Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two cheers for Congress

With everything else going on this week, a lot of people probably didn't notice that yesterday Congress finally passed an extension of the transportation funding bill, that will authorize over $120 billion for much-needed highway construction projects and repairs; as well as an extension of a measure to subsidize student loans. The bill passed only after months of theatrics and debate, and only when highway funding authority was about to expire, and when student loan rates were set to double, both of which would have happened this weekend without Congressional action.

Yet when the bill was finally brought up for a vote, the vote in the House was 373 in favor to 52 opposed. In the Senate it was 74 to 19. Let's ponder those numbers for a moment. Obviously, this is stuff that is absolutely non-controversial. It is stuff that everybody wants. Yet it took a gigantic struggle to get to the floor a bill that had overwhelming popular and legislative support, and the bill did not pass until the eleventh hour. Why? Because members of Congress wanted to use this bill as leverage to force action on items that do not have overwhelming popular support, such as the Keystone pipeline.

Can Congress learn to stop doing that? If someone in either party introduces a bill in favor of apple pie, can Congress just pass it, and pat themselves on the back for being able to agree that we all like apple pie, instead of turning it into a titanic battle? The legislative process doesn't need to be so hard. If Congress would just get the things done that we pretty much all agree need to get done, without quite so much drama, there is a chance that public favorability rating of Congress, which is currently around 17%, might actually increase a bit.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy dance

Jay Leno broadcast some footage of President Obama's approach to the lectern to deliver his statement on the Supreme Court's decision yesterday upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Somehow the mainstream news organizations managed to omit this important historical document.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chief Justice Roberts and the Constitution

People can't help talking about the short term political implications of the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, and they can't help talking about the merits (or lack of merits) of the Act itself. But neither of those considerations should have played any role in what the Supreme Court had to decide. It is to the Chief Justice's credit that he managed to rise above consideration of the political implications of his decision, and also put aside his personal views of the advisability of this law.

It could be that the most important part of Justice Roberts's opinion is the seven page introduction (I say that perhaps because I haven't had time to digest the rest). But the introduction reminds us that the courts have a limited but important responsibility:
Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.
(slip opinion at p. 6) Before getting to that, and perhaps even more importantly, Justice Roberts reminds us that ours is a government of limited powers. This is what makes our country almost unique in the world. Most governments, even most democratic governments, start from the proposition that the sovereign (in most cases that is or used to be the king) has unlimited powers. In a parliamentary democracy, the sovereign might delegate those powers to a legislature, but they are still essentially unlimited, and they are still powers that are derived from the top down: from God, to the King and then to the legislature. Our government is premised on the opposite principle. Our government started by overthrowing the king, and declaring that the people are sovereign. That is why the Constitution starts with the words, "We the People." All power is retained by the people, or by their state governments, and the federal government possesses only the powers that we the people have expressly granted to it in the Constitution. This is our founding principle. It might be the only principle that we can all agree on.

Yet we never seem to agree on that principle in practice, because our views regarding the scope of the federal government's powers, change depending on what the government wants to do. Whichever party (and parties, remember are a concept that are foreign to our Constitution, and don't fit comfortably within our founding principles) obtains power wants the government to have all the power it needs to do whatever it is that that party supports. The opposition, on the other hand, the party out of power, tends to think of everything the government does that the opposition doesn't like, as beyond its power. This is why we are constantly arguing about the Constitution, and why the Supreme Court plays such an important role in our system of government, unlike many other governments. This is why everything new that the federal government tries to do, whether it is levying an income tax, or building roads, or monitoring our private lives, or involving itself in schools or social welfare programs, presents such a struggle. And this is why Chief Justice Roberts has to spend the first few pages of the Court's decision giving us a history and civics lesson before he can decide the question.

Chief Justice Roberts deserves enormous praise for his courageous decision today. Upholding the Affordable Care Act probably violates his personal policy preferences, and tests the limits of his personal views of the scope of the federal government's power to to enact such a law. Moreover, the Chief Justice had to vote on the signature legislative achievement of a president from the opposite party, a president who even voted as a senator against Chief Justice Roberts's own confirmation! (Now there's a vote President Obama would probably like to take back today.) Despite the intensity of Justice Roberts's personal feelings, and his knowledge that henceforth and to the end of his days, he will probably be vilified and denounced as a traitor by the right, the Chief Justice was able to put those feelings aside and uphold our founding principles. The Chief Justice proved that the Court is not a purely partisan institution that simply approves or disapproves legislation based on its personal policy preferences, and he thereby upheld the integrity and dignity of the Court and the Constitution. Hail to the chief!


President's statement on Supreme Court decision

John Roberts saves the ACA.

Opinion here

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Refi help

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The angry dissenters

Think about the stinging dissents that Justices Alito and Scalia read from the bench yesterday, Alito angry that the states are not allowed to sentence juveniles to mandatory life without parole, and Scalia outraged that Arizona is not allowed to act like the sovereign nation it never was in enforcing its own immigration policy. I don't have much to add to the legal analysis of those dissents. Both seem awfully full of holes to me. But why were these dissenters so angry?

I could be wrong, but to me it sends a hopeful signal about the health care decision expected on Thursday. If the Supreme Court were about to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, then Scalia and Alito, even while dissenting in yesterday's cases, would have been smirking to themselves in pleasure at the ruling they are about to hand down on health insurance. They know that the health care case is the big deal, and if they were going to win on that one, they should have been able to take the Arizona immigration case and the juvenile punishment cases in stride. But Alito and Scalia seemed far from sanguine about these cases.

Why were they so angry? It would seem they only have a right to be as angry as they acted yesterday if they are also going to find themselves in the minority on health care. Only if this very conservative court--as conservative a Supreme Court as has ever existed in my lifetime, and probably, if Obama is re-elected, as conservative a Supreme Court as we will see for the remainder of my lifetime--only if that conservative court is about to hand a 6-3 victory to the liberals would their frustration be understandable. Because that would mean these three most radical justices (Scalia, Alito, and the silent Thomas) have reached the limits of their conservative power, and it did not gain them all they wanted, and it is all downhill for them after this. One can only hope.

(NY Post photo)

Waterloo

Vice President Biden's speech today on restoring jobs to the United States:


"You gotta give Mitt Romney credit. He's a job creator . . . in Singapore, China, India."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sun Shining, Carry an Umbrella

Today's headline in Bloomberg:
 Obama Health Law Seen Valid, Scholars Expect Rejection
The article goes on to describe a poll of 21 constitutional law scholars, 19 of whom (that is over 90%) assert that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional under existing precedent. Nevertheless, only 8 of the 21 (38%) expect that the Supreme Court will uphold the Act.

We have gone through the looking glass, have we not? One analogy that occurred to me appears in the heading to this post. Another example of the topsy-turvy world we are living in comes from North Carolina, where the state legislature is considering a bill that would require that a state commission limit its predictions of future sea level increases to past data, rather than relying on the best predictions that scientists are able to make today. In other words, the exponential increases that most scientists are predicting would be forbidden, while arithmetic increases would be acceptable. The headline might read as follows:
Sea Levels Seen as Rising, Scientists Expect No Change in Rules for Beachfront Development
This kind of thinking is not confined to judges' disregard of precedent, or politicians' disdain of science. We could also look at the Congressional response to budgeting and come up with a similar headline.
Republicans Decry Deficit, Expect Higher Defense Spending and More Tax Cuts

Once you get used to this head-in-the-sand method of problem-solving, you can apply it almost anywhere.  
Highways Seen in Urgent Need of Repair, Expect Funding Cuts
Student Loan Debt Skyrocketing, Expect Loan Rates to Double
Let's not stop there. We can solve most all of our nation's pressing problems by simply doing the opposite of what logic and experience would suggest: 

Obesity on the Rise, Expect More Demand for Supersize Portions
Wealth Inequality Worsening, Expect Higher CEO Pay and Tax Cuts for the Rich
School Performance Declining, Expect to Fire More Teachers
Unemployment Still High, Expect More Offshoring

Whatever problem you can name, those who know better than the experts have a solution. You think those solutions would make these problems worse? That must be because you insist on living in the evidence-based community. You need to change your way of thinking.

What the Supreme Court is deciding

Justice Ginsburg said the other day that the people who are speculating about what the Supreme Court will do with the health care law don't know, and those who know aren't talking. That hasn't stopped the speculators from talking, and the talking has only gotten more intense as the decision has become imminent. Most of this loose talk focuses on the political implications of the Court's upcoming decision, as well as the possible effects on the health care law itself. Similarly, the speculation about the imminent Court decision on the constitutionality of Arizona's attempt to regulate immigration law has also generated much talk about the decision's political implications, as well as the effects of similar immigration enforcement by other states. From the Supreme Court's perspective, hardly any of this talk concerns what these cases are actually about at all. Granted, the justices' feelings about the advisability of the Affordable Care Act, or about Arizona's immigration statute, can't help but influence their rulings to some extent. Still, the justices have to think beyond those concerns.

What the Arizona case is really about, as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, is the scope of the pre-emption doctrine. To what extent do federal laws prevent the states from legislating in the same area? Traditionally, immigration has been viewed as exclusively the concern of the federal government. Even if  the conservatives on the Court approve of what Arizona is doing, they might not like it if other states start enacting stricter laws than the federal government has imposed in other areas. (environmental regulation for example) They have to think carefully about the precedent they are setting about the scope of federal pre-emption.

The health care case is mainly about the meaning of the Constitution's commerce clause, meaning that it is about whether we want to go back to the era before the 1930's, when the Court took a narrow view of the permissible areas of federal regulation of commerce. Clearly some of the judges are not afraid to turn the clock back, but others are going to hesitate before doing that. If the Supreme Court overturns all or part of the ACA (and I still think that is a big if), what will be of most importance to the future of our whole federal system will be whether they do it on narrow grounds that can be restricted to this particular statute, or whether they will issue a broader ruling that changes the meaning of federalism that has been accepted over the past 75 years or so.

In other words, what is at stake in these cases is nothing less than the relationship between the federal and state governments. The question is whether the federal government has the power to deal comprehensively with important issues like immigration and health care. The larger question is the one that has preoccupied us since the time the Constitution was written. Do we want a strong central government, or do we want most of the power to be dispersed among the fifty state governments? Two great events in our history--the Civil War and the Great Depression--caused us to create a much stronger central government. Our dominant military power built up during the two world wars, and the Cold War, also contributed to the need for a strong central government. (When military interests come into play, the conservatives tend to favor a strong central government.) The Supreme Court is now considering whether to dismantle that consensus. Three radicals on the Court seem eager to do that. The four justices appointed by Democrats probably favor the constitutional status quo. It will be up to the other two (Kennedy and Roberts) to choose whether to follow the radical vision, to uphold the status quo by upholding the Affordable Care Act while striking down the Arizona statute, or to modify our understanding of our federal system in some large or small way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Orlando



(transcript)

Mitt-Speak

Now that the Washington Post has exposed Bain Capital's investments in some of the pioneers of the job-outsourcing industry, it is becoming clear that when Mitt Romney talks about his experience in creating jobs, he means something different by the word "jobs" from the way that word is commonly understood. Just as when Mitt Romney speaks about "people," he does not necessarily mean human beings, which is what most people think of as people. Rather, he might be talking about corporations, which Mitt Romney tells us are people. So every time Mitt Romney talks about "people" or "the American people," just substitute the word "corporations," and Romney's meaning will become more clear.

So now with "jobs." For example, here's a line from Romney's victory speech in New Hampshire:
I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!
What Romney probably means is that he knows how to lead us into an outsourcing-creating recovery, considering that Romney has more experience with outsourcing than job-creating.

Or take Romney's line about asking business people whether President Obama's policies have helped them do more hiring. Since we know that under Obama, the private sector has in fact recovered more than 4 million jobs lost during the recession, it is obvious that Romney is not talking about jobs in the sense that term is commonly understood. What he could mean is, has President Obama helped companies with their outsourcing? And of course Obama has not.

People (actual people) should understand that when Mitt Romney says he is going to create jobs, that doesn't necessarily mean those jobs are going to be created here in America. Those jobs might be going elsewhere.

 Read: "Putting Outsourcing First"

or maybe "Putting jobs overseas"

or how about this caption: "Mitt Romney says: Wave goodbye to your job"


 (Times Leader photo)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Legacy of the WPA

Tonight I attended a talk at the LA Public Library between David Kipen, who wrote the introductions for some newly-reissued WPA guides to Los Angeles and other cites, and Gray Brechin, an historian who has created an internet repository of material related to the New Deal. Professor Brechin's slideshow brought home the enormous legacy of the WPA, the PWA, the CCC and other New Deal programs in Southern California, reminding us how many of the dams, the roads, the bridges, the schools, the airports, the courthouses, the post offices, and the artwork we owe to that period, much of which is still standing today.

The talk couldn't help veering into contemporary political history, as there are so many parallels between the situation confronting the Roosevelt administration in 1933, and the one confronting the Obama administration in 2009. Some of the ideas behind the Obama stimulus can be traced back to the WPA. In both cases, the plan included re-employing people on lasting public works projects. These days, however, modern construction techniques do not require the massive employment that public works projects provided in the 1930's. Obama's stimulus was therefore more of a Keynesian fiscal stimulus than a large-scale employment project. Roosevelt's projects were more fully paid for, by maintaining and even increasing tax rates. Brechin told how William Randolph Hearst, originally an FDR supporter, turned against Roosevelt because Roosevelt insisted on taxing the rich. This made it a little more difficult for Hearst to finish his grandiose San Simeon projects, and caused resistance similar to what we hear today to the supposed wastefulness of public works spending. (It's kind of ironic that the people of the State of California today own that massive private boondoggle known as Hearst Castle.)

It's hard to think of all the gorgeous public buildings and massive infrastructure projects built in the 1930's as boondoggles, considering how much benefit we have obtained from them for so many years. And it's tragic to think how the political resistance, even more fierce than in Roosevelt's time, to public works spending, will harm future generations, considering how much of our infrastructure is in urgent need of repair or replacement. If we knew our history better, perhaps we might better appreciate the need for a new program of improving public works, such as what President Obama has been proposing for many months.

Good news

According to an article in Bloomberg, the Romney campaign asked Governor Rick Scott of Florida to downplay his recent statements that unemployment is heading down. I am trying to imagine the conversation.

Romney staffer: We hear Governor Scott has been going around bragging about how the economy in Florida is improving.

Scott staffer: That's right. Have you seen Governor Scott's poll numbers lately? He really needs some good news or people with torches and pitchforks are going to start marching on the state capital.

Romney staffer: I sympathize, but it's presenting kind of a problem for the national campaign. If you're telling people that unemployment is going down, the voters might give President Obama credit for that.

Scott staffer: Isn't Governor Romney going to have to deal with the facts as they are? And isn't Romney going to lay out his own economic plan at some point? In the meantime, we have to tell people what a great job Governor Scott is doing, or we're in big trouble here.

Romney staffer: In case you haven't noticed, it hasn't been a big part of Romney's strategy so far to deal with reality. And his plans are still under wraps. So we have to just keep telling people that everything is getting worse and worse, and it's all Obama's fault. We are very nervous about good news.

Scott staffer: So what are we supposed to do?

Romney staffer: Well, how about if you say something like this: The economy is still terrible, and that's all President Obama's fault, and Governor Scott is trying to do the best he can under the circumstances. But things won't really get better until we elect Romney for president.

Scott staffer: You really think people are going to buy that? It sounds a little confusing to me.

Romney staffer: Just wait until we bombard the people of Florida with negative commercials. They'll start believing the world is coming to an end, no matter what is happening in reality. So they'll just laugh at Governor Scott anyway if he tries to tell them things are getting better.  I mean, do you want him to sound like President Obama?

Scott staffer: I get it. You're trying to make people depressed, and keep the economy in the toilet at least until November.

Romney staffer: Obviously. We can't win if people think things are improving. That's the bottom line. Now, is Governor Scott on board with that or not?

Scott staffer: Well, should I tell the governor that you actually want him to make things worse around here, or do you just want him to start telling people that things are getting worse?

Romney staffer: If the governor could do something that would actually throw a lot of people out of work, that would be really fantastic. But we'll settle for him just scaring people.

Scott staffer: I will pass on the message.

(Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid from Salon.com)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Context

Once again, Jon Stewart proves that if you watch the news, especially Fox News, all you will see will be snippets of information taken out of context to prove the point the "news" organization is trying to prove. If you want context, if you want historical background, if you want factual accuracy, you have to watch . . . Jon Stewart:




To the extent the Republican opposition has been able to muster a coherent response to the president's decision to stop deporting young people meeting certain criteria, they first said President Obama's actions are unprecedented. Stewart shows that is false. Next they said President Obama should have acted through Congress while the Democrats controlled it. Stewart shows that the Democrats tried to pass the Dream Act through Congress, and would have passed it, except for a Republican filibuster in the Senate in December 2010. Finally, Fox almost got Jon Stewart by showing that President Obama himself admitted last year that he did not have authority to do what he did. Except that, of course, if you play the rest of the clip, the president actually said the opposite.

What's also funny about this is that I've been reading some Republican reaction to the clips that were shown of Mitt Romney acting amazed about touch screen computers in convenience stores. Romney supporters say the MSNBC story was unfair because it did not show the whole clip where Romney explains that private enterprise is more efficient and innovative than government. I'm not sure how showing more of Romney's speech would have changed anything, but fine, whatever. You want context, show some context when you are talking about President Obama's press conference when he described the performance of the private sector as doing "fine." Last time I checked, however, the Romney campaign was running ads repeating those few words endlessly, instead of seriously trying to understand them and place them in context.

Since, like Jon Stewart, I try to provide the complete context, historical background and analysis that is lacking in the mainstream media, if you click on the links above, you will get all of that context and understanding both about Mitt Romney's recent touchscreen remarks, as well as President Obama's "doing fine" remark.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mitt Romney praises a job-destroyer.



After having to dodge protesters, and dodge difficult questions about his position on immigration law, Mitt Romney I'm sure felt relieved to find something to get enthusiastic about. What was it? It was the touchscreen at Wawas. Gee whiz! How about that good old-fashioned American know-how and innovation!

In the clip above, the reporters make fun of Romney for being so out of touch that he doesn't realize how ubiquitous the touchscreen computer has become. What worries me, however, is not that Romney is out of touch with our daily lives. Rather, it is that he is out of touch with some fundamental problems in our economy.

After all, isn't the thing that Mitt Romney was so excited about exactly the kind of thing that lies behind our country's economic problems? There is a theory going around that what really caused our economic downturn was not so much speculative bubbles, and not so much risky behavior on Wall Street. Those were merely the precipitating events. The underlying problem is that automation is destroying manufacturing jobs at a rapid clip. As the Wawas touchscreen demonstrates, automation is also destroying thousands of jobs in retail businesses.

Mitt Romney doesn't seem worried about how to deal with the displacements being caused by rapid automation. He doesn't even appear to understand the problem. All he does is cheer it on. You can almost hear him exult at the number of employees that Wawas can probably do without as a result of requiring customers to input their order to a computer. You never hear Mitt Romney explain how we are going to re-train and re-employ those displaced employees. What do you expect from someone who says he likes firing people?

Compare Mitt Romney's laughable bus tour with President Obama's many trips among ordinary people. Why does President Obama seem to spend all his time visiting re-tooled factories and schools? Could it be that the president is on to something that Mitt Romney has no clue about? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

More on ending the stalemate




I give the president a lot of credit for continuing to talk about members of Congress working together in a constructive way to pass programs that would put people to work right now.  This is a tough message to be putting forward in an election year, when all most politicians want to talk about is electing themselves and defeating the other guy. But President Obama is still talking about a new kind of politics in which elected officials put the needs of the country ahead of partisan advantage.
Every problem we face is within our power to solve.  What’s lacking is our politics.  Remind your Members of Congress why you sent them to Washington in the first place.  Tell them to stop worrying about the next election and start worrying about the next generation.  I’m ready to work with anyone – Republican, Democrat, or Independent – who is serious about moving this country forward.  And I hope Members of Congress will join me.

The president's supporters for the most part aren't all that excited by that message, because they just want to defeat the other guys. They want to hear more fiery rhetoric and outrage from the president. The opposition doesn't want to hear President Obama's message either, because they do seem willing to defer action to help the economy if they think it will help them politically, and they don't appreciate it when somebody points that out. But it's still the right message because what both sides don't seem to realize is that they are not likely to vanquish their political enemies in an election year or otherwise. To do that, you either have to destroy them or convert them, and neither of those things is likely to happen in November.

President Obama knows that after he is re-elected, we are still going to have a polarized electorate and most likely still have a divided government. The opposition is not going anywhere. And even if the Republicans win, it will just be their turn to deal with a large and angry opposition. No matter what happens, we should still try to figure out how to work together to move forward. President Obama is looking ahead as usual, but he is also asking that we not squander the rest of this year doing nothing to solve pressing economic problems, just because we are facing political decisions.

I was sad to hear the news this morning that Rodney King died, because Rodney King made one of the most memorable statements addressing the problems of our times. "Can't we all get along?" President Obama has been asking a similar question. We don't have to agree with each other all the time. We don't have to surrender our principles. But we should try to work together to solve common problems. How amazing that President Obama continues to state that simple but profound message after all we have been through.

(transcript)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Republicans squirm over immigration policy.

What could be more fun than watching the opposition fall all over itself trying to come up with a coherent response to President Obama's decision to stop deporting young people who meet criteria similar to those that would have allowed them to stay in this country pursuant to the Dream Act? Before looking at some of those reactions, we should keep in mind that these are some of the same Republicans, a minority in the Senate, who prevented a vote on the Dream Act from taking place. You might wonder whether any of these Republicans blame themselves for failing to take action to deal with this problem, which it might be reasonable to think was the cause of the administration taking executive action. You might wonder that for about one second, because of course I did not come across any Republican comments blaming themselves for shirking their responsibility to act.

Anyway, on the extreme right, we have Representative Steve King, who blames illegal immigrants for pretty much everything, threatening to sue the administration to stop implementation of this policy. "Go ahead," I can imagine the president thinking, "make my day."



Senator Grassley got all self-righteous today about President Obama's legal authority to  exercise this kind of discretion. It was different, Grassley might say, when George W. Bush was being very lax in enforcing immigration law. We must hold President Obama to a higher standard. What that means is that no matter what President Obama does, he is wrong.

Caught in the middle is poor Mitt Romney, who is now being forced to eat many of the harsh anti -immigrant words he spoke during the Republican presidential debates, whining about how the president should have dealt with this issue earlier in his term. (Except aren't you forgetting about how he tried to do that, and the Senate Republicans wouldn't allow the bill to come up for a vote?) Woe is me, says Romney, now I have to take a position on this issue and I don't know what to do.

Then there is Marco Rubio, still trying to keep his vice-presidential dreams alive, first saying that the president's decision will come as "welcome news" for many young people who deserve help, and then complaining that "this short term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long term one." Rubio has been working on a long term solution for months, apparently. Every time somebody asks about it, he responds that he's still working on it. So how will the president's short term fix delay his long term solution even more? Rubio did not explain this, but perhaps if he didn't have to spend so much time putting out statements responding to the president's actions he could get back to work on his long term plan.

Statement on deportation policy changes

Breaking the stalemate

 President Obama gave a partisan political speech in Cleveland yesterday, laying out his vision for our economic future, and contrasting it with that of the opposition. The speech makes a strong case for why the Democrats' program will help us achieve our economic goals, while the Republicans' ideas have not and will not work. But he also talked about how we might change the political dynamics in this country to allow us to better deal with our economic problems. The president made the case that our political problems may be more serious than our economic problems:
 And what is holding us back is not a lack of big ideas.  It isn’t a matter of finding the right technical solution.  Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see.  What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is your chance to break that stalemate. 
One way to break the stalemate, of course, would be to elect more Democrats. Considering the strong case the president was making for choosing the Democratic program over the Republican program, that is certainly one conclusion voters can and should draw. But the president's approach to government does not necessarily require that his party obtain an overwhelming majority of votes in Congress. Rather, it asks both parties, without surrendering their principles, to work together to find common ground. President Obama appealed to what he called a "shared vision" that Democrats and Republicans used to have that allowed for the creation not only of Social Security (under Roosevelt) and Medicare (Johnson), but also the transcontinental railroad (Lincoln), the Interstate Highway System (Eisenhower) and the Environmental Protection Agency (Nixon).
It’s this vision that Democrats and Republicans used to share that Mr. Romney and the current Republican Congress have rejected -- in favor of a "no holds barred," "government is the enemy," "market is everything" approach. And it is this shared vision that I intend to carry forward in this century as President -- because it is a vision that has worked for the American middle class and everybody who's striving to get into the middle class.
In 2008, the country responded to President Obama's call for us to reduce partisan bickering, get beyond the divisive idea of red states and blue states, and learn to sit down together to solve common problems. Yesterday's speech in Cleveland provides evidence that the president has not abandoned that goal, even though it seems to have been wholly rejected by the other party, which continues to portray President Obama, falsely, as some kind of left wing ideologue.

Congressional leaders should ask themselves why the public's approval rating of Congress is somewhere around 17% (17%!), while President Obama's approval rating, in the midst of the worst economy in most of our lifetimes, is still close to 50%. People understand where the partisanship and obstructionism reside. People understand that we cannot solve the long term problem of our national debt if one side refuses to consider any steps that will increase revenue. The Republican insistence on spending cuts only will not work, and has produced only stalemate. We also cannot solve our immigration problems by refusing to consider any solutions other than mass deportations and stricter law enforcement. Everyone who has studied the problem knows that will not work, and an uncompromising stand on this issue has produced only stalemate. Similarly, we cannot reduce unemployment if we keep firing government workers, and refuse to consider any solution that acknowledges that government has a role to play in jump-starting the economy.

If the Republicans sweep back into power this November, that will vindicate their strategy of obstructionism, and might allow them to run roughshod over the other half of the electorate that disagrees with their approach. Obviously President Obama and his supporters hope the country will instead choose to re-elect him, and increase his party's numbers in Congress. But regardless of those numbers, the president hopes that the Republicans will re-consider their obstructionist tactics after the election, and learn to work together to implement the shared vision the president was talking about in Cleveland.
I will work with anyone of any party who believes that we’re in this together -- who believes that we rise or fall as one nation and as one people.  Because I’m convinced that there are actually a lot of Republicans out there who may not agree with every one of my policies, but who still believe in a balanced, responsible approach to economic growth, and who remember the lessons of our history, and who don’t like the direction their leaders are taking them. . . . 
[W]hat’s lacking is not the capacity to meet our challenges.  What is lacking is our politics.  And that’s something entirely within your power to solve. 
I heard that some Obama supporters were disappointed with this speech. They want something more rousing, more partisan. They want a fight. What partisans--on both sides--fail to recognize is that we have a deeply divided electorate, and some of those deep divisions concern basic philosophical issues. Neither side is going to "win" that debate in the way they want to win it, because neither side is going to be able to persuade the other side of the correctness of their views. All either side can hope for is to gain a narrow majority, after which they will still have to deal with a deeply hostile opposition.

In my mediation practice, I see similar attitudes play out repeatedly. Both sides to a business conflict enter the room with deeply entrenched positions. They are both interested in vindicating those positions, and they both believe truth and justice are wholly on their side. And the only way to resolve those conflicts in a consensual way is to stop talking about positions and truth and justice, and instead start talking about how to solve a common problem. What attracted me to the Obama campaign back in 2007 was not his advocacy of a laundry list of policy positions (though his positions and mine are fairly compatible) but his commitment to a new kind of politics in which parties will recognize their shared goals and common interests. That vision is in tatters today--I would submit mainly because of the other side's complete rejection of the idea, but also because partisans on both sides are focused only on the truth and justice of their respective policy goals, and refuse to recognize that other voices in a democracy also must be recognized--but I was pleased to see that the president has not abandoned that vision.

As much as this year's election is about choosing between competing plans for our economic future, it is also about whether we can return to a shared vision of our political future. And that, as the president said, is entirely within our power to solve.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cleveland: the choice



Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President on the Economy -- Cleveland, OH

Cuyahoga Community College
Cleveland, Ohio
2:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Good afternoon, everybody.  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Cleveland.  (Applause.)  It is great to be back here at Cuyahoga Community College.  (Applause.) 
I want to, first of all, thank Angela for her introduction and sharing her story.  I know her daughter is very proud of her -- I know her daughter is here today.  So give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your president, Dr. Jerry-Sue Thornton.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank some members of Congress who made the trip today -- Representative Marcia Fudge, Representative Betty Sutton, and Representative Marcy Kaptur.  (Applause.)
Now, those of you who have a seat, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter and applause.) 
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!  (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.
AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 
So, Ohio, over the next five months, this election will take many twists and many turns.  Polls will go up and polls will go down.  There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about.  You may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process.  (Laughter.)  It wasn’t the first time; it won’t be the last.  (Laughter.)   
And in the coming weeks, Governor Romney and I will spend time debating our records and our experience -- as we should.  But though we will have many differences over the course of this campaign, there's one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent:  This election is about our economic future.  (Applause.) 
Yes, foreign policy matters.  Social issues matter.  But more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions of how to create strong, sustained growth; how to pay down our long-term debt; and most of all, how to generate good, middle-class jobs so people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.  (Applause.) 
Now, this isn’t some abstract debate.  This is not another trivial Washington argument.  I have said that this is the defining issue of our time -- and I mean it.  I said that this is a make-or-break moment for America’s middle class -- and I believe it.  The decisions we make in the next few years on everything from debt and taxes to energy and education will have an enormous impact on this country and on the country we pass on to our children. 
Now, these challenges are not new.  We’ve been wrestling with these issues for a long time.  The problems we’re facing right now have been more than a decade in the making.  And what is holding us back is not a lack of big ideas.  It isn’t a matter of finding the right technical solution.  Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see.  What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take.   
And this election is your chance to break that stalemate.  (Applause.) 
At stake is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country.  And while there are many things to discuss in this campaign, nothing is more important than an honest debate about where these two paths would lead us. 
Now, that debate starts with an understanding of where we are and how we got here. 
Long before the economic crisis of 2008, the basic bargain at the heart of this country had begun to erode.  For more than a decade, it had become harder to find a job that paid the bills -- harder to save, harder to retire; harder to keep up with rising costs of gas and health care and college tuitions.  You know that; you lived it.  (Applause.)
During that decade, there was a specific theory in Washington about how to meet this challenge.  We were told that huge tax cuts -- especially for the wealthiest Americans -- would lead to faster job growth.  We were told that fewer regulations -- especially for big financial institutions and corporations -- would bring about widespread prosperity.  We were told that it was okay to put two wars on the nation’s credit card; that tax cuts would create enough growth to pay for themselves.  That’s what we were told.  So how did this economic theory work out?
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Terrible.  (Laughter.) 
THE PRESIDENT:  For the wealthiest Americans, it worked out pretty well.  Over the last few decades, the income of the top 1 percent grew by more than 275 percent -- to an average of $1.3 million a year.  Big financial institutions, corporations saw their profits soar.  But prosperity never trickled down to the middle class. 
From 2001 to 2008, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.  The typical family saw their incomes fall.  The failure to pay for the tax cuts and the wars took us from record surpluses under President Bill Clinton to record deficits.  And it left us unprepared to deal with the retirement of an aging population that’s placing a greater strain on programs like Medicare and Social Security. 
Without strong enough regulations, families were enticed, and sometimes tricked, into buying homes they couldn’t afford.  Banks and investors were allowed to package and sell risky mortgages.  Huge, reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line.  And too many from Wall Street to Washington simply looked the other way.
For a while, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the reality of this new economy -- people borrowed money to keep up.  But the growth that took place during this time period turned out to be a house of cards.  And in the fall of 2008, it all came tumbling down -- with a financial crisis that plunged the world into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 
Here in America, families’ wealth declined at a rate nearly seven times faster than when the market crashed in 1929.  Millions of homes were foreclosed.  Our deficit soared.  And nine million of our citizens lost their jobs -- 9 million hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were forced to pay for the irresponsibility of others. 
In other words, this was not your normal recession.  Throughout history, it has typically taken countries up to 10 years to recover from financial crises of this magnitude.  Today, the economies of many European countries still aren’t growing.  And their unemployment rate averages around 11 percent. 
But here in the United States, Americans showed their grit and showed their determination.  We acted fast.  Our economy started growing again six months after I took office and it has continued to grow for the last three years.  (Applause.) 
Our businesses have gone back to basics and created over 4 million jobs in the last 27 months -- (applause) -- more private sector jobs than were created during the entire seven years before this crisis -- in a little over two years.  (Applause.) 
Manufacturers have started investing in America again -- including right here in Ohio.  (Applause.)  And across America, we've seen them create almost 500,000 jobs in the last 27 months -- the strongest period of manufacturing job growth since 1995.  (Applause.) 
And when my opponent and others were arguing that we should let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers and the ingenuity of American companies -- and today our auto industry is back on top of the world.  (Applause.)
But let’s be clear:  Not only are we digging out of a hole that is 9 million jobs deep, we’re digging out from an entire decade where 6 million manufacturing jobs left our shores; where costs rose but incomes and wages didn’t; and where the middle class fell further and further behind. 
So recovering from the crisis of 2008 has always been the first and most urgent order of business -- but it’s not enough.  Our economy won’t be truly healthy until we reverse that much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and middle-class incomes. 
So the debate in this election is not about whether we need to grow faster, or whether we need to create more jobs, or whether we need to pay down our debt.  Of course the economy isn’t where it needs to be.  Of course we have a lot more work to do.  Everybody knows that.  The debate in this election is about how we grow faster, and how we create more jobs, and how we pay down our debt.  (Applause.)  That’s the question facing the American voter.  And in this election, you have two very different visions to choose from.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  No, we don’t! (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Obama!  (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that we tried during the last decade -- the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.  So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, if we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed, and that will automatically benefit us all.   
That’s what they believe.  This is their economic plan.  It has been placed before Congress.  Governor Romney has given speeches about it, and it’s on his website.  So if they win the election, their agenda will be simple and straightforward.  They have spelled it out:  They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies.  They’ll roll back regulations designed to protect consumers and workers.  They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that. 
Now, an independent study says that about 70 percent of this new, $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year.  And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent. 
Now, this is not my opinion.  This is not political spin.  This is precisely what they have proposed. 
Now, your next question may be, how do you spend $5 trillion on a tax cut and still bring down the deficit?  Well, they tell us they’ll start by cutting nearly a trillion dollars from the part of our budget that includes everything from education and job training to medical research and clean energy. 
AUDIENCE:  Booo --
THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I want to be very fair here.  I want to be clear.  They haven’t specified exactly where the knife would fall.  But here’s some of what would happen if that cut that they’ve proposed was spread evenly across the budget:  10 million college students would lose an average of $1,000 each in financial aid; 200,000 children would lose the chance to get an early education in the Head Start program.  There would be 1,600 fewer medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS; 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers. 
Now, again, they have not specified which of these cuts they choose from.  But if they want to make smaller cuts to areas like science or medical research, then they’d have to cut things like financial aid or education even further.  But either way, the cuts to this part of the budget would be deeper than anything we’ve ever seen in modern times. 
Not only does their plan eliminate health insurance for 33 million Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act --
AUDIENCE:  Booo --
THE PRESIDENT:  -- according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, it would also take away coverage from another 19 million Americans who rely on Medicaid -- including millions of nursing home patients, and families who have children with autism and other disabilities.  And they proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program, which will shift more costs to seniors and eventually end the program as we know it. 
But it doesn’t stop there.  Even if you make all the cuts that they’ve proposed, the math still doesn’t allow you to pay for a new, $5 trillion tax cut and bring down the deficit at the same time.  So Mr. Romney and his allies have told us we can get the rest of the way there by reforming the tax code and taking away certain tax breaks and deductions that, again, they haven’t specified.  They haven’t named them, but they said we can do it.
But here's the problem:  The only tax breaks and deductions that get you anywhere close to $5 trillion are those that help middle-class families afford health care and college and retirement and homeownership.  Without those tax benefits, tens of millions of middle-class families will end up paying higher taxes.  Many of you would end up paying higher taxes to pay for this other tax cut. 
And keep in mind that all of this is just to pay for their new $5 trillion tax cut.  If you want to close the deficit left by the Bush tax cuts, we’d have to make deeper cuts or raise middle-class taxes even more.
This is not spin.  This is not my opinion.  These are facts.  This is what they’re presenting as their plan.  This is their vision.  There is nothing new -- just what Bill Clinton has called the same ideas they’ve tried before, except on steroids.  (Laughter and applause.) 
Now, I understand I’ve got a lot of supporters here, but I want to speak to everybody who's watching who may not be a supporter -- may be undecided, or thinking about voting the other way.  If you agree with the approach I just described, if you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney. 
AUDIENCE:  Booo --
THE PRESIDENT:  Now, like I said, I know I’ve got supporters here.   No, no, you should vote for his allies in Congress. 
AUDIENCE:  No!
THE PRESIDENT:  You should take them at their word, and they will take America down this path.  And Mr. Romney is qualified to deliver on that plan.  (Laughter and applause.)  No, he is.  (Applause.)  I’m giving you an honest presentation of what he’s proposing.   
Now, I'm looking forward to the press following up and making sure that you know I'm not exaggerating.  (Applause.) 
I believe their approach is wrong.  And I’m not alone.  I have not seen a single independent analysis that says my opponent’s economic plan would actually reduce the deficit.  Not one.  Even analysts who may agree with parts of his economic theory don’t believe that his plan would create more jobs in the short term.  They don’t claim his plan would help folks looking for work right now. 
In fact, just the other week, one economist from Moody’s said the following about Mr. Romney’s plan -- and I'm quoting here -- "On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term.  If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower." 
That's not my spin.  That's not my opinion.  That's what independent economic analysis says.  
As for the long term, remember that the economic vision of Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress was tested just a few years ago.  We tried this.  Their policies did not grow the economy.  They did not grow the middle class.  They did not reduce our debt.  Why would we think that they would work better this time?  (Applause.) 
We can’t afford to jeopardize our future by repeating the mistakes of the past -- not now, not when there’s so much at stake.  (Applause.)  
I've got a different vision for America.  (Applause.)  I believe that you can’t bring down the debt without a strong and growing economy.  And I believe you can’t have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class.  (Applause.)  
This has to be our North Star -- an economy that’s built not from the top down, but from a growing middle class, that provides ladders of opportunity for folks who aren't yet in the middle class. 
You see, we’ll never be able to compete with some countries when it comes to paying workers lower wages or letting companies do more polluting.  That’s a race to the bottom that we should not want to win.  (Applause.)  Because those countries don't have a strong middle class; they don’t have our standard of living.  (Applause.) 
The race I want us to win -- the race I know we can win -- is a race to the top.  I see an America with the best-educated, best-trained workers in the world; an America with a commitment to research and development that is second to none, especially when it comes to new sources of energy and high-tech manufacturing.  I see a country that offers businesses the fastest, most reliable transportation and communication systems of anywhere on Earth.  (Applause.) 
I see a future where we pay down our deficit in a way that is balanced -- not by placing the entire burden on the middle class and the poor, but by cutting out programs we can’t afford, and asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share.  (Applause.) 
That’s my vision for America:  Education.  Energy.  Innovation.  Infrastructure.  And a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction.  (Applause.) 
This is the vision behind the jobs plan I sent Congress back in September -- a bill filled with bipartisan ideas that, according to independent economists, would create up to 1 million additional jobs if passed today. 
This is the vision behind the deficit plan I sent to Congress back in September -- a detailed proposal that would reduce our deficit by $4 trillion through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.   
This is the vision I intend to pursue in my second term as President -- (applause) -- because I believe if we do these things -- if we do these things, more companies will start here, and stay here, and hire here; and more Americans will be able to find jobs that support a middle-class lifestyle. 
Understand, despite what you hear from my opponent, this has never been a vision about how government creates jobs or has the answers to all our problems.  Over the last three years, I’ve cut taxes for the typical working family by $3,600.  (Applause.)  I’ve cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.  (Applause.)  I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.  And I’m implementing over 500 reforms to fix regulations that were costing folks too much for no reason. 
I’ve asked Congress for the authority to reorganize the federal government that was built for the last century -- I want to make it work for the 21st century.  (Applause.)  A federal government that is leaner and more efficient, and more responsive to the American people. 
I’ve signed a law that cuts spending and reduces our deficit by $2 trillion.  My own deficit plan would strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for the long haul by slowing the growth of health care costs -- not shifting them to seniors and vulnerable families.  (Applause.)  And my plan would reduce our yearly domestic spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy in nearly 60 years. 
So, no, I don’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems.  I don’t believe every regulation is smart, or that every tax dollar is spent wisely.  I don’t believe that we should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves.  (Applause.)  But I do share the belief of our first Republican President, from my home state -- Abraham Lincoln -- that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.  (Applause.)  
That’s how we built this country -- together.  We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.  We did those things together.  We sent my grandfather’s generation to college on the GI Bill -- together.  (Applause.)  We instituted a minimum wage and rules that protected people’s bank deposits -- together.  (Applause.) 
Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. 
We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans.  We’ve done them as Americans.  (Applause.) 
As much as we might associate the GI Bill with Franklin Roosevelt, or Medicare with Lyndon Johnson, it was a Republican -- Lincoln -- who launched the Transcontinental Railroad, the National Academy of Sciences, land-grant colleges.  It was a Republican -- Eisenhower -- who launched the Interstate Highway System and a new era of scientific research.  It was Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency; Reagan who worked with Democrats to save Social Security, -- and who, by the way, raised taxes to help pay down an exploding deficit.  (Applause.)
Yes, there have been fierce arguments throughout our history between both parties about the exact size and role of government -- some honest disagreements.  But in the decades after World War II, there was a general consensus that the market couldn’t solve all of our problems on its own; that we needed certain investments to give hardworking Americans skills they needed to get a good job, and entrepreneurs the platforms they needed to create good jobs; that we needed consumer protections that made American products safe and American markets sound. 
In the last century, this consensus -- this shared vision  -- led to the strongest economic growth and the largest middle class that the world has ever known.  It led to a shared prosperity. 
It is this vision that has guided all my economic policies during my first term as President -- whether in the design of a health care law that relies on private insurance, or an approach to Wall Street reform that encourages financial innovation but guards against reckless risk-taking.  It’s this vision that Democrats and Republicans used to share that Mr. Romney and the current Republican Congress have rejected -- in favor of a "no holds barred," "government is the enemy," "market is everything" approach. 
And it is this shared vision that I intend to carry forward in this century as President -- because it is a vision that has worked for the American middle class and everybody who's striving to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)
Let me be more specific.  Think about it.  In an age where we know good jobs depend on high skills, now is not the time to scale back our commitment to education.  (Applause.)  Now is the time to move forward and make sure we have the best-educated, best-trained workers in the world.  (Applause.)
My plan for education doesn’t just rely on more money, or more dictates from Washington.  We’re challenging every state and school district to come up with their own innovative plans to raise student achievement.  And they’re doing just that.  I want to give schools more flexibility so that they don’t have to teach to the test, and so they can remove teachers who just aren’t helping our kids learn.  (Applause.)
But, look, if we want our country to be a magnet for middle-class jobs in the 21st century, we also have to invest more in education and training.  I want to recruit an army of new teachers, and pay teachers better -- (applause) -- and train more of them in areas like math and science.  (Applause.) 
I have a plan to give 2 million more Americans the chance to go to community colleges just like this one and learn the skills that businesses are looking for right now.  (Applause.)  I have a plan to make it easier for people to afford a higher education that’s essential in today’s economy. 
And if we truly want to make this country a destination for talent and ingenuity from all over the world, we won’t deport hardworking, responsible young immigrants who have grown up here or received advanced degrees here.  (Applause.)  We’ll let them earn the chance to become American citizens so they can grow our economy and start new businesses right here instead of someplace else.  (Applause.)
Now is not the time to go back to a greater reliance on fossil fuels from foreign countries.  Now is the time to invest more in the clean energy that we can make right here in America.  (Applause.)
My plan for energy doesn’t ignore the vast resources we already have in this country.  We’re producing more oil than we have in over a decade.  But if we truly want to gain control of our energy future, we’ve got to recognize that pumping more oil isn’t enough. 
We have to encourage the unprecedented boom in American natural gas.  We have to provide safe nuclear energy and the technology to help coal burn cleaner than before.  We have to become the global leader in renewable energy -- wind and solar, and the next generation of biofuels, in electric cars and energy-efficient buildings.  (Applause.) 
So my plan would end the government subsidies to oil companies that have rarely been more profitable -- let’s double down on a clean energy industry that has never been more promising.  (Applause.) 
And I want to put in place a new clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation -- an approach that would make clean energy the profitable kind of energy for every business in America.
With growing competition from countries like China and India, now is not the time for America to walk away from research and development.  Now is the time to invest even more  -- (applause) -- so that the great innovations of this century take place in the United States of America.  So that the next Thomas Edison, the next Wright Brothers is happening here, in Ohio, or Michigan, or California.  (Applause.)
My plan to encourage innovation isn’t about throwing money at just any project or new idea.  It’s about supporting the work of our most promising scientists, our most promising researchers and entrepreneurs. 
My plan would make the R&D tax credit permanent.  But the private sector can’t do it alone, especially when it comes to basic research.  It’s not always profitable in the short term.  And in the last century, research that we funded together through our tax dollars helped lay the foundation for the Internet and GPS and Google, and the countless companies and jobs that followed.  The private sector came in and created these incredible companies, but we, together, made the initial investment to make it possible. 
It's given rise to miraculous cures that have reduced suffering and saved lives.  This has always been America’s biggest economic advantage -- our science and our innovation.  Why would we reverse that commitment right now when it’s never been more important?
At a time when we have so much deferred maintenance on our nation’s infrastructure -- schools that are crumbling, roads that are broken, bridges that are buckling -- now is not the time to saddle American businesses with crumbling roads and bridges.  Now is the time to rebuild America.  (Applause.)   
So my plan would take half the money we’re no longer spending on war -- let’s use it to do some nation-building here at home.  Let’s put some folks to work right here at home.  (Applause.) 
My plan would get rid of pet projects and government boondoggles and bridges to nowhere.  (Laughter.)  But if we want businesses to come here and to hire here, we have to provide the highways and the runways and the ports and the broadband access, all of which move goods and products and information across the globe. 
My plan sets up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans for new construction projects based on two criteria:  how badly are they needed, and how much good will they do for the economy.  (Applause.)
And finally, I think it’s time we took on our fiscal problems in an honest, balanced, responsible way.  Everybody agrees that our deficits and debt are an issue that we’ve got to tackle.  My plan to reform the tax code recognizes that government can’t bring back every job that’s been outsourced or every factory that’s closed its doors.  But we sure can stop giving tax breaks to businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America -- in Ohio, in Cleveland, in Pennsylvania.  (Applause.) 
And if we want to get the deficit under control -- really, not just pretending to during election time -- (laughter) -- not just saying you really care about it when somebody else is in charge, and then you don’t care where you’re in charge.  (Applause.)  If you want to really do something about it, if you really want to get the deficit under control without sacrificing all the investments that I’ve talked about, our tax code has to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more -- (applause) -- just like they did when Bill Clinton was President; just like they did when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot.  (Applause.)  
And here’s the good news:  There are plenty of patriotic, very successful Americans who’d be willing to make this contribution again.  (Applause.)
Look, we have no choice about whether we pay down our deficit.  But we do have a choice about how we pay down our deficit.  We do have a choice about what we can do without, and where our priorities lie. 
I don’t believe that giving someone like me a $250,000 tax cut is more valuable to our future than hiring transformative teachers, or providing financial aid to the children of a middle-class family.  (Applause.) 
I don’t believe that tax cut is more likely to create jobs than providing loans to new entrepreneurs or tax credits to small business owners who hire veterans.  I don’t believe it’s more likely to spur economic growth than investments in clean energy technology and medical research, or in new roads and bridges and runways.  
I don’t believe that giving someone like Mr. Romney another huge tax cut is worth ending the guarantee of basic security we’ve always provided the elderly, and the sick, and those who are actively looking for work.  (Applause.) 
Those things don’t make our economy weak.  What makes our economy weak is when fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the goods and services our businesses sell.  (Applause.) Businesses don’t have customers if folks are having such a hard time. 
What drags us all down is an economy in which there’s an ever-widening gap between a few folks who are doing extraordinarily well and a growing number of people who, no matter how hard they work, can barely make ends meet.  (Applause.)
So, Governor Romney disagrees with my vision.  His allies in Congress disagree with my vision.  Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes.  It’s the reason we haven’t reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit -- not with my plan, not with the Bowles-Simpson plan, not with the so-called Gang of Six plan. 
Despite the fact that taxes are lower than they’ve been in decades, they won’t work with us on any plan that would increase taxes on our wealthiest Americans.  It’s the reason a jobs bill that would put 1 million people back to work has been voted down time and time again.  It’s the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today. 
And the only thing that can break the stalemate is you.  (Applause.)  You see, in our democracy, this remarkable system of government, you, the people, have the final say.  (Applause.)  
This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit.  Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation -- not just tomorrow, but for years to come.  (Applause.) 
When you strip everything else away, that’s really what this election is about.  That’s what is at stake right now.  Everything else is just noise.  Everything else is just a distraction.  (Applause.)  
From now until then, both sides will spend tons of money on TV ads.  The other side will spend over a billion dollars on ads that tell you the economy is bad, that it’s all my fault -- (applause) -- that I can’t fix it because I think government is always the answer, or because I didn’t make a lot of money in the private sector and don't understand it, or because I’m in over my head, or because I think everything and everybody is doing just fine.  (Laughter.)  That’s what the scary voice in the ads will say.  (Laughter.)  That’s what Mr. Romney will say.  That’s what the Republicans in Congress will say. 
Well, that may be their plan to win the election, but it’s not a plan to create jobs.  (Applause.)  It’s not a plan to grow the economy.  It’s not a plan to pay down the debt.  And it’s sure not a plan to revive the middle class and secure our future. 
I think you deserve better than that.  (Applause.) 
At a moment this big -- a moment when so many people are still struggling -- I think you deserve a real debate about the economic plans we’re proposing. 
Governor Romney and the Republicans who run Congress believe that if you simply take away regulations and cut taxes by trillions of dollars, the market will solve all of our problems on its own.  If you agree with that, you should vote for them.  And I promise you they will take us in that direction. 
I believe we need a plan for better education and training -- (applause) -- and for energy independence, and for new research and innovation; for rebuilding our infrastructure; for a tax code that creates jobs in America and pays down our debt in a way that’s balanced.  I have that plan.  They don’t.  (Applause.)  
And if you agree with me -- if you believe this economy grows best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules  -- then I ask you to stand with me for a second term as President.  (Applause.) 
In fact, I’ll take it a step further.  I ask, you vote for anyone else -- whether they’re Democrats, independents, or Republicans -- who share your view about how America should grow.  (Applause.) 
I will work with anyone of any party who believes that we’re in this together -- who believes that we rise or fall as one nation and as one people.  (Applause.)  Because I’m convinced that there are actually a lot of Republicans out there who may not agree with every one of my policies, but who still believe in a balanced, responsible approach to economic growth, and who remember the lessons of our history, and who don’t like the direction their leaders are taking them.  (Applause.)  
And let me leave you with one last thought.  As you consider your choice in November -- (applause) -- don’t let anybody tell you that the challenges we face right now are beyond our ability to solve. 
It’s hard not to get cynical when times are tough.  And I’m reminded every day of just how tough things are for too many Americans.  Every day I hear from folks who are out of work or have lost their home.  Across this country, I meet people who are struggling to pay their bills, or older workers worried about retirement, or young people who are underemployed and burdened with debt.  I hear their voices when I wake up in the morning, and those voices ring in my head when I lay down to sleep.  And in those voices, I hear the echo of my own family’s struggles as I was growing up, and Michelle’s family’s struggles when she was growing up, and the fears and the dashed hopes that our parents and grandparents had to confront. 
But you know what, in those voices I also hear a stubborn hope, and a fierce pride, and a determination to overcome whatever challenges we face.  (Applause.)  And in you, the American people, I’m reminded of all the things that tilt the future in our favor. 
We remain the wealthiest nation on Earth.  We have the best workers and entrepreneurs, the best scientists and researchers, the best colleges and universities.  We are a young country with the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity drawn from every corner of the globe.  So, yes, reforming our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure will take time.  Yes, paying down our debt will require some tough choices and shared sacrifice.  But it can be done.  And we’ll be stronger for it.  (Applause.)  
And what’s lacking is not the capacity to meet our challenges.  What is lacking is our politics.  And that’s something entirely within your power to solve.  So this November, you can remind the world how a strong economy is built -- not from the top down, but from a growing, thriving middle class.  (Applause.) 
This November, you can remind the world how it is that we’ve traveled this far as a country -- not by telling everybody to fend for themselves, but by coming together as one American family, all of us pitching in, all of us pulling our own weight.  (Applause.)  
This November, you can provide a mandate for the change we need right now.  You can move this nation forward.  And you can remind the world once again why the United States of America is still the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  
Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
END
2:55 P.M. EDT

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Romney on climate change

There was an interesting story in the LA Times today about how Mitt Romney seemed to sincerely believe in doing something to address climate change while he was governor of Massachusetts. He kept talking about how the US had the resources to help fix this problem, while poor countries like Bangladesh were going to suffer the most if we didn't. One of the people who attended meetings with Governor Romney on this subject is quoted as saying it was like a mantra with him. "He was the radical in the room."

Now that Romney has adopted the current GOP mantra on climate change--that we should ignore science and pretend climate change isn't happening--this evidence that Romney at one time favored strong action against climate change, makes people wonder how Mitt Romney would deal with this problem if he were president, with conservatives recognizing they would have to keep pressure on him so he would not "weaken" on this issue, and environmentalists hoping Romney's true colors might come out.  But stories like these should also make us concerned about the extent to which Romney's campaign is built on lies. We are used to politicians making the promises they feel they need to make to get elected, then falling short. But Romney's campaign takes this practice to a whole new level. Romney is continually making promises that seem to contradict his own core beliefs, and repeating statements that he knows are lies.

You have to wonder how Romney deals with these contradictions as a moral issue. I'm sure Romney thinks of himself as a person with good values. And anyone who thinks (or used to think) about the impacts of global climate change on poor countries, and the responsibility of rich countries to fix the problem, understands the moral dimensions of that environmental problem. Yet candidate Romney mostly stays silent about environmental concerns, and makes the necessary noises about building pipelines and increasing energy production, in order to appease Republican supporters.

You also have to wonder what parts of the Romney program are NOT built on lies. We already know that the Romney health care platform is built on a gigantic lie. Romney used to say that his Massachusetts plan could serve as a model for the nation, but when President Obama basically adopted that model, he now says we should repeal it and instead advocates a bunch of gimmicks that he previously rejected as governor of Massachusetts.

We know that the Romney economic program is built on lies. Romney has acknowledged understanding that if we cut government spending back too severely, that will damage economic growth. And he knows that his economic performance as governor was weak, because he hardly ever talks about it. He has no serious program to reduce unemployment, because he only talks about creating jobs in vague generalities.

We also know that Romney's foreign policy proposals are built on lies, because he blatantly misrepresents the Obama administration's actions, or attacks them for not doing things that they are in fact doing.

And now we know that Romney's energy and environmental policies are built on lies, on positions that go against the candidate's own core beliefs. It's sad, really. And not just because voters can have no confidence of whom they are electing if they support Romney. But also because the extent of Romney's mendacity reveals a campaign that is rotten to the core.