Sunday, September 30, 2012

Paul Ryan on taxes

For those who didn't have time to watch Paul Ryan explain the Romney/Ryan tax plan to Chris Wallace this morning, here is a summary in transcript form:

CW: The Obama campaign claims that if we were to cut taxes by 20% across the board as Governor Romney proposes, that would cost the government $5 trillion over the next ten years. True?

PR: Of course not, because we are also proposing some magic ways to make up that lost revenue.

CW: We'll get to that in a minute. But would you agree that the tax cut part of your plan would cost trillions?

PR: Chris, I can recognize those "gotcha" questions a mile away. You're never going to get me to admit that our plan is going to increase the deficit.

CW: Well, would you agree that if we cut tax rates by 20%, that would mean that people's tax rates would be about 20% lower than they are now?

PR: I don't know where you're getting that fancy math from Chris, but I can assure you that the people who came up with those numbers don't know what they are talking about.

CW: Perhaps you could run through some of the math with me then.

PR: Math? Ha! I didn't come on TV to explain our tax plan with actual numbers!

CW: OK, then let's get to the offsetting part of your plan. Can you specify some of those deductions and loopholes that you're planning to eliminate?

PR: How dare you ask that question! You know very well that a magician never reveals his tricks. Look, here's what we're going to do. We want to lower everybody's tax rates, because everybody likes the sound of that. And then we also want to eliminate giveaways and loopholes and other nasty stuff that people also don't like the sound of.

CW: Are you going to eliminate deductions for mortgage interest, or charitable contributions or medical expenses?

PR: There's another one of those "gotcha" questions, Chris. Surely you don't expect me to fall for that! People are just going to have to trust us on this. We've got some great ideas up our sleeves, and we'll show them to you when the time comes.

Actual video here:

Actual quote at about 1:45: "I don't have the time . . . It would take me too long to go through all of the math."

Debate prep

A reminder from the Obama campaign that Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital was not about creating jobs.

And here's a handy list of ten things to keep in mind about Romney and Bain Capital.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Carmageddon II

This weekend marks the second annual Carmageddon, a fine tradition the City and County of Los Angeles started last year which involves closing a major part of the freeway grid, in this case the 405 freeway between the 10 and the 101. As can be seen from this Google maps screenshot of traffic patterns Saturday afternoon, the closure of this section of the freeway is having a negligible impact on traffic in the surrounding system.

Therefore we should demand that this highly successful program, which is allowing Angelenos to re-discover their back yards and neighborhoods, gradually be expanded until we finally achieve the dream of a near car-less city. Carmageddon is showing us that only good things happen from closing down these obnoxious urban freeways.

So let's not stop with annual closings of a section of the 405. Let's try more bold measures. We should figure out how to keep the 405 freeway closed permanently. Why not? I have never heard anything but complaints about this freeway. No one likes it. No one would miss it. And let's not stop there. I repeat my proposal for permanent closure of the Hollywood (101) freeway between downtown and the Ventura freeway. Like the 405 freeway, this stretch is a parking lot during rush hours anyway. It is nearly useless as a transportation system. And like the 405, the Hollywood freeway traverses a scenic mountain pass that has been ruined for any other purpose. Beautiful mountain paths and vistas in both the Sepulveda pass and the Cahuenga pass have been destroyed by horrible traffic noise, noxious air pollution and the unsightliness of 10 lanes of traffic. These freeway routes assail all our senses, make life unpleasant for everyone who lives in the vicinity, contribute enormously to our stress levels, and are harmful in every possible way to our health.

Of course environmentalists and public transportation advocates would favor my plan. But anti-government conservatives should applaud it too. Imagine being able to turn huge chunks of public land, that currently sucks up large amounts of our tax dollars, over to private developers. My suggestion would be to allocate half the freeway land to parks, bike trails and bus or trolley lanes. The rest could be used for apartment buildings, stores, hotels, offices or whatever uses the market will support. Meanwhile the property immediately adjacent to these former freeways would also skyrocket in value, conferring a tremendous boost to the economy.

Let's shelve the plan for adding another lane to the 405 freeway. That's not going to solve our traffic problems. Instead we need to make Carmageddon permanent.

(photos from Palisades Patch)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Netanyahu bets on Obama.

For those worrying about whether Israel's prime minister was still planning any unpleasant surprises in an attempt to influence the U.S. election, Netanyahu's speech at the UN seems to indicate that Israel is willing to give Iran--and President Obama--a little more time.

By the way, Mr. Prime Minister, this is what an actual nuclear bomb looks like:


Usually I find information about the viewing habits of the American public somewhat disheartening. I have to say, however, that the chart below, showing the total number of views of various political videos on YouTube, reveals that lately people are showing excellent taste.

(Thanks to TOD for bringing this to my attention.)

Crocodile tears

How dare the Obama campaign keep quoting things that you actually say, Mitt, and have the video to support it. The nerve!

(More from David Axelrod here)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wake up, part 2

What Alicia Keys said.

Wake up!

What Samuel L. Jackson said.

(clean version here)


Here's what President Obama would want to tell you about his economic plans if he had a chance to sit down with you at your kitchen table. 

Some friends I was talking with last night, all Obama supporters, were complaining that the president's main failing is not effectively explaining how much he had accomplished, given the difficulties we have faced the last several years. Even President Obama agrees he could do better in this regard, but I actually don't think the president's main problem has been ineffective communication.

His main problem is more substantive. The economy is still in bad shape, and the steps the administration has taken to deal with economic and other problems have not always been popular, and don't seem to have produced the results people might have been expecting. That doesn't mean these steps were wrong. It means the president took actions he thought were right, even though some of them were unpopular, and even though it is going to take some time for these actions to bear fruit. Take three main examples:

The bank bailouts (begun during the Bush administration but continued by Obama and Geithner) might have saved our financial system from total collapse, but to most people that looks like a reward to the scoundrels who caused our economic problems in the first place. So Obama is not going to get much credit for rescuing our financial system, no matter how he explains it.

The stimulus might have saved millions of jobs and left the economy much better than it otherwise would have been. But how are people supposed to compare what is, with something worse that might otherwise have been? All people can see is what exists, and that still isn't good enough.

The Affordable Care Act for the first time in history establishes the principle that all Americans are entitled to affordable care, but its main provisions haven't even kicked in yet, and it asks Americans to step up and pay for this new system. It's no wonder a lot of people are skeptical.

The Obama administration has an amazing record of substantive accomplishment, but people are just beginning to see the results. You can't sugarcoat that. You just have to count on most people's good sense in understanding that this president has made the best of a bad situation, and put us on a strong foundation for moving forward. Are we grown-up enough to understand that message?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bi-partisanship on the horizon

For those wondering what the president has been smoking when he predicts that after the election, Republicans in Congress will be more willing to work constructively with Democrats than they have previously, tangible proof of his sobriety came this week in the form of a letter from six Senators, three Republicans and three Democrats, mostly from the Armed Services Committee. (The three Republican senators are McCain, Graham, and Ayotte.) These six Senators wrote a letter to the Senate leadership stressing the importance of avoiding the automatic cuts (sequestration), to the Defense budget as well as other parts of the federal budget, that will take effect in January if Congress does not take action. To avoid sequestration, these six Senators pledge, 
“we are committed to working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security, important domestic priorities, and our economy.”
Photos from TPM
 The key word here is "balanced." By adopting this word, which the administration and Congressional Democrats have been using throughout lengthy budget negotiations to mean a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, the three Republican Senators are signalling that they are prepared to break from the so far universal pledge of Congressional Republicans not to seek a penny of revenue increases to reduce the budget deficit. The Republican battle cry so far has been a resounding "NO" to anything that smells remotely like a tax increase. That means NO to even considering changing the depreciation schedule for corporate jets. NO means the top marginal tax rate must remain stuck at near historic lows. NO means that multi-millionaires like Mitt Romney should continue to pay a lower tax rate than ordinary middle-class working people. Better to take away children's lunch money than ask millionaires to stretch out their depreciation deductions.

But now three important GOP senators are saying yes to a bi-partisan compromise that will save some important programs, maintain defense preparedness, and pay for it with some enhancements to revenue. Those who criticized the president's team for seeming weak during last year's budget negotiations should remember that this Republican cave was baked into that budget agreement at that time. This week's letter from the new Gang of Six happened because people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid were smart enough to craft a deal that foresaw this development. They might have had a slight hope that the twelve member super-committee might have reached the necessary bi-partisan budget agreement last year to avoid sequestration next year. But that was not to be, because the Republican members were wedded to their NO. The fail safe mechanism built into the agreement was to allow time after the 2012 election to make the necessary agreement. Republicans went along hoping that President Obama would be defeated for re-election, and they might still get their way after the election without having to compromise on taxes. But now Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte are recognizing the necessity of starting to work on a compromise, probably based on the expectation that Obama will win re-election, but perhaps even in the event that he loses.

(I would almost want to see, perhaps acted out in some alternative universe, what would happen in the event of a Romney victory in November, after Senators recognized that they still needed to reach a bi-partisan compromise to avoid sequestration. Imagine the first act of Congress in a Romney administration being to raise taxes. And Romney having to explain, well, I know I promised that on day one I was going to repeal Obamacare, but actually I don't have the votes to do that, and instead I have to raise taxes so that we don't have to put major parts of our military in mothballs. People like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are finally willing to stand up and explain that this is going to happen, folks, regardless of who wins the presidential election.)

Democrats are going to have to compromise also, and when they go along with cuts to popular benefit programs, there is going to be a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in Democratic quarters. But the more important breach in the dike of resistance is among Republicans. Once Republicans admit that we cannot solve the deficit without considering revenue as well as expenses; once they recognize publicly that we as a nation have to be grown up enough to pay for all the government services that people want; once they admit that asking the wealthy to contribute a bit more is actually conceivable; the game they have been playing the last few years is over. Grover Norquist's veto power over any reasonable budget agreement will be broken. And the idea of Democrats and Republicans actually sitting down at the table together for some honest give-and-take becomes not only possible but unavoidable.

Gotta Vote

I'm a little confused about whether to tell people to go to or Is the campaign sending mixed messages, or do all roads lead to the same place? Anyway, you get the idea. You gotta vote.

UN Address

National Voter Registration Day

If you are not registered to vote, you have nothing more important to do today than this. And to make it easy, you can use the handy app on the next column to fill out the form necessary for registering in any state.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cheryl the teacher

Below is a thoughtful comment from a voter who understands how to make the important choice voters must make in November. What we should be looking for, if we're being grown-up about our voting options, is not the candidate who lines up perfectly with each one of us on every issue. It's obviously unrealistic to expect each one of us to find a candidate with whom we agree about everything, but we still hear a lot of people knocking candidates whom they judge deficient on a particular issue.

Cheryl, the teacher in the video below,  probably has disagreements with both candidates. Teachers are known to have some serious concerns about a lot of the ideas proposed by educational reformers of all ideological persuasions. How then to choose which candidate can best represent her? Cheryl noticed that when she attended a roundtable with Governor Romney, he had a lot of fixed and "old-fashioned" ideas, and did not seem interested in her input at all. He did not seem able to relate to the concerns of people like her. Cheryl's impression of President Obama, on the other hand, is of someone who would respect her opinion and be willing to listen. She can imagine having an open conversation with the president about the issues of most importance to her. I think Cheryl has latched onto to something fundamental here.

When I read complaints, particularly from the president's critics from the left, who might have objections to the president's continuation of the war in Afghanistan, or who think he should have been tougher on the banks, or have problems with some other issue on which they feel he has not measured up to their expectations, I think these people are not asking the right question. Instead of looking for perfection, instead even of deciding to "settle" for the candidate who comes closest to their position, they should just try to imagine having a conversation with each candidate about whatever is bothering them. Would he treat them with respect? Would he listen? Try that mental exercise with both candidates and then decide which conversation would be more satisfying.

Even people on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum from the president might want to consider which candidate would do a better job passing this test. The president might get exasperated with his political opponents; he might even mock them on the stump. But consider how President Obama bends over backwards to engage in respectful dialogue with members of the opposite party. Mitt Romney does not seem to have the capacity to do that. He admitted that he just doesn't concern himself with people with whom he disagrees, and we have seen that attitude repeatedly during the campaign.

Wouldn't the candidate with whom a voter can best imagine having an open, respectful conversation on whatever topic is of interest, be more likely to best represent the wide divergence of views of all Americans? If you think that's Mitt Romney, then neither Cheryl nor I are going to be able to reach you. For most people, however, I suspect that candidate is going to be Barack Obama.

Let them go to the emergency room.

This is just sad. Here, on Sixty Minutes, is the pioneer of the template for Obamacare, the man who actually put into effect a plan in Massachusetts that aims at making health care accessible and affordable. Now he is forced to deny there was a problem that he previously helped solve. It's sad because Romney knows better. He knows that emergency room care is no substitute for preventive care. He knows that it costs far more to deal with problems in an emergency room than in a doctor's office. He knows that hospital bills for the uninsured are several times higher than the amounts billed to those who have insurance, and that these bills can have devastating effects on families.

Yet because his party refused to participate in designing a solution to these problems, Romney is now forced to defend our broken, cumbersome, expensive, patchwork system of health care. He has to walk away from a problem that he once had a hand in trying to solve.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Change, part 2

It's probably pointless to get annoyed at a Saturday Night Live sketch--it's just a Saturday Night Live sketch, after all--but I was still annoyed at the Seth Meyers segment asking President Obama, "What Are You Doing?" Meyers made the funny, and valid, point that with all of Romney's recent mis-steps, President Obama could probably cruise to victory by saying as little as possible for the rest of the campaign. But then he jumped on the president's recent statement that change comes from outside Washington as some sort of gaffe. It would be a shame if the conventional wisdom accepted the idea that the president made a mistake by suggesting that he cannot do his job alone.

For the president to remind us that power comes from the people should be unremarkable in a democracy. What would constitute a gaffe, what would in fact be offensive to the whole American experiment, would be for the president to argue that he is solely responsible for making change. Our Constitution does not contemplate a president ruling over the people. It instead requires the president to carry out the will of the people's representatives in Congress. Ours is supposed to be a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." All President Obama was suggesting was that he needs popular pressure to make Congress act in response to the people's desires.

One would think the Romney campaign, with its disdain for the effectiveness of government as opposed to private market forces, would agree that the president has limited powers. If people are unemployed, for example, how do they expect the president to find them a job? Republicans don't even think that should be the government's responsibility. The now-dominant Tea Party movement Republicans, with their new-found enthusiasm for constitutional first principles, should also agree with President Obama's assertion that power comes from outside Washington. They want to reduce the power of the central government to a few essential functions. They should also agree that the president, indeed the whole central government, has limited powers. It seems possible, then, that if somebody other than President Obama had said it, Republicans might themselves be trumpeting the idea that power comes from outside Washington. In fact, they have made that argument when it suits their convenience, as when George W. Bush ran as a Washington outsider, or John McCain ran as a maverick.

Democrats, meaning small "d" as well as capital "D" democrats, should also applaud President Obama's recognition of the power of people to force Congress to respond to their wishes. Democrats generally support the efforts of the national government to alleviate poverty, support education, and assist the disabled and the elderly. In fact they want to strengthen those programs. Democrats should know better than to expect that that will happen without a strong movement of popular support behind the president. That is where the president's power comes from.

Romney now says: "I can change Washington -- I will change Washington. We'll get the job done from the inside -- Republicans and Democrats will come together." How exactly does Mitt Romney think he is going to accomplish that? By means of his own personal force of will or intellect? Romney can barely muster majority support within his own party. Or perhaps, if he plans to rely solely on forces "inside" Washington, Romney intends to enlist the help of lobbyists and other powerful players to pressure Congress to enact his program. Does he seriously intend to shut out all sources of power outside of Washington?  That's a scary thought if it were possible, which fortunately it's not. It's probably safer to think Romney is just taking another cheap shot at the president, without thinking through any sort of coherent theory of how the government actually works.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How swing voters decide

More on the 47%

Friday, September 21, 2012


Republican leaders like John Boehner keep saying that our government doesn't have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Really? What if we found out that one of our most prominent citizens, who happens to be running for president, is so embarrassed by the low rate of taxes he is paying that he deliberately understated the amount of his charitable contributions last year, just so that he could try to show that he is paying his fair share of taxes? Wouldn't that suggest that some rich people are pretty sheepish about the tiny contributions they are making to keeping the government current on its obligations?

Today Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns showing that he paid 14.1 percent of his income in taxes. Romney was only able to reach that 14% level by claiming only $2.25 million of the approximately $4 million in charitable contributions he and his wife apparently made last year. Nobody should fault the Romneys for their charitable giving. But if Romney himself is not ashamed of his contributions to charity, why wouldn't he take full advantage of them? How remarkable that the Romneys have to cheat themselves in order to get their tax rate up to a paltry 14%. Doesn't that indicate there is something seriously wrong with our tax code? Shouldn't we be connecting the dots between the government's continuing structural deficit problem and a tax code that demands such a small share of the incomes of the wealthiest members of society?

We recently learned that Romney doesn't think too highly of the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax. These include students, seniors, members of the military, and millions of the working poor. And they do pay lots of other kinds of taxes, such as sales tax, and payroll tax, and property tax. In Romney's mind, however, they are all lazy freeloaders, itching for more handouts from the government.

I wonder what Romney thinks of the next strata of society, those employed with a decent income who, unlike Romney, rely on their earned income to support their families, rather than on lightly-taxed capital gains as Romney does. Millions of these people, making far less than Romney does, pay tax rates much higher than he does, up to a 35% top marginal tax rate. And they are probably taking advantage of every deduction they can, and still paying a higher rate than Romney does. Romney probably pities, or privately snickers at, the poor suckers.

And what about Romney's fellow members of the top 1%, the hedge fund managers, private equity owners, stock traders, real estate investors, etc.? These people are paying rates of taxation not much distant from the 47% of Americans whom Romney scorns. To be consistent, he should probably be labeling them as dependent on government handouts, since they are taking advantage of a very privileged status under our tax code. (And to those who want to argue that the very rich are paying a larger share of the tax burden than has been true in the past, let's remember that that is mainly because the very rich now take a much, much larger share of the national income than they have in the past.)

Maybe the most important thing about the 2012 election campaign is that it is forcing us to have a long-overdue debate about the rising degree of inequality in our society, to a level unmatched since the 1920's. We should be talking more about the unfairness of a tax system that not only perpetuates that inequality, but actually exacerbates it. Mitt Romney is the perfect symbol of that system. And what is Romney's proposal for dealing with this problem? He turns it on its head. The Romney-Ryan program is premised on the belief that we don't have enough inequality in this country. They argue that poor people are not paying enough in taxes, and rich people are paying too much. They want to reduce spending on programs like food stamps, unemployment insurance, health care, college loans, and other forms of assistance that alleviate some of the inequality in our society. They attack President Obama for being a socialist because he wants to restore the top marginal tax rate to the 39% rate that people were paying in the 1990's. (Imagine if Obama were proposing that we go back to the 90% top income tax rate that was in effect in the 1950's, or even the 70% top marginal rate that was in effect under Nixon, or the 50% top rate in effect during Reagan's presidency!) How is anyone going to buy Romney's argument after they see his tax returns, and the machinations he was forced to go through just to get his income tax rate up to a pitiful 14%?

(complete return here)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


What a coup for the Romney campaign! They're not worried that somebody taped Romney commenting that nearly half of the American public are a bunch of freeloaders who will never support him because they just want to suck more government services away from the productive classes. They have a devastating comeback: a fourteen year old video of then state legislator Barack Obama speaking at a conference, in which Obama states that he actually believes in redistribution "at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot." You've got a tape? Well, we've got a tape too. So take that!

Romney's people can even say that the Obama tape is more devastating, because Obama actually utters the word "redistribution," on it. And he actually supports redistribution. Of course, Obama was speaking in the context of a discussion about more efficient delivery of government services, and also had some critical words for some state agencies. But still, you couldn't ask for a clearer admission of the president's socialist intentions that that, right?

The only trouble is that Romney believes in redistribution too. Romney even bragged yesterday about how his own father was on welfare for awhile.
 I mentioned my dad, my dad was born in Mexico of Americans parents living there. At age 5 or 6 there was revolution,” Romney said. “They came back to the United States, and my dad had to get help, financial help, the government helped his family be able to get on their feet again. By the way, that’s the way America works, we have great hearts, we care for people who have needs. We help get them back. We help lift them up but then they go back to their permanent lifestyle. . . . We get them on their feet, and they build a brighter future,
If there is a significant difference between the policies represented by that quote and those espoused by Barack Obama in the 1998 videotape, it escapes me. Both are advocating the kind of redistribution that provides a safety net for people in need, because "we care for people who have needs."

And when Mitt Romney isn't just blatantly contradicting himself by advocating the kinds of policies that he attacks the president for advocating--when Romney is more closely following the GOP script--then he believes in another kind of redistribution, the kind that balances new tax cuts for the rich, with the elimination of deductions and benefits for the poor and middle class. It has been estimated that Romney's tax plan would cost the average American family about $2000 per year in order to let the wealthiest Americans keep even more money. That is redistribution in reverse.

I can't remember a presidential election campaign that was actually and openly about issues as fundamental and basic as those on the table this year. One candidate openly declares that he wants to take a little more from the wealthy to help the middle class (not take as much as we asked from the wealthy during the administrations of those well-known socialists like Eisenhower, Nixon or Reagan, mind you, but at least enough to bring the top tax rate back up to what it was during the Clinton years). In the opposite corner, we have a candidate who brazenly advocates making the rich even richer, even if we have to cut benefits and deductions for the poor and middle class to do it. What should be clear, however, is that both candidates are in favor of redistribution. Anytime the government does anything for anybody, it is engaged in a sort of redistribution. The only difference is in the direction of the redistribution being proposed by each side.


It's amazing to think that the Romney campaign is so clueless that they think they will score points by quoting one of the president's answers at a Univision event today, in which President Obama said that change comes from outside Washington, not inside. The Romney team immediately took this as an admission of failure from President Obama, that he personally is not powerful or able enough to make things happen. But what the president said today merely repeated a theme that goes back to his first presidential campaign. The theme that WE are the change we have been waiting for; that the election was not about him, it is about US. As can be seen from the clip below, the Obama campaign is not a bit afraid of the president's remarks today. They are proud to repeat them.

The president's statement also reflects a far more astute understanding of how power actually works in Washington, than his opponent is showing. Constitutionally, presidents do not have the powers that a lot of people think they do, and they are frequently stymied by opposition in Congress. Unless the president's party has a majority in both houses of Congress (nowadays a super-majority in the Senate), Congress has the power to block much of the administration's program. The best way to get Congress to move forward is to enlist the support of the American people, to whom Congress must be responsive. If Mitt Romney does not understand this fundamental fact, he would be in for a rude awakening if he ever were to occupy the Oval Office (which the people he scorns so much will make sure will never happen). It would be a bit like President Truman's prediction of what was going to happen when Eisenhower took over:
He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.
Mitt Romney cannot explain what he thinks is going to make Representatives and Senators suddenly behave differently from the way they have always acted throughout our history. He would therefore have to learn the hard way the lesson that President Obama already started off knowing: that presidential power mostly comes from the people.

We have a president who believes in the power of democracy in action, and who wants to be president of all the people. That is why he has been a lot more effective in implementing change than was originally predicted, in the face of unprecedented and unreasoning partisan opposition. That is why his personal popularity remains fairly high, despite the sluggish economy and the unrelenting negativity of the president's critics, while the popularity of Congress has sunk to historic lows.

President Obama's opponent, on the other hand, is deluded enough to think he can act like the CEO of America and get more done. A lot of voters might be attracted to that notion, but our system has never permitted a president to rule that way. Considering that Romney has already admitted that half the American people will never support him, and that he is not so interested in their problems anyway, Romney has no way of obtaining the power he claims he will wield to produce more change in Washington.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Victory in Pennsylvania

An important victory today in favor of maintaining the ability of everyone to vote. If I'm reading today's opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court correctly, the court is saying that the state's new voter id law requires that voters be able to obtain a valid id card freely and easily. Yet the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation cannot give out these id cards as readily as the new statute requires, because of legitimate security concerns raised by the prospect of issuing photo id cards to anyone who asks for one.

That doesn't seem to allow much room for the lower court to find that Pennsylvania's strict voter id law can be implemented this election cycle. Unless the state can come up with a way to speedily issue id cards to everyone who is entitled to vote, which the DOT does not seem capable of doing, they will probably have to accept alternative forms of identification, similar to what other states with voter id laws do. And that means that it will be harder for the proponents of voter id laws to carry out their real objective, which is to depress turnout so as to favor Republican candidates.

According to most polls, Pennsylvania seems to be safely in the president's column this fall, so these restrictions will probably not accomplish their intended effect anyway. Nevertheless, cheers to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for this helpful precedent supporting the right to vote, which sends a clear message to other states, about the dangers of placing obstacles in the way of exercising the franchise.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The 47 Percent

A newly-released video captures Mitt Romney speaking to a group of wealthy campaign donors earlier this year. Romney explains to this audience that his campaign may as well write off about 47% of the population as hard-core Obama supporters.
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. . . . [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
This cynical and divisive message is wrong on a number of levels. For one reason, to equate everyone whose income is below the threshold for federal taxation with Obama supporters, is not even factually accurate. Even if we could accept the repulsive suggestion that the country can be divided into the dependent have-nots hoping for more government handouts, and the independent producers of the country’s wealth who are only hoping that the government will not continue to sap more of that wealth away, we would still not be able to explain why so many of the 47% still support Romney. Lots of people who live on nothing but Social Security benefits support Romney. Lots of military families who live on nothing but government paychecks support Romney. Lots of people who depend on Medicare support Romney. Some have argued that Republican candidates obtain the support of people who might economically benefit more from Democratic programs because of Republican Party stands on social issues like abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, government support for religion, etc. To the extent that is true, it still undermines Romney’s simplistic message. But there are also plenty of people who don’t pay much in income taxes, but nevertheless support the Republican economic program because they believe in its economic principles.

Conversely, there are also plenty of people with high incomes who don’t need much in the way of unemployment insurance or Medicaid or housing allowances or even public schools, but nevertheless support President Obama. I’m sure Romney thinks these misguided well-off liberals are voting against their economic interests. Nevertheless, they exist in large numbers. And even though these people might never need food stamps themselves, they still strongly support the program because it accords with their own values or interests. Romney’s view that voters only consider their own selfish interests instead of the good of the entire society demeans both his own not so well-off supporters who might need unemployment insurance or college loans or Medicare, but still think the government spends and taxes too much, as well as his opponent’s well-off supporters who support generous social programs, and want the government to tax their own incomes at a higher rate. This view demeans his own candidacy most of all, because it proves that Romney only intends to represent the half of the country that he identifies as not having to depend on the government.

Romney’s division of the country into the dependents and the independents is wrong for an even more fundamental reason. You simply can’t divide the country that way. Like it or not, we are all dependent on the government. In many ways, the well-off might even be more dependent on government services than the less well-off. People who buy luxury cars still need to drive them on the public roads. Moreover, without a strong transportation network of roads and bridges and ports, built and maintained by government, companies would not be able to move their goods to market, or their workers to their jobs. Without public education, companies would not be able to obtain an educated work force, essential to their success. Who else is dependent on government? Let's talk about defense and other government contractors; and also subsidies to agricultural businesses and oil companies. And as long as Mr. Romney has brought up the Americans who pay no income taxes, we should not forget the favorable tax treatment for capital gains that allows multi-millionaires like Mitt Romney himself to pay a lower rate than many members of the 47%, who might not pay much in income tax, but do pay a hefty amount of payroll taxes, thus mostly paying for the entitlements that Romney decries.

Then there is the judicial system, where I have spent my whole career. Law enforcement benefits everyone. But who uses that public court system, and benefits from it, the most? In my experience, those with the most property to protect have the most need for courts that exist largely to protect property interests. We all rely on the enforceability of contracts, but that enforcement is more valuable as the stakes in contracts become larger. Take intellectual property as another example. Who benefits most from our country’s strong protection of patent, trademark and copyright? It’s not assembly line workers or low-paid service workers. It’s not even inventors and artists, who do benefit a lot, but not as much as pharmaceutical companies and computer and other advanced technology companies and agribusiness and media companies who obtain vast profits from these legal protections, furnished to them as a public benefit by the government.

Romney’s pitch to his wealthy donors would be more honest if he admitted that he is not really against government at all. Rather, he wants to maintain and strengthen those aspects of government that benefit the wealthy and those that benefit business. He wants to reduce the scope of programs that benefit the poor and middle class. But if Romney admitted his true program, he might find out that it’s not just the 47% to whom his program will lack appeal. It’s more like the 99%.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing?

According to a story in today's New York Times, a number of Republican congressional candidates are attempting to persuade voters of their willingness to buck their own party leadership and work constructively with Democrats. Even the very conservative Senate candidate Richard Mourdock from Indiana, who defeated moderate Republican Richard Lugar in the primary, is touting his ability to "work with anyone." This new strategy represents a sharp break from the aggressively oppositional rhetoric that was so successful for Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm elections. It's an obvious effort to appeal to independent voters, who tend to turn out in presidential election years, less so in the off years.

The question is whether these tactics foretell a real trend toward a more harmonious Congress, or a ploy to secure more Republican seats and advance the Republican agenda. There are good reasons to suspect the latter. We have seen no signs that the Republican congressional leadership is any more interested in compromise with Democrats on budget and other issues than they have been so far. If Republicans maintain or increase their numbers in the next Congress, we can probably expect no more cooperation with the Obama administration that they showed in the current Congress, which will probably go down as one of the least productive in history.  In fact, once this election is over, politicians' thoughts will start turning to 2014 and 2016, and we might expect Congressional Republicans to become even more intransigent. In other words, voters have every reason to be distrustful of Republican candidates promising to act more independently in an effort to secure support from independents. Once the election is over, these candidates are not likely to act as independently of party leadership as they claim.

On the other hand, the tactics of extreme obstructionism may have run their course. The Republican strategy of reflexively and almost unanimously opposing everything the Obama administrations proposed,is itself almost unprecedented. There have been few times in history when major Democratic initiatives have failed to secure a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives, but this has happened repeatedly during the Obama administration. This did not happen because those Democratic proposals were especially radical. Rather, Republicans deliberately adopted this strategy at the very outset of the Obama administration--on Inauguration Day in fact--to make President Obama and the Democrats look more extreme than they are, to try to block their main policy proposals, and to deny President Obama a second term. To some extent, that strategy has already failed, as Democrats were able to pass their main objectives in the first two years of Obama's first term, and as voters mainly blame the Republicans for Congressional inaction in the second two years. Once President Obama is re-elected, the other main objective of the strategy of obstructionism will also have failed. At that point, there should be less reason for individual Congressmen and Senators to oppose automatically every item the Democrats support. That allows for at least the possibility of a more constructive Congress next year.  

During this campaign season, however, I would advise independent voters to be suspicious of Republican candidates' promises to act in a more independent, cooperative way. They are not likely to do that unless the Republican Congressional leadership decides that their current strategy is no longer working.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


The latest right wing attack on President Obama faults him for not regularly attending intelligence briefings in person. Instead, the president evidently often prefers to receive this information in writing. This criticism was reported by Marc Thiessen, based on a conservative research organization's study which reports that President Obama only attends these meetings in person about 40% of the time, while President George W. Bush hardly ever missed an in person intelligence briefing.

Seriously? President Bush? The latest revelations from Kurt Eichenwald show that in the months leading up to 9/11/01 Bush was more extensively briefed on the looming threat of an Al Qaeda attack in the United States than has been previously reported. Yet Bush's team disregarded or discounted this intelligence, failing to take actions that might have uncovered the plot. Which goes to show that it's not the manner in which you receive intelligence that counts; it's what you do with it. Given the Bush administration's faulty handling of intelligence in the run-up to 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq war, it would make more sense to praise President Obama for reading and thinking about the intelligence reports he receives every day, since personal attendance obviously didn't serve the Bush administration very well.

Thiessen doubled down on his criticism today, attempting to insinuate that preparedness for the anniversary of 9/11 could have suffered as a result of President Obama's practice of reading instead of listening to intelligence reports. But he offers no evidence, just his opinion that hearing the news is somehow qualitatively better than reading the news. Again, because that worked so well for President Bush?

Nobody is faulting President Obama for being unresponsive to intelligence about trouble spots around the world. Instead of any real evidence of a failure to keep apprised of important information, what we get are criticisms of the manner in which the information is transmitted. Talk about elevating form over substance.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Contrast this strong response by President Obama to the killing of the American ambassador and others in Libya, with the false and malicious statement last night by candidate Romney claiming that the Obama administration’s first response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya, and the embassy in Cairo, was "to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

There was no sympathy. There was no apology. What there was, was a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, before the violent protests began, condemning the misguided efforts of certain individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims. The embassy's statement referred to a crude anti-Muslim film made by a real estate developer in California, and promoted by Pastor Terry Jones, whose previous anti-Muslim activities have gotten Americans killed in Afghanistan. Anyone working in a foreign embassy who is concerned about their own safety and about respecting the feelings of their hosts, would understand the purpose of making such a statement.

Being a member of a persecuted religious minority himself, one would also think that Mitt Romney would be more sensitive to the nuances of the First Amendment, which not only protects free speech, but also promotes religious tolerance. Those prohibitions are not contradictory. Thus, while we must defend the rights of "filmmakers" and "pastors" to portray Muslims in a negative way, unless they are directly inciting violence, we must also respect the rights of the members of every religion to practice their beliefs. The values behind the First Amendment suggest that we both defend the rights of the people who made the video in question and condemn the message of the video at the same time.

It shouldn't be too much to ask the Romney campaign to understand and adhere to the American values of both free speech and religious tolerance. It also shouldn't be too much to ask them to adhere to the values of decency, fair play and truth. Instead they seem just a big over-eager to take cheap shots in the service of a false narrative.

UPDATE:  According to Romney campaign talking points, the Romney campaign is now saying the following in response to questions about whether the U.S. Egyptian embassy was correct to condemn this movie:
Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.
Do I need to point out that this statement is virtually identical to the statement by the embassy that Governor Romney condemned last night?  Just to be crystal clear on this, here is the text of the embassy 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. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
And here is part of Secretary of State Clinton's statement:
The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. 
Seems like we are all on the same page on this. Moreover, neither the Romney campaign's statement, nor the U.S. Embassy's statement, nor any other statement from anybody in the government, amounts to an expression of sympathy with those who waged the attacks on the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, which is what Romney recklessly charged. There is not a word from anybody in the government expressing the slightest degree of sympathy with anyone who attacked our ambassador. Instead, the statements in question amount to disapproval of the message of a movie, and pretty much everybody, except for supporters of Pastor Jones, agrees that the movie deserves to be condemned.

In other words, the latest Romney attack has no substance to it at all. It is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Well, nothing except for raising some troublesome questions about Romney's fitness for the office he is seeking.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The wind has definitely changed in the last two or three weeks. President Obama emerged with a surge of support after the Democratic convention, while the Romney campaign appears beleaguered and defensive. The Democrats pulled in way more TV viewers, and were also far ahead of the Republicans among social media users. Polls show the president gaining several crucial points, and forecasters rate the president's chances more highly than ever. The president has also moved ahead in fundraising for the first time in several months. Even this modest site has felt the effects, experiencing a significant uptick in traffic the last few weeks. That happens because more people are doing google searches for "hope and change" and related topics, signs of interest in the campaign.

Some will say that the 2012 campaign can never recapture the excitement of 2008, and that the enthusiasm level of the president's supporters isn't quite as high, but in some ways this campaign seems more satisfying than four years ago. In 2008 we didn't have much sense, until about September when the stock market crashed, of just how bad things were going to get, and we had some uncertainties about our untested, fresh new leader. Now, we've survived a good deal of adversity, and we know we can rely on a tried and trusted survivor of an unprecedented level of opposition and obstructionism. Despite a weak economy, and boatloads of money being spent by the other side, President Obama is going to emerge on top, proving that he still enjoys the good will of the American people.

People are just beginning to appreciate the magnitude of the accomplishments of the president's first term. Even Mitt Romney is starting to admit there is a lot to like about health care reform. Manufacturing is coming back. Housing prices are heading back up. The stock market is booming. Domestic energy production is higher than ever. The troops are coming home.This country enjoys renewed respect around the world. Nobody can deny that General Motors is alive, and Osama bin Laden is dead.

We can expect some ups and downs, and more nastiness ahead, but it's time to be cautiously optimistic. It's time to think about Senate and House races. Stay positive. Keep building the momentum.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Supply and demand

As we know, Republicans are skeptical of government solutions to any problems. They believe the market works wonderfully well in providing an optimum solution for everything. I want to give an illustration of how the market works.

But first, some context. Mitt Romney went on Meet the Press yesterday suggesting that he is in favor of keeping some aspects of Obamacare, particularly those aspects that require insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions. This sounds like a change in position. A major change, in fact. It almost sounds like repealing and replacing Obamacare would result in something very much like Obamacare. And one thing Republicans have been clear on is that they hate Obamacare, because it represents an unwarranted government intrusion into the market.

Naturally, the Romney campaign had to issue a clarification, explaining that they still really do hate Obamacare, and when Romney was talking about covering pre-existing conditions, he was only talking about people who already have continuing coverage. And what will people without continuous coverage do? Here is what the statement from the campaign said:
“[I]n a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for. He [Romney] was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features.”
This sounds reassuring, because it tells people that the market will take care of this problem, and we don't need big, bad government to step in and tell insurance companies to make insurance affordable (and mandatory) for everyone. But it's important to explain what the statement that the marketplace will provide plans "for what there is demand for" actually means, for those who might be a little hazy on their Economics 101. See, the wonderful thing about markets is that they satisfy demand. Whatever we want, the market will provide it. The way the market does this is by pricing every commodity at exactly the point where demand is satisfied. So if there are a lot of potential buyers, and scarce supplies, the way the market continues to satisfy demand is simply to raise the price and, like magic, demand is still always satisfied.

The way this works with your health insurance is as follows: Say you don't have a job that provides health insurance, and you just decide to chance it and go without. Then you get diagnosed with cancer. So you apply for health insurance, but you have to disclose that you've been diagnosed with cancer. And the insurance company then tells you that your premium will be, say, $100,000 a year. (I'm just making a number up out of thin air.) Too bad you didn't apply for coverage before you got diagnosed, the insurance rep might tell you, then it would only have cost, say, $10,000 per year. So now, if you can't afford the premiums, does that mean that the market has failed to provide insurance coverage to satisfy demand? Not at all. It means that you no longer have a demand for health insurance. That is how the insurance market provides coverage for what there is demand for.

Romney-Ryan game plan update

The Sunday talk shows have figured out that the Romney-Ryan team has no plan:

For more proof, the New York Times published a piece by Thomas Edsall showing that the whole Ryan budget is a mirage, because it promises to eliminate basically all non-defense discretionary spending.

And Ezra Klein shows how Romney is trying to have it both ways on health care reform. Romney made it sound like he is in favor of requiring insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions, but in reality he is against it.

Seems like Romney's chickens are finally coming home to roost.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Romney-Ryan game plan

If you like football metaphors, you might like this campaign speech President Obama gave the other day in Ohio. Personally, I think the president gives Romney and Ryan too much credit for having a plan to improve the economy. The truth is that they don't even have a play book at all. 

They don't have a tax plan. I heard Romney try to explain his idea of lowering marginal tax rates, and making up the difference by closing some unspecified loopholes and deductions, to be determined at a later date. First of all, it is disingenuous to pretend that Congress is going to eliminate loopholes and deductions enjoyed by many of the most powerful people in the country. But even if they could, and Romney stays true to his promise that he is not lowering taxes for the wealthy, where is the plan in that? If you give back with one hand what you are taking away with the other, the net effect of your plan is zero.

They don't have a spending plan either. There is a lot of loose talk among Republicans about cutting wasteful spending and reducing the size of government, but they never seem to be able to specify what they are going to cut. And they certainly aren't going to cut defense. They are going to increase that part of the budget. So once again, the net economic impact is going to be zero.

They don't have a jobs plan. Romney promised in his acceptance speech that he would add 12 million jobs to the economy, but it turns out this number is about what economists forecast will happen regardless of who is president. And Romney doesn't specify what he plans to do to create those jobs anyway.

They don't have an education plan. They don't have an infrastructure plan. They don't have a plan to create incentives for manufacturing jobs in the United States. They say they have an energy plan, but they can't explain how it would boost the economy more than President Obama's energy policies, which have done more than any administration in decades to increase domestic energy production and reduce dependence on foreign sources.

What they do have is a plan that will increase the tax burdens on the middle class, and reduce spending for things like Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, college grants and loans. How this plan is going to help the economy is never explained. So I would not even dignify it by calling it an economic plan.  


Think of what it means to get a negative bounce from your party's convention, which is what the data seems to suggest for Mitt Romney after the Republican convention. Measuring the impact of the Republican convention is difficult this year, because the two conventions were so close together in time, so there are only a couple of days of relevant polling data in between. (We don't have enough data yet to measure the impact of the Democratic convention, but it is starting to look like a significant benefit for the Democratic ticket.)

But if, as appears to be the case, the Republicans actually suffered a net loss in support after three days of broadcasting their message to the widest possible audience, that means the more people hear from Romney and the Republicans, the less they like what they're hearing. And that means that the Romney strategy of carpet-bombing swing states with heavy doses of television advertising is not likely to be as helpful to their campaign as they may think. That also means that the Romney fund-raising advantage, most of which goes to fuel that heavy dose of TV advertising, might be outweighed by the Obama campaign's substantial advantage in both online and in-person organizing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hope on!

Here's a convention highlight not enough people saw. First my Congresswoman Karen Bass (at least until redistricting moves me to another district) talking about voting rights, then Congressman Al Green from Texas, and finally a rousing sermon by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II from Missouri, on subjects near and dear to the themes of this site: on civility and the need for people of different views to work together; on the values of the Democratic Party; on the virtues of unity and inclusiveness; and on the spirit of hope.

Skip ahead to Cleaver (starting at 5:45) if you don't have time for the other two. This speech had the delegates on their feet and marching in the aisles.

(Thanks to karoli at C&L for drawing my attention to this speech.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

More hope and change

Are Americans ready to absorb a speech like the one President Obama gave tonight? Maybe, if we're tired of hearing that there are simple solutions to our problems. If we have figured out that we can't have our cake and eat it at the same time. If we have finally realized that no one man can fix everything for us. 
I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.

Do people want to hear that? I hope we're grown-up enough to be ready for that message, because it is powerful, and it happens to be true. The president's speech outlined the policy differences between the two parties' programs, but anyone who has been paying attention knows all that already. What President Obama had to do was remind us that in a democracy, we are the hope and we are the change. It's not enough to vote for him and expect him to solve everything. And it certainly isn't going to work to vote for the other guys and let them take us back in the other direction. No, what citizenship requires is that we all take the responsibility to come together and offer solutions.

Unfortunately, we have short attention spans. We want instant results. Even those who think the government can't do anything right, somehow think our elected officials are going to solve our problems for us. You can tell the president might be a little frustrated with that attitude by his reference to Roosevelt, and a subsequent reference to Lincoln. Those presidents who served during the most difficult periods in our history could count on a little more patience and support than this one has received.

What President Obama has accomplished in his first term, in the face of so much adversity and opposition, is something of a miracle. But he's still willing to give the people a lot of the credit. He reminded us that it's not about him; it's about us. Remember the famous "HOPE" poster that represented the uplifted face of Barack Obama as the symbol of hope? It's outdated.

The face of hope is not that of Barack Obama; it's us. Here's part of the conclusion of the president's acceptance speech:

 I’m no longer just a candidate.  I’m the President.  I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return.  I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs.  If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them.  And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”  
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America.  Not because I think I have all the answers.  Not because I’m na├»ve about the magnitude of our challenges. 
I’m hopeful because of you. 
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter – she gives me hope. 
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife – he gives me hope. 
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business – they give me hope. 
And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee.  Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and twenty pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg.  And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled. 
He gives me hope. 
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to.  I don’t know if they’ll vote for me.  But I know that their spirit defines us.  They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.” 
And if you share that faith with me – if you share that hope with me – I ask you tonight for your vote. 
That's all the president is asking from us right now. Just tell everyone you know to get out and vote.

(prepared text here)

Promises Kept

Before watching the president's acceptance speech tonight, let's check back on his last acceptance speech four years ago in Denver, to see how well 2008 candidate Barack Obama kept his promises:


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clinton nomination speech

I don't know if tonight was Bill Clinton's best speech ever, but it certainly ranked among his best. Clinton's speeches sometimes suffer because they are always about himself, and because they are sometimes packed with an excessive level of policy detail. But Clinton turned those possible defects to advantage tonight. He used his own experience as president to explain why President Obama deserves re-election. Clinton used his mastery of policy detail to demolish the Republicans' arguments in support of a Romney presidency.

But Clinton started by extolling the virtues of cooperation over constant conflict. Here is someone who built a foundation that engages in  do-good projects all over the world, working closely with some of his former political adversaries like the first President Bush. Imagine being able to do that after suffering the savage attacks of Republicans during his presidency: the Whitewater witch hunt; the Gingrich-engineered government shut-downs; the unjustified impeachment over the Lewinsky affair. Clinton has every right to be bitter, but he is not bitter. He is telling us we need to sit down with people with whom we may disagree and find a way to work together to get things done.

What better person to call out the Republicans for their relentless opposition and partisanship? And something more:
“Though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.”

Clinton raises the question I remember a young boy asking President Obama at a town hall event: Why do they hate you so much? And leaves it hanging.

Then the one-two punch: After telling us he doesn't hate the Republicans, that he still wants to work with them, and that he can't understand why they spew so much hate and uncooperativeness themselves, Clinton proceeds to take apart the Republican criticisms of President Obama, and their own policy proposals, bit by bit. Until the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. And the most devastating critique? Of course it's the one any third grader can understand: Arithmetic. Romney's budget and tax proposals just don't add up.

200 Obama accomplishments, with links

From the excellent PCTC blog, here's an updated list, designed to satisfy the most list-hungry among us, of some of President Obama's accomplishments during his first term:

He Returned The Executive Branch To Fiscal Responsibility After the Bush Debacle
1. Within his first week, he signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse.
2. Created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money.
3. On his first full day, he froze White House salaries.
4. He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending.
5. He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems. To that end, he also signed the Democratic-sponsored Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which attempted to put a stop to waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system.
6. Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

He Improved the Economy, Preventing a Bush Depression
7. Pushed through and signed the Democratic-sponsored American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package.” The bill passed, even though only three Republicans voted for it. In a major departure from the previous administration, he launched, a website that allows taxpayers to track spending from the Act.
8. The Bush-led Great Recession was costing the economy nearly 800,000 jobs per month by the time President Obama took office. But by the end of his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economyby  3.5%.
9. Not only did he completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, he also leaned on the banks and others, and recovered virtually all of the bail-out money.
10. He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan.
11. Oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.
12. Along with Democrats, and almost no Republicans, implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs.   Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest. This resulted in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world. Willard Romney, on the other hand, advocated for the entire industry to go belly-up. 
13. Doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency. 
14. Signed the Democratic-sponsored Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system, and create a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown.
15. Signed the Democratic-sponsored Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices.
16. Increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.
17. Signed the Democratic-sponsored and passed Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market.
18. Through the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery.
19. Initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses.
20. Created, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts re managing a business. (The program has since merged with
21. Played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis. 
22. Took steps to improve minority access to capital.
23. Signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to review all federal regulations and remove any unnecessary and/or burdensome regulations from the books.
24. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost.
25. Dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby cutting ties between energy companies and the government.
26. Along with Congressional Democrats, provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession.
27. Used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.
28. Crafted an Executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.

He Fostered Greater Transparency and Better Government, After the Excesses of the Bush Years
29. Signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch.
30. Signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years, and put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House.
31. Held the first-ever first online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public.
32. Became the first to stream every White House event, live.
33. Established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities.
34. Provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.
35. Issued an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. Provides the public with greater access to historic  White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them.
36. Improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent when processing FOIA requests.  

Wall Street Reforms and Consumer Protection
37. Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.
38. Along with Congressional Democrats, pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.
39. Through Dodd-Frank legislation, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
40. Through Dodd-Frank, the Executive Branch fashioned rules that reduce the influence of speculators in the oil market.
41. Fashioned rules so that banks can no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers' interests.
42. Supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.
43. Endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes.
44. Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks that now permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and  tax evaders.
45. Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.
46. Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses. 
47. Oversaw and then signed a Democratic bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression. 
48. Through the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, extended the False Claims Act to combat fraud by companies and individuals usingmoney from the TARP and Stimulus programs.

He Ushered Through Many Changes That Enhanced Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination
49. Along with Congressional Democrats, advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
50. Pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie in order to be eligible to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping.
51. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
52. Appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history. 
53. Appointed first openly transgender Cabinet Official in History.  
54. Changed HUD rules to prohibit gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing  
55. Changed his mind and publicly expressed support for the right to enter into a same-sex marriage.
56. Issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other.
57. Wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families.
58. Signed the Democratic-sponsored Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.
59. Expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act.
60. Under his guidance, National Labor Relations Board issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees' rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including websites and intranets, beginning November 2011. 
61. Advocated that United Nations adopt a policy supporting gay rights worldwide.
62. Issued an order requiring hospitals to allow visitation by same-sex couples. 
63. Appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.
64. Helped Democrats in Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.

He Made Major Improvements in Foreign Relations and American Status Around the World
65. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office.
66. As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration.  
67. Helped to restore America's reputation around the world as a global leader that does the "right thing" in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the world.
68. Re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues.
69. Closed a number of secret detention facilities.
70. Improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys.
71. Pushed for military to emphasize devlopment of foreign language skills.
72. Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence.
73. Refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program, and thus avoid another war that Republicans wanted.
74. Worked with Democratic Congress to make donations to Haiti tax deductible in 2009.
75. Established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
76. Issued Executive Order blocking interference and helping to stabilize Somalia.
77. Established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them.
78. Ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and, unfortunately, progressive Democrats) who prevented follow through.
79. Ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called "enhanced interrogation." He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual.
80. Ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.
81. Released the Bush torture memos.
82. On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all  Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention.
83. In response to the emerging "Arab Spring," he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them.
84. Passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war, and to encourage Iran to give up their nuclear program. 
85. Ended the Iraq War.
86. Authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates.  

He Took a More Realistic Approach to “Defense”
87. Created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat.
88. Authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010.
89. Restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush.
90. Signed and pushed through ratification a new SALT Treaty.
91. Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will lst until at least 2021.
92. Through the Defense Authorization Act, reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq.
93. Developed first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan.  
94. Returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops from the country.
95. Negotiated a deal with Afghan govenment, to withdraw troops and military support, while assisting in rebuilding and modernizing of the country.
96. Took steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limited their ability to terrorize the world.
97. Negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India.
98. Took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple a despotic government and determine their own fate.  

His Administration Treated Soldiers and Veterans with Respect That Was Missing Previously
99. Along with Congressional Democrats, not only reauthorized families of fallen soldiers to be able to visit when the body arrives at Dover AFB, but also provided funding for it.  Ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers.
100. Funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services.
101. Provided active combat troops with better body armor.
102. Created Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel, in order  to improve the quality of their medical care.
103. Put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date. (personal note: my son will be in harm’s way for six fewer months with Obama as president, so you know I love this one.)
104. Along with Congressional Democrats, supported and signed Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans.
105. Along with Congressional Democrats, ushered through largest spending increase in 30 years for Department of Veterans Affairs, with money to go to improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities. 
106. Created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs.
107.  Initiated and signed a recruitment and employment plan to get more veterans into government jobs.
108. Oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.  
109. Signed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which ensures that spouses of military personnel who are forced to move because their spouse is posted for military duty will be able to avoid state taxes in their temporary residence.

He Refocused the Federal Government on Education
110. Repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process. 
111. Reformed student loan program, to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate.
112. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.  
113.  Created the Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to come up with effective school reforms and rewards the best of them. 
114. Oversaw major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide ,
115. Oversaw major expansion in school construction. 
116. Also through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start.
117. Signed the Democratic-sponsored Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0 
118. Oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program, to expand opportunity for low income students to go to college.
119. Along with Democratic Congress, passed and signed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.  
120. Took major new steps to protec students from ineffective for-profit colleges through "gainful employment" measures, whereby schools have to demonstrate that its students actually find work to get federal aid.
121. With First Lady Michelle Obama, passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will improve nutrition in schools and make children healthier.  

He Pushed Through Improvements in National Safety and Security
122. Restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural  disasters successfully.
123. Authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast.
124. Has repeatedly beefed up border security
125. Ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.  

Reoriented Government to an Adult View on Science, Technology and Health Care
126. Created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making.   
127. Opened up process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects. 
128. Eliminated Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, and provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research.  
129. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs.
130. Signed Democratic-sponsored Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis.
131. Expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.
132. Obama EPA reveresed research ethics standards which allowed humands to be used as "guinea pigs" in tests of the effects of chemicals, to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics.
133. Conducted a cyberspace policy review.
134. Provided financial support for private sector space programs. 
135. Oversaw enhanced earth mapping, to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use.
136. Along with Democrats in Congress, ushered through and signed a bill authorizing FDA to regulate tobacco. As a result,  the FDA has Ordered Tobacco Companies to Disclose Cigarette Ingredients and banned sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.”
137. Through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs. 
138. Increased funding for community-based prevention programs.
139. Oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors.
140. Eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price.
141. Two weeks after taking office, signed Democratic-sponsored Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million.
142. Urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Democratic Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put increase on hold for two months.
143. Ushered through and signed Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to at least 30 million more people, ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental  to those with coverage.  He also established, so that taxpayers could keep up with developments.
144. Through ACA, allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26. 
145. Through the ACA, provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small business to provide health insurance to their employees, and 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance. 
146. Through the ACA, expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level.
147. Through the ACA, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care.
148. Provisions in theACA have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The increase in 2011 was 4%, which is very low compared to the average 12% annual inflation rate during previous 40 years.  
149. Through the ACA, expanded space exploration and discovery options to more players
150.  Through the Connect America Fund, pushed through and received FCC approval for a move of $8 billion in subsidies away from telephone landlines to assist lower-income rural families in accessing broadband.

He Took Steps to Strengthen the Middle Class and Families, and to Fight Poverty
151. Worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families.
152. Cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor.
153. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , cut taxes for 95% of America's working families.  
154. Tax rates for average working families are the lowest since 1950. 
155. Extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years.
156. Extended discounted COBRA health coverage for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s extended unemployment benefits several times.  
157. Provided  a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps).
158. Signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs. 

He Took Concrete Steps to Improve Our Environment and Address Our Energy Needs
159. Fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact fuel efficiency standards that exceeded federal standards.
160. Fast-tracked increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade.
161. Oversaw establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, to create more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies.
162. Obama EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history.
163. Ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances.
164. Ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021.  (As you can see, Republicans are trying hard to kill it.)
165. Oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers.
166. Bypassed Republican opposition in Congress and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions. 
167. Obama EPA ruled that CO2 is a pollutant.
168. Oversaw doubling federal spending on clean energy research.
169. Pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars.
170. Created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents.
171. Reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush era stance that climate change was a “hoax.”
172. Fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally-binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide.
173. Required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption.
174. Following the neglect of Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic.
175. Created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars.
176. Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles. 
177. Oversaw and pushed through amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 
178. Actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills.
179. Initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
180. Through his EPA, he asserted federal legal supremacy, and barred Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.
181. Strengthened the Endangered Species Act.
182. Obama EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality, and save 6500 lives per year.
183. Through the EPA, attemped to take steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, to increase their efficacy in humans.
184. Through new EPA regulations, he created a pretext for closing the dirtiest power plants in the country, by limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic gasses. 
185. Increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%
186. Announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards. 
187. Announced a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg in 2010 to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025  

But That's Not All...
188. Expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA. 
189. Oversaw funding of  the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.  He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations.
190. Oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
191. Nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the court’s history, and the women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices.
192. Appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.
193. Eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and rescinded the global gag rule.
194. Loosened the rules and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.
195. Signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including triple the size of the Americorps program. 
196. Signed an Executive Order that will speed up deployment of a more comprehensive broadband infrastructure. 
197. Signed an Executive Order creating jobs immediately by instructing them to reduce the time needed for review and permitting of infrastructure projects.
198. Signed a bill that provided $4.3 billion in additional assistance to 9/11 first reponders. 
199. Signed an Executive Order pledging support for efforts to end the global problem of violence against women and girls.
And Did You Know?
200. Despite the characterizations of some, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office.  Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.