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Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

Opening Night! Off Script Notes

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Opening day! Republicans gathered for their nominating convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with its 670,000 square feet of space and venues. For convenience, it offers bars and restaurants on site. For the convention, the Forum received a $60 million makeover. Its website says it one of the nation’s top ten events facilities. Who built it? Local government! Taxpayers invested $86 million of public money for its construction in 1996. But this year’s Republicans are good at holding their noses and ignoring reality about the benefits and ever-present importance of government—and government spending—especially in the help it provides for small business balance sheets.

Here’s a raconteur report of social media highlights from Twitter. Major speakers are omitted for a look at the underlying details.

Ron Paul supporters and other delegates failed to block the Central Committee’s attempt to re-write the rules governing the designation of delegates, eliminating other voices at the convention. One older activist said “the elite of the rank and file” had protected their own. The phrase describes the internal contradictions of the Republican Party, and their attempts to manipulate and manage a rank and file who they do not trust and to whom they rarely tell the truth.

Compare to Michelle Obama, who is sharing a vision in her personal messages and tweets herself!

 “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” — Romney pollster Neil Newhouse #icymi

President Obama ending work requirements for welfare is the center of the Romney’s campaign. It’s a vicious, deliberate lie repeated, with racial overtones.


Delaware’s Lieutenant Governor received $17 million in federal loans and contracts and encouraged others to purse tax payer funding first, pointing out the federal government has a mandate to support small businesses. Continue reading Opening Night! Off-Script Notes

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Candidate Con Man

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Years ago when I returned home after being away for a number of years, I discovered to my horror that my gentle, tolerant mother, a woman who taught us to accept all people regardless of race, sexual orientation or social standing, had become hooked on a well known radio and television evangelist preacher to the point that she had evolved into a class-one bigot who repetitively used the term “those people.”

Right away she let me know that women like me, who preferred to work for a living and raise their children alone rather than remain with abusive spouses, were the cause of all the evil in the world. She was so convinced that was true that she was in total denial of her own divorce. And possibly as penance for her sins, she sent what little money she had as a donation to further the causes of that television preacher, a man who was already living in multimillion dollar luxury. I could not believe that this woman I loved and most admired had been taken in, and how angrily she rejected everything that she had once espoused. But that evangelist was a skilled con man, who managed to convince a lot of people that his reality was the only acceptable one, and by imposing it on his listeners had managed to swindle millions out of millions before he was done.

The extent to which some people can be manipulated was more recently illustrated by the ravings of an angry biker my daughter and I ran into a week ago. We had headed out to register new voters at a farmers’ market, and instead of finding a block full of produce and unregistered liberals, we found an empty lot and a gathering of bikers. In spite of the fact we were not wearing or carrying anything to indicate we were partisan, my asking if any of them needed to register to vote brought on a bitter verbal assault. The leader of the biker pack ranted in our faces that Obama was a lying S.O.B. and would never get his vote, that the President was sending jobs overseas and doing nothing for vets or anyone else, all false information obviously quoted from Republican sources. And he rudely suggested that we needn’t bother the other bikers in his group because they all felt the same. They were for Romney all the way.

Romney? First of all, as for the bikers being concerned about vets, they should know that Romney was and is a chicken hawk, always pushing for war but never serving. First he received deferments for college and then a questionable deferment as a Mormon missionary serving in France for two and a half years, which wasn’t much of a hardship since he resided in a classy apartment there. As a matter of fact, thanks to his father’s millions and power, and then his own, neither Mitt nor his sons ever served in the military.

Obama, who is fifteen years younger than Romney, was not old enough to be drafted when we were at war, but, since there were so many Navy men stationed in Hawaii at that time, had once considered the service as a possible career path. He has made employment and health care for veterans top priorities.

Second, Obama isn’t shipping jobs overseas; he’s trying to bring them back by offering businesses tax incentives. It was the biker’s hero Romney who got rich as the head of Bain Capital when he bought and sold companies, shipping jobs overseas and shutting factories down while reaping his own fortune. He’s a sociopathic con man with no concern for any of the people he put out of work. And he probably wouldn’t know how to pull on a pair of biker boots any more than the the bikers would know how to pull on spit-and-polish, skinny-legged, pointy-toed $700 riding boots. Why on earth would they ever support Romney? Continue reading Candidate Con Man

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Freshly Appointed Congressional Candidate Rodney Davis Out of Touch on Health Care

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Illinois’ 13th Congressional district is one of the top pick-up opportunities for Democrats nationally. It’s a newly created, Democratic-leaning district with no incumbent after Republican Tim Johnson dropped out of the race.

Republican county chairmen recently chose to replace Johnson on the ballot with Rodney Davis, a staffer for Congressman John Shimkus. Shimkus isn’t well known outside Illinois, but he received national attention for his anti-science views on climate change, and for his role in helping to cover up the Foley page scandal.

The State Journal-Register surprised me with something I rarely see in the press anymore: an article that delves into a specific issue instead of relying on soundbites and polling numbers.

Rodney Davis makes several comments about health care in the article that suggest he fits the mold of his current boss, the uber-partisan Shimkus. Davis spoke about his wife having cancer, which thankfully, she survived.

“With the extensive bureaucracy of Obamacare, I’m not too sure we’d have that same result today,” Davis told Sangamon County Republicans when he appeared before committeemen last month.

Really? A claim as outrageous and inflammatory as suggesting that people would die as a result of Obamacare bureaucracy should be backed up. Unsurprisingly, the article provides no quote of Davis explaining exactly what provisions in Obamacare would result in people dying due to lack of care. Probably because it’s stupid bullshit. It’s a line that sounds good in Republican committee meetings but there are some of us who like to hear claims backed up by things like facts and reality.

Davis goes on to claim that single-payer health care would “cede control of where and when we seek medical treatment to a faceless bureaucrat.” He also suggests Americans are happy with their current health insurance.

Really? Like most people, I’m very familiar with “faceless bureaucrats” telling me where I can seek medical care and what treatment I’m allowed to have. They’re the bureaucrats who work at the for-profit insurance companies and HMOs I’ve been covered by, NOT the government. They tell me which doctors in the network I’m allowed to see and what procedures they’ll cover, instead of leaving those decisions to me and my doctor. Apparently, Davis is just fine with faceless bureaucrats dictating health care decisions, as long as they’re making money for a private insurance company. Continue reading Freshly Appointed Congressional Candidate Rodney Davis Out of Touch on Health Care

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Americans Elect is a Joke

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As are all retiring (or retired) politicians and Beltway pundits preaching the same real but seriously misguided lament about the worse-than-usual hyper-partisanship and gridlock currently running rampant in Washington DC.

If they were really genuine in their beliefs, they should be rallying around President Barack Obama, because (smears from certain Fox News “Democratic” pollsters aside notwithstanding) no politician in modern history has done more to attempt, sometimes painfully, to “walk the walk” in terms of genuinely seeking a bipartisan working relationship with politicians of all stripes. In fact, it is something that he has actually been preaching from a national stage since 2004 and that served as the essence of his campaign in 2008.

What organizations and people like Americans Elect obscure and/or fail to recognize and point out is that the hyper-partisanship and gridlock that we have seen and experienced since 2008 have been the result of tactics engaged in almost exclusively by members on the Republican side of the aisle, as well as the Tea Party machine that has largely been financed by wealthy right-wing corporate interests with a stake in stopping any kind of progressive reform in this country dead in its tracks.

President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have, at virtually every turn, bent over backwards – in the name of accomplishing significant reforms on health care, the financial industry, immigration, and climate change – to attempt to win over Republicans, including some who spearheaded similar reform efforts in the past. Time and time again, however, they have had their hands bitten off (actually, more like torn off), either because of the Republican members’ own craven hypocrisy, their sick desire to see President Obama “fail” or their plain, simple fear of being devoured whole by the Republican Tea Party machine in the next election. Even so-called “moderate” Republicans like Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Richard Lugar (R-IN), all of whom have shown themselves to be sensible and open-minded in the past, have, on nearly every occasion since 2009, closed ranks with their leadership to obstruct President Obama’s agenda, refusing to cooperate in any way, shape, or form with him and with the Democrats in Congress.  Of particular note has been retiring Senator Snowe, who some have even suggested would be potentially good for an Americans Elect ticket, despite the fact that she is actually emblematic of the dysfunction that has plagued Washington DC since 2009 and is definitely not the solution to it.

With this in mind, what exactly does Americans Elect hope to achieve by putting together a Democratic-Republican ticket that we the people would be unable to achieve in the current political system? To anybody on the right, the concept of a Republican even considering cooperating with a Democrat has been so reviled by their radical propagandists and activists, it’s practically considered heresy and/or treason; they simply wouldn’t trust any Republican actually running in a combined national ticket for the WH. Also, since the Republican Tea Party machine doesn’t believe in any kind of progressive reform, anybody elected via Americans Elect is going to have the face the same obstructionist mentality that President Obama has had to deal with since he was elected, and will likely have just as much luck in actually getting substantial legislation through the buzz-saw Congress has become. Continue reading Americans Elect is a Joke

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Not On His Radar

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One morning, Willard Romney awakes with a start. He sits bolt upright in bed, and looks around at his apartment. He can’t remember the wallpaper being so worn, or a small kitchen being installed by the bed. As his eyes adjust to the morning light, he sees that this was in fact the only kitchen, a kitchenette, in a tiny, run-down studio apartment. There are a couple of pieces of stained and deteriorating furniture, a couple of ancient appliances, and frayed, dangerous wires protruding from the corners. The place smells like mold, rotting food in the sink, old socks and beer. As the horror dawns on him that this is his home, he clambers out of his rickety single bed and goes to a tiny round table stacked high with past-due bills, threatening letters from the IRS and creditors, and some coupon books for Walmart.

In a sweat and a growing panic, he puts on some work coveralls that have his name on the lapel patch – “Mitt, Happy to serve you” – and looks for any clue about the nature of the garment. There it is, a pay stub with his name and the name and address of the company he obviously works for. He reaches in the pockets for some car keys, but finds none. Indeed, in this world Mitt has no car, as it has been repossessed months before. He stumbles out the door with the pay stub address in hand, and manages to make the bus stop. In his left pocket is just enough for the fare.

He arrives at the Happy Bonnets packing plant just as the morning alarm blares through the courtyard and a mob of people are lining up to punch their time cards. He finds his, and it has a little note attached to it: “Please see Mrs. Drummond in Human Resources immediately.”

He finds her office, lightly knocks, and she invites him in. After a quick, dry smile, she lowers her eyes and tells him the bad news. She is afraid they have to let him go. Cutbacks and taxes, you see. So very sorry, please clean out your locker by noon and pick up your final check. As he is leaving, he hears the CEO through a partially closed door, on the phone in an animated conversation with an accountant, joking about slashing 50 jobs that day, and that he wants to move one and a half million into a new offshore account before a loophole closes.

Clutching his final paycheck, Mitt looks at the amount and quickly sees it’s not enough for three days’ groceries. As he walks, he starts to limp because an increasing pain in his left leg impedes his step. He stops at a park bench and rolls up his pant leg, to discover a large and painful mass on his shin bone. It doesn’t look right at all, and he thinks it should be looked at by a doctor right away. So he finds the nearest one, and goes to the desk. Continue reading Not On His Radar

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Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan and the Myth of Reagan's Success with Supply Side Economics

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Charles: My name is Charles Howard.

This is my third in a series of videos with Steve Leser from Democrats for Progress.

Today, we are going to discuss supply side economics and the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination. Steve, what impact does Ronald Reagan play in the economic beliefs and proposals of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney?

Steve: Hi, Charles, and thanks for interviewing me.

It has been 32 years since Ronald Reagan took office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His economic policies and the perception that they were successful have dominated American economic policy ever since.

Newt Gingrich is touting his involvement in the implementation of Reagan’s supply side economics as part of the reason people should vote for him. Mitt Romney also refers to Reagan’s economics as the underpinnings of his economics proposals.I think it makes sense at this point to look at whether Reagan and his supply side economics were as successful as we’ve been led to believe.

The cornerstone of his [Reagan’s] policies and supply side economics is the implementation of lower taxes in general, but particularly important is a lower tax rate for the top income bracket.

When Ronald Reagan took over in January of 1981, those earning the highest income paid 70 percent of the topmost portion of their income in taxes. Over the course of his administration, he lowered that rate to 50 percent and then to 28 percent.

Since Reagan left office, the top tax rate has oscillated between 28 percent and 35 percent, where it now stands. That seven-percent variation is insignificant in comparison to the rates between 1945 and 1980 which ranged between 70 and 94 percent.

I think it is fair to say – and a lot of people across the political spectrum are going to howl at this – that Reaganomics, at least as far as tax policy goes, remains in place today even under President Obama.

Charles: I have two questions at this point, but let’s take them one at a time.

First, I remember the way things were in the late 70s and early 80s. Things were really bad. Inflation was high, oil prices were high, unemployment was high. The way it seems is that Reagan took office, lowered taxes and things got better. Is that not the case?

Steve: That is such an important question.

There is a Latin phrase that applies here, and it is: post hoc, ergo propter hoc. This phrase describes a logical fallacy wherein someone suggests that because something occurred before something else, it necessarily caused the second thing to happen.

For instance, I am walking outside and I drop a penny and then a minute later it starts to rain. If someone were to conclude that my dropping the penny caused it to rain, I think we would all agree that would be a ridiculous suggestion of causation.

There is a similar situation with the economic recovery of the mid-1980s and the policies of the Reagan administration. Here are the facts.

In 1973, the first of two 1970s era energy crises exploded on the world scene with OPEC instituting an embargo against the US and its allies in retaliation for US support of Israel during the Yom Kippur war. At the start of the embargo, the price for a barrel of oil was around $20 a barrel in 2008 dollars.

By the way, for all of the prices I am going to discuss, I am going to use what the equivalent of the prices would be in 2008 dollars so it is easier for us to understand the effect of what happened.

The price of a barrel of oil promptly doubled and then some as a result of the embargo to nearly $45 a barrel. The effects of that first crisis on oil and gas prices hadn’t ended by 1979 when a second crisis ensued from Iran’s Shah coming to the US for medical treatment and the hostage crisis that occurred when our embassy personnel in Tehran were taken hostage.

At that time, the price of a barrel of oil shot up to $100 a barrel in 2008 prices. The price of a gallon of gas went up to an equivalent of $4 a gallon. The hostage crisis ended in 1981 the day that Reagan was inaugurated, and almost immediately the price of a barrel of oil and of a gallon of gas began to drop.

By 1984, the price of a barrel of oil had come down from the equivalent of $100 to $60 a barrel and the price of a gallon of gas had gone back down from the equivalent of $4 a gallon down to $2.80 a gallon

Now we all know what the effect of a massive increase or decrease in the price of gas and oil does to the economy. In economic terms, a huge increase or decrease in the price of oil and gas is known as a supply shock.

Supply shocks cause major shifts in the direction of the economy.

It is no coincidence that the economic recovery for which Reagan is credited follows the decrease in the price of oil almost exactly. Here are a couple of graphs that emphasize the point.

Here is a graph of oil prices from 1960 to 2010. The orange line is the line that shows the prices in their 2008 equivalents. You can see that prices take off in 1973 and spike again in 1979 and then start to decline sharply in 1981. They are significantly lower by 1984 and continue lower and stabilize in 1986.

Here is a graph of gross national product from 1979 to 1988 from You can see that the turnaround in the economy occurs in the 1983-1984 time frame and continues through the rest of Reagan’s Presidency.

I’m not saying Reagan deserves no credit for the turnaround; what I am saying though is that it was not his economic policies that improved the economy. What credit he deserves, he deserves for his foreign policies that produced somewhat of a cooling off of the situation in the Middle East and a resulting moderation in the price of oil and gas.

Reaganomics and supply side economics did not cause the recovery in the 1980s; a reduction in the prices of oil and gas did.

Charles: So the Reagan economic policies did not cause the recovery of the 1980s.

My second question – remember I had two questions – my second question is: over time, has the record validated those policies? Are we better off as a country as a result of Reaganomics and supply side economics?

Steve: We’re clearly not better off as a result of supply side economics. Well, let me back up slightly. If you are in the top five percent of wealth and income, you are better off. One would expect that because the lower taxes were aimed mostly at people in that bracket.

The problem is that the rest of the 95 percent of the country has done either worse or barely broke even after the change. Here is a graph that emphasizes the point, from Suppose starting in 1979, we distribute $100 among 100 people as it would be distributed according to the distribution of wealth in the country then and since. Continue reading Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the Myth of Reagan’s Success with Supply Side Economics

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Mitt Romney and the New Hampshire GOP Primary Results

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Mitt Romney and the New Hampshire GOP Primary Results

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Partial Transcript:

Thank you for joining us. My name is Charles Howard. I’m here with Steve Leser from Democrats for Progress. Steve, you’ve been watching this race for the Republican nomination. You watched the returns from New Hampshire. What are your initial thoughts on the result last night?

A couple of things, first, like everyone else, I knew Mitt Romney was going to win the New Hampshire primary.

That was never the question.

The things I was most interested in were how big would the margin be, and in the crosstabs and exit polls, would Romney poll the most out of any candidate when it came to self-described conservatives, because that is where Romney has had the most trouble. Romney needs those conservative voters to want to work for him if he is going to have a chance at prevailing in the general election against President Obama.

New Hampshire is basically Mitt Romney’s home state and he is the national presumptive frontrunner, has the most money and all of that. You would think in a situation like that, that Romney would not only win but that he would be able to really push up the winning margin and take a huge share of the votes.

I was looking to see if he could exceed 50% of the vote. That to me would have been an impressive margin of victory.

If he didn’t get 50%, the next question I had was would he exceed 40% of the vote. I really think in the position Mitt Romney was in that he should have been able to exceed 40% of the vote. He didn’t do that. The fact that Romney came in under 40% in what amounts to his adopted home state and facing an opposition that is fractured and in disarray to me is a signal of how weak of a candidate he is.

It’s great to be winning and winning definitely beats the alternative, but the object of running for President isn’t to win your party’s nomination, it’s to win the general election. I can talk more about that later, but the margin here tells me that Mitt is a weak candidate polling the best among weak candidates.

As I mentioned, the second thing I was looking for last night was whether Romney could win either an outright majority of or at least get the most of any candidate of the votes of self-described conservatives. This is a group that Romney had trouble with in Iowa and is expected to have trouble with wherever he is challenged for the nomination.

It turns out that Romney polled even with Rick Santorum with self-described conservatives.

In any other state, with the possible exception of Massachusetts, if Romney polls even with the top conservative vote getter out of the Santorum, Gingrich and Perry crowd, it would be a good thing. You would expect, though, that in New Hampshire, he ought to be able to win that demographic and that that result would give him some hope that he could win conservatives over to his side, but even there he just can’t do it.

The verdict is in. Conservatives don’t trust him and they don’t like him.

Many things can change over the course of a campaign, but we are seven or more months in and Romney’s problems with conservatives seem to be something that he will not be able to shake.

I assume, though, that you think he should get credit for being the first Republican in History to win both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries? Also, does this mean the race for the nomination is effectively over, or can someone stop him?

Hey, like I said, a win is a win and it beats the alternative any day of the week. Winning both Iowa and New Hampshire is impressive from a historical standpoint. There is no question about it.

It’s hard to imagine at this point, when you look at the South Carolina polls and see Mitt leading everyone there by ten points, how he can be stopped if all three of Perry, Gingrich and Santorum are still in the race by the time the South Carolina primary happens on January 21st.

Mitt is going to get a bounce from his New Hampshire win on top of the already commanding lead. Something really profound has to happen to give anyone else a shot. Assuming that Mitt doesn’t do or say something really dumb, the only way that Romney can lose in South Carolina is if there is some sort of backroom deal and, for instance, Gingrich bows out and endorses Santorum and campaigns for him. That is the only chance I see for stopping Romney.

If that doesn’t happen, Romney wins South Carolina, and then with wins in the Midwest, New England and the South, I don’t see an argument for anyone else winning or staying in the race. It’s over at that point. Some other folks might stay in past South Carolina, but if Mitt wins that state it’s over except for the exact delegate count.

Incidentally, by the way, from indications, Ron Paul intends to say in to the bitter end and attempt to accumulate delegates. Continue reading Mitt Romney and the New Hampshire GOP Primary Results

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