigan showing Romney in the lead and Huffington Post making the state a "toss-up". Other polls show Obama in the lead. But the Romney campaign has tried out their ad Blitzkreig in Michigan sort of like Guernica, the trial Nazi bombardment of Spain. Over the next month expect this tactic to appear in states out of media range as an experiment for the main event.

++Two more state polls are interesting:
We expect Romney to take Nebraska 52 to 40. But I always find Montana interesting--Romney is over Obama 51 to 42. If Obama were the insurgent candidate of 2008, he could take Montana. That year my rule of thumb was that if Obama could get it under 10 points a week out he could win it.

++The Michigan legislature expelled a Jewish legislator who said the horrible word "Vagina". This triggered thousands of women showing up in Michigan to listen to the Vagina Monologues. It is too bad the media didn't cover her discussion of how Jewish ethics on abortion differed from the right-wing males.

++I didn't forget Greece--a three-party coalition will run the government in order that this poor country remains in the Eurozone.

Where's Willlard

The atmosphere seems to eat Willard's messages about the economy up in thin air. Or it could be the House Republicans voting to go to the whole house to vote contempt against Eric Holder because he only submitted over 6,000 files. I can't even understand Fast and Furious Now and it just looks to be another political stunt by Darryl Issa. 

In his All Towns Left Behind tour Willard was Weird praising WAWAS like Poppi Bush discovering barcodes. Along the way Willard was joined by Paul Ryan, whose budget came under a new attack when studies showed it would increase taxes by a whopping amount on the dwindling Middle Class. The Romney campaign announced they were vetting TPaw, Tim Pawlenty who bowed out of the race before the first primary, and Senator Portman of Ohio. Weird Willard also stopped into Michigan to say he would have bailed out the auto industry better than Obama. The day before the press released that the Romney's declared over $77,000 tax deductions for Ann's horses. The big news for Romney was that Ann's horse made the Olympics.

While Ben Barnacke gave bad news about the economy, the Republicans had several days of Obama is a Tyrant talk, referring to his immigration policy,his declaring Executive Privilege for the first time, and his insisting that Karl Rove should identify the donors to Crossroads,USA. These were the stories for the Fox News telethon against Obama. But it's clear that rightwing meme didn't catch on. Romney has to terminate his phone conference with reporters because they kept asking him about immigration and didn't want to hear his Obama is to blame for the bad economy.

Romney was hailed by the media as the best qualified candidate to run against Obama but his awkwardness has been telling. The Washington Post had to run a piece that Republicans were warming up to him as a "regular guy". Today's Bloomberg poll showing Obama winning by 53 to 40 was revealing because the internals of the polls showed that Americans still liked the President's character and felt that Willard was still out of touch.

Romney refused to silence his supporters who heckle President Obama while David Axelrod criticized Democrats who were protesting Romney's bus tour. Sending the very wrong message, Romney announced he would be holding a fund-raiser at David Koch's Long island mansion. Does one get numb to his blatant pandering to the wealthy or will people respond to this?

In what I thought would be a down cycle for Obama after last week, he remained strong for the last five days, while Willard's message seemed to be drummed out of the news.

Polls Before the Next Bummer

The GOP is still figuring out how to deal with President Obama's Dream Act-lite policy changes. P.S. It was not an Executive Order. 64% of Americans support the move and Hispanic support has continued to grow. For this reason, the Romney people had to reverse their position that Marco Rubio was not being vetted for Vice President. Now, alas, he is but he decided not to introduce his version of the Dream Act to the Senate floor. John Boehner said that the reason the Dream Act was approved was because of President Obama, although the facts are that Republicans filibustered the measure.

The Obama Campaign fears Romney will announce a $100 million month because of all the billionaires donating. 

The whole capital is on pins and needles anticipating the Supreme Court ruling on Healthcare, which only shows how sad it is Americans have to wait for permission to get healthcare since we don't have a system.

So before negative news eats up the next few days, let's review the polls.

A big blast for Obama was the Bloomberg national poll ,which showed Obama a stunning 53% to Romney's 40. But I think more important was the Bloomberg poll on the question,"Are you better off today than when Obama was elected? 45% said they were better off now and 36% said they were worse. This actually improves Obama's chances.

Lots of state polls were released today and if they hold up President Obama will do real well in the West.

Nevada 48-42
Colorado 49-42
Washington 49-41 (Elway)
Washington 53-40
Wisconsin 49-43 (Marquette)
Arizona Romney 49-46 (Project New America),which shows Arizona may become a swing state.
Sam joint has Romney winning Michigan by 2 and Obama winning Iowa by 1.

Election political has Obama at 279 and Romney at 230 with Florida being the only state up for grabs.
Huffington Post has it Obama 253EV and Romney 191EV. 
The Toss-ups are Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. It doesn't take much to believe Obama can pull it out.

It looks like Washington State really will pass a referendum to allow same sex marriage. Polls show overwhelming support.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Before the Deluge

++There hasn't been much poll action. The Gallup and Rasmussen Tracking polls have Romney ahead by 1-2 points but the state polls remain steady. Rasmussen even surprised himself by having President Obama ahead by 8 in Michigan, when there had been two polls with Romney ahead by a 1pt and Obama ahead by less than a pt. Otherwise, we wait for early next week for nationwide polls with  larger base.

++Tomorrow we have the Greek election, which will either trigger the collapse of the Eurozone, or just another muddle through episode.

++The Obama immigration move will affect between 600,000 to 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. Nothing to sneeze at.

++John McCain told Diane Sawyer that the Republican SuperPacs are funneling in foreign money to defeat President Obama. In particular he cited Sheldon Adelson, who owns casinos in Macau as funneling Chinese money to Romney. Because of Citizens United, this is all legal because foreign companies can donate to our campaigns. 

++Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg teased an audience at a liberally leaning constitutional organization that anyone talking about how the Supreme Court will rule on the healthcare issue is either guessing or doesn't know what they are talking about. Even her comments provoked guesses that the individual mandate will be declared unconstitutional but the rest of the law upheld.  But Nancy Pelosi for the second time said she was confident that it would be upheld by a 6-3 vote. We may have this to look forward to this week.

++Mitt Romney's bus tour--well, it's not really a bus tour. He will hop by private plane from stop to stop, while the other campesinos ride by bus. Today, his campaign had to change venues to avoid Democrats.

++If you still watch the Sunday News Shows for all the updates on how white male senior citizens look at politics, you might see Willard appear with Bob Schaeffer for his first non-Fox News interview. That should be just thrilling.

Another BFD by President Obama

++Romney has been waiting as the Republican Congress stonewalls on anything that could benefit the economy and lets his chances increase as bad economic news mounts.

++President Obama can turn the narrative--at least for a short time--by enacting policies that are not blocked by Congress. Yesterday was one of those days and the President, despite a heckler from the Daily Caller, hit one over the fence with his change in immigration policies.

++Have you noticed that once the terrorist threat was contained that the Republicans seem to specialize in provoking anxiety in America by their antics over Social Security, Medicare,Medicaid, reproductive rights and their refusal to pass anything to benefit any American? While President Obama, even though he needs to be pressed, acts in ways to assure anxious Americans. He did this in a big way yesterday.

++You can question his political motives,even the Hispanic community did, but the President deserves credit for rectifying the insane aspects of our immigration policies. The House passed the DREAM ACT in 2010 when the Democrats controlled the house but it never could get voted on in the Senate. So the President announced he would order the respective agencies not to deport undocumented people who came to be the country before the age of 16 and who lived here for five years and went to school and had no criminal records. These undocumented workers would be eligible for working permits. 

++The action is temporary, lasting only two years. But at least you won't see valedictorians being whisked off the stage and deported. 

++Admittedly it is not as extensive as Ronald Reagan's amnesty of over 2 million people but he at least had Congress' support for such a large action.

++The coverage of Obama's actions in the Hispanic media showed what a BFD it was. The change was given banner headlines in all the local Spanish-language media and the major Hispanic networks also trumpeted the news. One irony was that Fox News Latin applauded the action, while the other Fox News denounced it.

++Obama's action put Republicans between a rock and a hard place. Marco Rubio,who was supposed to be drafting similar legislation to help Republicans shore up their lagging Hispanic support, said today he was probably not going ahead with it. The initial Romney response from a spokesman was that, "it was illegal." Congressman Steven King of Iowa said he was going to sue President Obama. 

++But the President's action got support from a very unlikely source Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Conference, who criticized people who said it was amnesty. "It's not amnesty. These people did nothing wrong." He applauded the move because it was the right thing to do. He urged Republicans to immediately ratify it in law. 

++The Attorney-General of Utah certainly didn't win any friends in the Romney campaign but telling the press that the President was "completely within his rights to implement this policy."

++Whenever President Obama does something good or something that is the right thing to do, my rightwing e-mailers go silent. No comment. Crickets.

++Bravo, Mr. President.  It was the right thing to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two Focus Groups

++This morning is all Obama is doomed--Democrats questioning strategy and National security groupies crying that leak probe will bring down Obama. 

++All maybe true and Sheldon Adelson , the Casino mogul and Likud financier, decided to give Romney $10 million for his SuperPac. As Newt Gingrich said yesterday, our elections are rigged for the wealthy.

++Meanwhile in a country far-far-away named America , not Amercia James Carville and Stan Greenberg have been conducting focus groups for the Democracy Corps in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Non-college educated voters and younger college educated voters without prompting told the interviewers that Romney is rich, too out of touch, in the pocket of Wall Street and Big Finance. The group said that Romney would put in policies to keep himself and his class where they are. One working-class women said that,"After years of making so much money, you lose some of your humanity and don't care." 

++Carville and Greenberg found that the Focus Group was extremely sensitive about any cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, disability and food stamps. This also applied to younger respondents who were worried about starting out on a career but not having a safety net in place. The group also was extremely worried and nervous about Paul Ryan's budget, especially his attitude to Social Security and Medicare being turned into voucher care. 

++If people are wondering where the Obama voters are or why he is polling lower than people had thought, WalMart of all people conducted a bipartisan Focus Group in Nevada and found that the group was inclined to President Obama but haven't made a choice yet. Women responded the best to the President saying that three years digging out of the economic mess wasn't enough. Women really didn't like Romney. They felt he was too snooty. Others in the group felt very reluctant to change Presidents at this time. One respondent said that whatever progress had been made would be disrupted by a whole new team being brought in. Another felt he didn't want to learn about a whole new administration. Basically, they were there for the taking if President Obama articulated a future for the middle class.

++The President is supposed to outline the differences between himself and Romney on economic policies tomorrow in Ohio. Romney is supposed to be campaigning with John Boehner in his district tomorrow. A strange message since the press finally is writing about the Republican strategy of sabotaging the economy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There He Goes Again

Weird Willard is trying to sell himself as knowing economics and knows what it takes to create jobs. But he certainly doesn't know about policy. In countering the Obama campaign over his statements about not hiring any more teachers, policemen and firemen, he said it was "completely absurd" he would cut the hiring of police, firefighters and teachers because the federal government plays no part in these decisions.

This is the type of statement by an alleged politician that drives me nuts. Michael McAuliffe in today's Huffington Post comes to the rescue to show how absurd Romney's statements are. And I would add how out of touch the man is about policies that have been in place for years,including the time when he was governor of Massachusetts.

First off, the federal government pays 11% of the country's public school budgets. Under Title 1, which targets disadvantaged schools, which Romney obviously doesn't know anything about,there is $14.5 billion dollars, the bulk going to personnel costs. And the individuals with Disabilities Act is at $11.6 billion in 2012,much of which is devoted to the hiring of teachers.

Remember Bill Clinton crowing about his putting more cops on the streets? The Community Oriented Policing Services enacted in 1994 was a billion a year for its first eight years. In 2010, separate from the stimulus was $298 million for 1,388 officers. In 2010,$247 million for 1,000 officers, and for 2011, $111 million for 800 officers. As of January 2011, the Congressional Research Office claims that the COPS program paid for the hiring of 117,000 officers.

Now remember last year's fights about FEMA and whether President Obama was responding quick enough to the wildfires in Texas? In 2009 and 2010, FEMA had $630 million in grants to hire 3,400 firefighters and in 2011-2012 another $640 million. And I am sure the states of Colorado and New Mexico are using these funds today.

I have noticed Republicans have become abtuse to the policies they have voted on in the past and are no longer able to argue real-world policies. But I think if you are running for President and once actually sat in the governor's seat you should no the basics of these points. I may go over well with the tea baggers who seem totally oblivious to what government does for the general welfare but it is alarming that someone running for the President reveals he doesn't know. 

Romney's advantage is that he can message with tweet like notes as President Obama commented today. But the advantage for President Obama and the Democrats is they have a grasp of policy. Their job is to articulate it.

The Wonderful, Wacky Word of Weird Willard

++By the way, PPP's latest national poll has President Obama 50 to Romney 42. Nate Silver has Obama with 291.x electoral votes. 

++But we digress. Today was a treasure trove of zany ideas put out by Romney and which I am sure will not draw the attention they deserve. Romney's educational adviser Margaret Spelling of the Bush Administration stepped aside because she said that she believes in a strong role of the federal government in education. Willard, it seems,told the Chamber of Commerce that he wants to combine $50 billion in the educational budget to introduce "vouchers" for schools and give tax credits to parents who "home school" children. Diane Ravitch, no slouch to these tricks, said Romney's plan would provide funding for schools that teach creationism and ,in fact, the vouchers would be aimed at church schools, providing Catholic schools with the much needed infusion of funds. However,such a plan would severely cripple any public school system. No wonder he doubled down on saying he didn't want to hire teachers.

++Then Romney spoke about introducing a "consumer-oriented" health care system based on market principles. Of course, the system of state exchanges in Obamacare would introduce competitive pricing of insurance plans and reduce premiums because they would enlarge the insurance pool. But instead of that,Romney wants individuals to be able to purchase insurance plans like businesses, naturally urging businesses not to cover their employees. So when you have a heart attack you can shop around for the best price until EMS shows up. This is the natural conclusion of Romney's plan to finally loot the country of its last resources. 

++He didn't stop. He also wants to send Medicare to the states for them to administer and regulate as well as Medicare would be block grants.

++He's lucky the Republicans stepped on his message today in their tantrum on Eric Holder. First, John McCain demanded a Special Prosecutor to look into the national security leaks because he doesn't trust Eric Holder. Senator Cornyn wants Eric Holder to resign because he claims he committed perjury. Rep. Issa is going to hold a hearing about contempt charges against  Eric Holder for the Fast and Furious investigation. And all of this got heavy duty treatment on Fox News as if it was the Monica Lewinsky affair. One Republican staffer said, "We just want to let the economy be the news, not this." It looks to obvious that the Republicans are ginning something up to embarrass the President. They detest Eric Holder, especially now that he is going after violations of the Voting Act in South Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania.

++Meanwhile, always wanting to help the economy, Mitch McConnell told the Senate Republican caucus that nothing will be passed on the economy until after the election. Eric Cantor also has stiffed John Boehner on any transportation bill.

++How outside the realm of reality will the Congressional GOP go and how weird will Romney get. The problem is that Romney's bizarre policy ideas, ideas that can only benefit religious organizations and corporations,are not seeing the light of day. This is the Wrecking Crew on steroids.

We Don't Want No Stinkin' Teachers

++The great Obama gaffe, which got all the media atwitter, the contempt hearings on Attorney General Holder, the car crash of the Commerce Secretary and the flagging economy were part of the President's worse week. Take in mind that nothing really happened politically. So how did he fare with the polls--his approval rating hit 50% in the Gallup poll. 

++Meanwhile Romney thinking he has the President on the ropes lashed out at teachers, firefighters and the police saying that the lessons of Wisconsin was that people don't want the government to hire anymore. When even Scott Walker comes out and criticizes Romney on this saying,"teachers, police and firefighters aren't what I mean by Big Government", you have a problem. Romney's remark also coincided with some of the largest fires in the Western states. But in the new GOP tradition, he doubled down on telling states that as President he wouldn't help them.

++The Obama campaign cut several ads taking on Romney's statement and also pointing out that he did the same to Massachusetts. The Obama campaign, which had been criticized for taking on Bain Capitol, has found their Bain ads are very effective in the swing states as one working class member of the focus groups said, "They scare the hell out of me." 

++Romney has announced he will go on one of those awful bus tours of Swing states, including Michigan, in the next month. Mark Halperin, who becomes more of a hack every day, said Michigan would make it a game-changer. Democrats are complaining to the Obama people that they have spent not a dime in advertising in Michigan while Romney is pouring money in.

++Old focus groups in 2002 have surfaced that women find Romney "snobby" and are less likely to vote for him because of his condescension. Better for his incredible anti-woman's policies.

++While Hispanics still favor Obama by an extraordinary 45 points, Hispanic leaders met with the President to complain about his immigration policy. After all, he has deported over 1 million Latinos in the last three years. They have a point but the GOP never picked up on it.

++Jeb Bush has been drummed out of the Republican Party for saying that there was no room in the party anymore for Ronald Reagan and his father George H.W. Bush because of the intolerance for compromise and taxes. Grover Norquist, the Grand Inquisitor, loudly lambasted Jeb and falsely praised Reagan for his tax policies.

++Alan Lichter appeared on NPR again to calm people by saying deposing an incumbent President is tough business even if you have all the money in the world. He basically ran through past elections to demonstrate the horse race nature of the campaigns at this point. Basically, he said "Take a Chill pill."  One leftwing blogger said that he felt confident in Obama's chances because all the Left now is complaining about him again, which means they are confident too. Usually he says they are quiet when doubt occurs.

The Perfect Storm Wiping Out the Middle Class

Two reports are worth reading to give you some idea how fast and total the collapse of the middle class has been in the country and how the fiscal policies of the Bush era virtually eradicated the government's ability to handle such a crisis. The first is the Fed's report on that the median worth of the average American fell by 40% from 2007 to 2010. The second is Bruce Bartlett's "The Fiscal Legacy of George W. Bush", which explains how the government's projected surpluses of trillions in 2000 turned around by $11.7 trillion by 2011.

The first report from the Fed should sober Americans up about the declining standards of living for Americans. The median net worth of an American went from $126,000 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. That is the net worth, which basically looks like equity in a house, the two cars and what little retirement money exists. The median income per family went from $49,600 to 45,800 in 2010. 

This isn't reading reports on the poor under Lyndon Johnson. This all affected the middle-class. The biggest drops were those in the 60-79.9 percentile and the 20-39.9 percentile--which lost 40.4% and 35%. The income divide widen so that the 10%, who were worth $1.19 million had 138% as much as median income people. 

To make it plain, in 2012 the American people have the same standard of living they had literally 20 years ago in 1992.

Now if you factor in health care costs, even if you still had a job, you are looking at a financial wipeout, which was reflected in the millions of new bankruptcies.

Now a recent poll shows that 49% of Americans believe Republicans are purposely slowing the economic recovery to beat President Obama. Of course they are. Bruce Bartlett in his article notes that 43% of Americans hold Bush responsible for today's government deficits and 14% blame Obama. 

Now liberals criticize President Obama for not going the whole FDR in combating the Recession. Bruce Bartlett's article points out the fiscal policies that ruined the government's ability to respond. 

By the year 2000 the government had a surplus and was projected to accrue some $5 trillion by the year 2000, which would have paid off the entire national debt. 

The CBO estimated that tax cuts and slower than expected growth led to reduced revenues of $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher. That is a turnaround of $11.7 trillion since 2000. 

72% of the debt was attributed to tax cuts and spending increases and 27% because of economic and technical  reasons. 56% of the new debt was acquired in 2009 and 2010 because of the effect of the past policies in place.

Just to give you some idea of how off the Bush people were--the CBO projected deficit caused by tax cuts was $3.5 trillion from 2001-2008. The reality was $5.5 trillion.  It is like Paul Wolfowitz' projection of the cost of the Iraq War--$86 billion and the cost is at least $1.3 trillion and with the accumulation of medical costs,etc. will be closer to $3 trillion.

So if you want a repeat of all this, please vote for Romney.  He is surrounded by all the Bush people who brought you the original calamity. And the economy is just fine for him. He made millions off his fellow countrymen.

Strangely enough the economy is fine. We are no longer in any financial bubbles--at least here in the United States. Moody's projects the unemployment rate at election day as 7.9%. In other words, President Obama will have brought it to a safe landing. But the challenge is where to go beyond there.