Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Ryan touch

In the last blog I described Mitt Romney as a defective human being: someone who, in spite of his success at making his money and avoiding taxes, lacks understanding and sympathy for his fellows -- as evidenced by his obsessive reluctance to share his wealth with anyone except his proselytizing church, and his obvious contempt for just about everyone's intelligence.

His running mate Paul Ryan is cut from the same cloth. Ryan's so-called "budget" is so grossly anti-poor and anti-middle class that even the quite conservative Conference of Catholic Bishops declared it immoral. It is perhaps the single most unpopular document released in recent years, and only a tone-deaf party would have doubled down on it and nominated its author for Vice President. The arrogance and contempt exhibited by the Party for The Rich is, however, consistent with the attitudes of its candidates.

I am glad to report that Ryan and his budget are not fooling anyone this time around. The New Republic shows some statistics about how the man and his work have contributed to the tremendous decline in the popularity of the PTR's ticket; you can find the article HERE.

Of course Romney and Ryan do have a certain animal cunning: this time around they left off a lot of details about how the "budget" would close "loopholes" and somehow become "balanced." They don't want people to know exactly which popular and worthwhile programs would be cut in order to give tax breaks to the rich. That's why I refer to it as a "budget" not a budget. It's a phony and a mere shell. No one I've read, even Martin Feldstein, can seem to make it work without very big tax increases for all but the rich -- see Jared Bernstein's analysis on his blog.

Ryan is a person who's taken some economics courses in college -- he was a dual political science and economics major. As far as I can tell he never took a graduate course in either subject, but he is considered among Republicans and easily-impressed media folk to be some sort of expert on economics and finances. Ryan also read a lot of Ayn Rand -- a novelist well-known for her "me first" two-dimensional characters. Somehow Ryan, who calls himself a religious Catholic, missed out on the fact that Rand was a committed atheist. Ryan has been skewered several times by prominent economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman; two of his most devastating columns (with further links) can be found HERE and HERE (where Krugman so famously said about Ryan: "Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV.")

Ryan has never impressed even a single economist. Now it is clear, in spite of a lot of Republican hype and media money, that he hasn't impressed too many others either.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A defective human being

Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reed (D) recently said that the reason Mitt Romney is now trailing President Obama is because Mitt Romney is a “defective” candidate who continually makes mistakes.

Actually, Mr. Reed is off by one layer of causality. Mitt Romney is a defective candidate because he is a defective human being. This conclusion became pretty clear as we learned some of his past history, and becomes clearer each day as both his private and public comments receive increased attention.

We have learned that Romney has always been a bully -- a quality often reinforced by feelings of entitlement. What can be more entitled than coming from a very wealthy family and knowing that your future would be secure no matter what you did -- no college debts to be paid off by a struggling young Mitt. We know about how he and a bunch of his pals attacked a fellow student and forcibly cut his hair -- they thought he was effeminate. Unlike his friends who were in on the attack -- an act that nowadays would be considered felonious -- Romney claims not to remember the incident. The others realized, to their credit, that what they did was wrong, and feel bad about it to this day. Romney tosses off whatever might have happened as just another youthful prank. And there were others for which he was well-known among his peers. He would sometimes impersonate a police officer in order to terrorize couples making out in their cars -- things like that, 'cause that's the kind of guy he was: a barrel of laughs. It was OK because he was rich and entitled -- a never-have-to-say-you're-sorry kind of guy.

I will skip most of the religious stuff. I'll just add that spending a lot of time evangelizing Mormonism to poor people in the U.S. and overseas is not my idea of a socially useful activity -- but that's just me. Tithing to the Mormon church is a little like contributing to a very wealthy college: generally harmless, but nothing of such societal value as to be worth a tax deduction (though they are given). Of course, for Romney, it lead to another entitlement common to his class: not having to serve in Vietnam. Funny how his kind of people who are so ideologically in favor of such wars are rarely asked to serve in them.

Then we come to his business. "Vulture capitalism" is exactly the correct phrase to describe Bain Capital; maybe "bully capitalism" is equally correct. Bain sought out weak companies either to loot for "consulting fees" or to turn around by cutting employees' benefits, retirement funds, and jobs. While some survived and prospered, others were destroyed. In all cases Bain Capital made out very well, as did its CEO and owner. When you pick on people weaker than you, that's how things turn out.

How did Romney get to own and control such a company? He found many willing investors via his contacts within his very wealthy circle and, it now turns out, from South and Central American business people offering very questionable money they wanted to launder. Romney made a point of not knowing too much about the sources of this money, but probing reporters are finding out more each day. As the old saying goes: "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime." Romney never worried about this, in spite of his supposed religious values, because he was... well... entitled.

Of course, all young folks can "make it like Mitt" even if they don't have much money personally. When asked how, Romney made it simple: Just borrow money from your parents. Money means nothing to Romney, and he has no conception of how hard most people must work just to make a small amount of it, and that the vast percentage of Americans have very little in savings and retirement funds (he has amassed a virtually impossible $100 million in his IRA.)

We know that Romney made a lot of money and paid a very low tax rate on it. Of course, that's typical of many rich people who make money that is taxed at capital gains rates. He also has hidden millions of dollars in offshore secret tax havens. These are not necessarily illegal -- though we can be rightly suspicious -- but indicate a less than patriotic attitude toward giving back anything to a country that facilitated his huge personal wealth. After all, people in public life are always waving the flag and telling us how selfless it is for those in the armed forces to sacrifice life, limb and fortune to serve their country (see his evangelistic draft evasion above). Romney is the anti-selfless person, who thinks that paying "not one penny" above his minimal required taxes is the most presidential -- and to his lights, patriotic -- thing to do. He is the Leona Helmsley of presidential candidates: taxes are for the "little" folk, not for the entitled.

Minimal Mitt is, effectively, his sobriquet and motto.

Yet, in spite of his minimal taxes, he sneers -- in private, amongst his wealthy donors -- at the "47%" who pay "no federal taxes". He says they pay "no federal taxes", which is of course not true. They may not pay federal income taxes, but all pay Social Security taxes as well as state property, income and sales taxes when applicable etc. Calling them "entitled" is some sort of transference. He is the one who feels entitled -- to all that the federal government does to coddle rich folk like him: the special tax rates and tax breaks that he uses to pay a smaller percentage of his income in taxes than Warren Buffet's famous secretary. He gladly accepts the roads, bridges, police and military and other benefits and protections which he and his businesses enjoy. As Elizabeth Warren has recently pointed out, this country's financial system is rigged to favor accumulation of wealth by people like Romney; it is he who acts and feels entitled.

A lot of what passes for straightforward campaign incompetence and lack of sensitivity is, in fact, Romney's arrogance. He has refused to disclose his income tax returns for all but a couple of years, then claims, falsely, that John Kerry did the same. When told by every news source and fact checker about this error, he refused to acknowledge it. When he recently released his 2011 tax return, it showed that he made up for his under tithing  his church in the previous year by giving extra. However, this would make his tax rate percentage outrageously low in comparison to Buffet's secretary, so he didn't claim the whole deduction. This in spite of his assertion that he wouldn't deserve to be President if he paid one cent more in taxes than he had to. Here we see Romney assuming we are all idiots. He didn't claim the deduction in this election year in order to make his rate seem high, knowing full well that he could refile next year, after the elections, and get the money back.

Another reason why he is a defective human being.

Recently, Romney, who once decried emergency room treatment of the medically uninsured as socialism, now tells us that it's really OK, and would fit in just fine with his and Paul Ryan's plan to kill universal coverage and lay a heavier cost burden on Medicare -- if only they can.  (I won't even get into Paul Ryan's obvious human and intellectual deficiencies here.)

Can you find any reason not to say that Mitt Romney has been weighed in the balance and found wanting?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Even Meet the Press reporters can be clueless

Josh Marshall at TPM writes:

On Meet the Press this morning David Gregory referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as “Leaders [sic] of the Jews” and in his role as ‘leader of the Jewish People” asked for his verdict on President Obama. “You are the leader of the Jewish people,” Gregory told Netanyahu.

Helping matters somewhat, Gregory went on Twitter a short time ago and clarified that it would have been “better to say he’s leader of jewish state.” To which I would say, yes, much better. In fact, probably best to say, he’s leader or Prime Minister of Israel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A new low (but probably not the last)

At 6:17 AM on Sept. 11, the American Embassy in Cairo issued the following statement:

"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions ... Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy."

More than twelve hours later the AP reported that at least 1 American was killed in an attack on the American consulate in Libya.

Several hours later, Romney said: "It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response [to the killing] was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

As is clear to anyone who can read and tell time, Romney was wrong on all counts. The statement from the Cairo embassy was not a response: it came before the attacks and was an honorable attempt to defuse the situation. Secondly, the statement did not sympathize with those who waged the attacks, but with the millions of mostly peaceful and non-violent Muslims who might have been offended (by some low-grade anti-Islam movie posted anonymously on the Internet).

In fact, the actual first responses of the administration, from both the President and the Secretary of State, came the next morning and strongly condemned the attacks -- and promised retaliation.

So far, in keeping with established tradition, the Republican candidate for President's behavior was utterly beneath contempt.

But, to show the sad state we are in, ABC news reported that an administration official said that "no one in Washington approved that statement [the one in red above] before it was released and it doesn't reflect the views of the US government." Doesn't reflect our government's views? Does this mean that our government thinks "Respect for religious beliefs" is not a "cornerstone of American democracy"? Perhaps we should respect only Christian beliefs? Or no one's beliefs? Allow me to interject: WTF?!?

So, in keeping with established tradition, Democrats exhibit merely contemptible -- and spineless -- behavior. 

 And thus the grand election goes down to the wire...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why Uncle Duke got off drugs...

Here's the latest idiocy from the Romney camp: Obama wants to remove God from U.S. coins. Please see my favorite Doonesbury strip to put this into "perspective".

This is why it has become so difficult to write this blog. Romney and Ryan have become beneath contempt for even those who are themselves beneath contempt. I don't have to point anything out anymore -- especially after Clinton's amazing performance art last week.

BTW: Check out the piece in the New York Review about the latest books by Stiglitz and Krugman. (I'm not sure that you have to be a subscriber to read this link in its entirety, but give it a shot.)