Friday, September 28, 2012

Voter Suppression by Republicans? Tell me something new.

           Strategic Allied Consulting (f/k/a Sproul and Associates) is a firm run by a Republican former state chairman. They committed voter fraud according to the admissions of a former employee. The modus operandi was to get voters to register with them, and then shred the voter registration applications of those who indicated a Democratic Party affiliation and turn in the Republicans’ applications. His company has been doing this since 2004 in several states. The Republican National Committee paid him $2 million to keep up the good work. 
           Sproul’s company also appeared to attempt to register voters with out-of-state addresses. Of course, canvassers who are paid by the application also turned in requests for voter registration for the usual suspects: Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. 
            Naturally, Republicans are reacting with feigned shock and outrage. They are comparing their cheaters to Acorn, Inc. But there is no comparison.
            Acorn had its share of phony voter applications for cartoon characters. This will happen whenever people are paid to register voters according to the number of people they sign up. But note: there is no evidence that anyone ever tried to vote by using Mickey Mouse’s registration. Acorn also achieved undeserved notoriety because of a surreptitious video that was edited in a misleading way. A man dressed like a pimp, sought assistance in bringing under-age girls to this country from Mexico. What the moviemaker didn’t know was that as soon as he left the room, the Acorn worker called the police in Mexico.
            Strategic Allied Consulting, on the other hand, actually did try to influence the results of an election. When people who thought they had registered to vote show up at the polls, they are in for a rude surprise if they were self-declared Democrats. In Florida, one of the states where S.A.C. did their dastardly deeds, it doesn’t take many votes to influence an election.
            I blogged about Republicans being criminally convicted for efforts to illegally suppress the efforts of Democrats to vote nearly seven years ago at Do you think Republicans want fair elections?  Take a peek to see where I documented Republican crimes at the highest levels of the Bush-Cheney campaign.
            For now, it is sufficient to caution my faithful readers against the Republican strategm of proclaiming that there is a false equivalency between Strategic Allied Consulting and Acorn. If anyone tries to sell you that load of crap, spit in his eye …

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 47% solution

Say you’re a guy with a wife and a couple of kids. You got a healthy mortgage, give some to charity and have some other deductions. You’ve worked hard and as a result, you have been given raises. Now you’re making 50 grand. Good for you. And here’s the sweet part: because of things like the earned income tax credit, you pay no income taxes on your 50K of ordinary income. You’re in the 47% that Romney spoke of.

Now, that may come as a surprise to you, because you do pay payroll taxes on all of your income at about 15%. You can do the math: You’ve kicked out 7,500 dollars to pay for Social Security, and if you’re under 55, Romney and Ryan have a plan to screw you out of that, too. But the real thing that might just frost you is that you’re paying taxes on your income at a higher rate than Mitt Romney, who paid about 13 percent on his capital gains.

Were you paying attention? Did you notice that Romney doesn’t pay social security taxes? That’s because he doesn’t earn ordinary income. You got it! Mitt Romney is one of those guys – the 47% – who pay no income taxes. That’s the group that Romney was bashing for having an attitude of entitlement and the posture of a victim. You can see now why he is so upset about the way the press is handling him.

Now, I can imagine you saying something like: “Hey Big Mitch! Are you sure that all of Romney’s income doesn’t come from actually working, as opposed to clipping coupons?” And the answer is, well, it’s complicated. He told Newt Gingrich during a debate that if the capital gains tax were eliminated he would pay no tax, so, if we take him at his word, yes, he didn’t do a lick of work for his money, and therefore, why should he have to pay income tax?

But of course, that’s an over-simplification. There’s a thing that is called “carried interest” or just “carry” for short. Basically, it is a return on hedge funds paid to managers for managing. Say, for example, you have a job managing a car lot. You get paid every month, and you pay taxes, either payroll taxes, or income taxes or both. It’s a lot like that, except because you are a hedge fund manager who works on Wall Street and makes political donations in the 6 figures, you don’t pay payroll or income taxes on it. Instead, the carry is treated like capital gains. Go figure.

There’s another tidbit to be found in the candid camera take of Mitt Romney talking to wealthy political donors. Remember Senator Harry Reid said that Romney paid no income taxes? Turns out, he was right. And his source? That would be Mitt Romney.

I am not a tax accountant, but if you are, or you know one, show this blog to him or her, and ask if it is correct.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Money, Money, Money.

Like all right-thinking Democrats, I have been alarmed about the fact that the Romney campaign is raising more money than the President’s. There is the concern that a lot of money in the hands of people who don’t give a fig for the truth is a recipe for mass misinformation. This is of particular concern in this election cycle because, as I have noted elsewhere, Mitt Romney is the biggest liar in the history of presidential campaigns. And Ryan is going for the record in the category of vice-presidential candidates. (Note: Tricky Dick was in five campaigns either as vice-president or president. That should give you an idea of the enormity of Romney’s and Ryan’s freedom from facts.)

There’s another issue which is closely related. Specifically, it is that whoever has the most money wins the election. Given Romney’s history of carpet-bombing in the primaries, and the huge amounts of money involved in this cycle, it’s a real concern.

However, Dubner and Leavett, the authors of Feakonomics, have pointed out, “winning an election and raising money do go together, bit it doesn’t seem as though money actually causes the winning. It’s just that the kind of candidate who’s attractive to voters also ends up, along the way, attracting a lot of money and the losing candidate, nobody wants to give money to that guy.”

That’s why I was so heartened to learn today from the Huffingtonpost that “The reelection campaign of Barack Obama is back in the lead on the fundraising front after raising $114 million in August. The total, which is a combination of funds raised by the campaign, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Obama's victory committee, exceeds the $111.6 million the Romney campaign said that they raised in combination with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Romney Victory for the same time period. This marks the first time since the Romney campaign and the RNC started raising money together that the Obama team has beaten them in monthly fundraising.”

Not to over-generalize, people who can write big checks don’t like to throw good money after bad. And it looks like people are deciding that it is not worth wasting money on a loser like Romney.

Hey! I got an idea! Why not donate some money to President Obama

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Beryl and Isaac

I have a sister named Beryl and a son named Isaac. This year there was a Hurricane Beryl and a Hurricane Isaac. One received a lot of media attention because it disrupted the Republican National Convention.

At the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney delivered an acceptance speech which was largely overshadowed by the weirdness of Clint Eastwood. (Memo to Clint Eastwood: The war in Afghanistan started under President Bush.) Rahm Emmanuel said that the reason anyone is talking about Eastwood is because Romney was so vapid, and so devoid of anything memorable in his acceptance speech.

It’s been a couple of days, and now is a good time to think about what Mitt Romney said. Let’s see if we can remember anything of substance.

Well, there was his defense of Bain Capital. Hans Christian Andersen couldn’t have done any better. As so fulsomely documented in the cover of the Rolling Stone, Mitt Romney made his fortune not by taking risks, but rather by breaking promises. (It’s a topic I discussed on May 22, 2012. See, Bailing on Bain.) 

His business plan was to borrow money, then re-neg on his promises and extort the government to suck up his obligations. It’s a fascinating look at what is the centerpiece of the Romney argument, and it totally disproves the raison d’etre for the Romney candidacy.

Romney's acceptance speech had some touching stuff about George Romney, who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1968. If you needed any persuasion that Dad would have made a better President than Richard Nixon, the story about the rose a day for Mitt’s mom, would have probably turned the trick for you. Speaking of Mitt’s mom, (as Mitt was) it is useful to recall (as Mitt didn’t) that she ran for the U.S. Senate as a pro-choice moderate (as Mitt did) which is what Mitt is not.

The problem with all this so-called biography stuff is that it can’t make the Automaton from the Uncanny Valley  likable, and, worse yet from the vantage point of the Romney campaign, people generally like President Obama.

There was a lot that was notable for its absence. For a man who wants to be Commander-in-Chief, it is fairly shocking that he neglected to mention the 70,000 service-members serving in Afghanistan, or the millions of veterans to whom the country owes a debt of gratitude. Not to mention a debt of Veterans Administration benefits.

A candidacy can survive all of the above, if the candidate delivers a couple of zingers that capture the public’s imagination and stick in the nation’s consciousness. Think: “Read my lips: No new taxes!” Of course, if it’s bologna, as it turned out to be for George H.W. Bush, there is a price to be paid.

To the best of my recollection, Mitt Romney delivered two possible memorable quotes. He dialed up his  “sincerity affect module,”  faced the camera, and intoned,
“Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?”
It was a good line because it was a re-formulation of the classic Reagan line, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” The problem with the original formulation is that it invites an analytical response. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Are you better off now than when the world economy was teetering on the brink of collapse, the U.S. was facing the prospect of a second great depression, and we were hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month, all while living in fear that Osama Bin Ladin would strike again?

We have ended the misbegotten war in Iraq, and we are in a glide path to end the war in Afghanistan. Our President is not an embarrassment abroad, as was his predecessor, and, for that matter, his would-be successor. Al-Qaeda's leadership has been not merely decapitated, but destroyed. We have played a successful role in the transition to democracy in Libya, and kept the Palestinians out of the United Nations, while vastly improving Israel’s defenses – more than in any previous administration, according to Romney’s former business partner, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Arab Uprising has been notable for its lack of anti-American protests, and anyone who thinks that Romney can do a better job of managing the evolving situation needs a brain transplant. Our President won the Nobel Peace Prize and fellow laureate Desmond Tutu, has recently called for the President of four years ago to be prosecuted for war crimes

The stock market has roughly doubled on Obama’s watch, and although gas-prices are higher than when he took office, that’s because gas prices crashed as a result of the Great Recession which was brought about by the Republican policies which Romney wants to bring back. Today’s prices are roughly the same as they were under Bush before he brought us the Great Recession. Inflation is roughly zero percent. Republicans have decimated public employment, and if public sector employment had grown along with the economy at its normal rate, the unemployment rate would be around 7%. We’ve added half a million jobs in manufacturing under this President.

Exports have risen at a double digit rate throughout this President’s term, the best since the 1990s. And the United States is freeing itself from dependency on foreign oil, which for is now at 45%, compared to 57% when he took office. U.S. production of oil is higher than it has ever been.

Since I was a child, I have always believed that race was the over-riding issue in our country, and, while I don’t believe that we have reached the stage of “post-racial politics,” I think that we have made great strides during the administration of the first African-American President.

Taxes for the middle class are lower now than when the President took office. Corporate taxes – distinguished from nominal rates – are among the lowest of any industrial economy. And here’s the kicker: as a percentage of gross domestic product, the President has reduced taxes, federal debt, and the budget deficit. You read that right: the President has reduced taxes, debt and deficits.

Did I mention that under President Obama, insurance companies can no longer discriminate on the basis of a pre-existing condition? Or that children up to the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance? Or that he closed the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D, saving 5,250,000 seniors an average of over $7,000 dollars and counting.

Yes, I’m talking about Obamacare, the program that provides preventative services and screening for free, reduces prescription costs for Medicare enrollees, improves the care and coverage provided to senior citizens, and extends the life of the program by keeping costs under control and paying for care more efficiently.

You get the idea: if you stick to the facts, there is no doubt that Americans are better off than they were four years ago. That’s why Romney had to frame the question in terms of feelings. By doing so, he can cash in on the negativism which has been the hallmark of his duplicitous campaign, and the propaganda of Fox and talk radio which is directed at the reptile brain. So, okay, Mitt, you get credit for one good line in your acceptance speech.

There was another line that I think might qualify as a zinger for Mitt:
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
Not bad, Mitt. It reinforces the Republican message which is that there is a choice to be made between protecting your family and the planet they live on. Republican Newt Gingrich took this to the logical extreme by suggesting we colonize the moon while we are at the business of reducing government spending.

Romney has taken – sit down for this – inconsistent positions of the subject of global warming. But the science is in, and the results are conclusive. Global warming is real, and human activities are a major contributing factor. (Contra: Mitt Romney’s latest iteration of his position with regard to climate change.)

I never really understood why it is necessary to add the fact that humans are part of the problem. After all, polio was not the result of human behavior, but I’m pleased that we recognized the problem, found a cure, and eliminated this horrible disease. Be that as it may, the fact remains that we have to address the problem of global climate change and we don’t have much time to do so.

How do I know? We see the evidence in the number of “hottest day” “hottest month” and “hottest year on record” headlines. We see evidence in the drought that is crippling the Midwest. We see evidence in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events. And this year, we got another data point.

On May 27, 2012, Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Florida. Beryl’s landfall in Jacksonville Beach was the strongest landfall in the United States for any pre-season Atlantic tropical cyclone on record.

Romney can ridicule caring about the environment, as Clint Eastwood tried to do. But let’s be clear. The reason I care about the environment is that I love my family. And that includes Beryl and Isaac. I remember when Isaac was born, and suddenly, environmentalism became no longer a theoretical concern, but rather a question of what kind of world would I leave for my progeny.

If you, too, want a better world for your family, don’t elect a candidate who ridicules your concerns. Instead, vote for Barack Obama …

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”