Friday, August 31, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Even the insanely reactionary FOX News...

FOX News contributor Sally Kohn:
(T)o anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was  Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.
Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many...

And then there’s what Ryan didn’t talk about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Folly of Ideological Zealots, aka Republicans circa 2012

Timothy Snyder at New York Review of Books on the "Grand Old Marxists":
A specter is haunting the Republican National Convention—the specter of ideology. The novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) and the economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) are the house deities of many American libertarians, much of the Tea Party, and Paul Ryan in particular. The two thinkers were quite different...Yet, in popularized form, their arguments together provide the intellectual touchstone for Ryan and many others on the right wing of the Republican Party, people whose enthusiasm Mitt Romney needs.

The irony of today is that these two thinkers, in their struggle against the Marxist left of the mid-twentieth century, relied on some of the same underlying assumptions as Marxism itself: that politics is a matter of one simple truth, that the state will eventually cease to matter, and that a vanguard of intellectuals is needed to bring about a utopia that can be known in advance. The paradoxical result is a Republican Party ticket that embraces outdated ideology, taking some of the worst from the twentieth century and presenting it as a plan for the twenty-first. 
Romney’s choice of an ideologist as his running mate made a kind of sense. Romney the financier made hundreds of millions of dollars in an apparent single-minded pursuit of returns on investment; but as a politician he has been less noted for deep principles then for expediently changing his positions...
Rand in reality...
Insofar as he is a man of principle, the principle seems to be is that rich people should not pay taxes. His fidelity to this principle is beyond reproach, which raises certain moral questions. Paying taxes, after all, is one of our very few civic obligations. By refusing to release his tax returns, Romney is likely trying to keep embarrassing tax dodges out of public view; he is certainly communicating to like-minded wealthy people that he shares their commitment to doing nothing that could possibly help the United States government. The rationale that Ryan’s ideology provides for this unpatriotic behavior is that taxing rich people hinders the market...our primary responsibility as American citizens is to give way to the magic of the marketplace, and applaud any associated injustices as necessary and therefore good.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ryan and Rand

The Ayn Rand fan club, "Atlas Society", has done the country a real service in releasing a transcript of Veep wannabe Paul Ryan's 2005 talk in praise of the pop novelist and self-styled "philosopher." This speech is not some youthful indiscretion, but insights into his intellectual, political and moral development well into his third congressional term. The (numbers) mark time into the audio recording of Ryan's remarkable self-revelation - one which not too surprisingly he has recently attempted to disavow in a predictable act of cowardice:
(1:45) I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell know everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.
(2:01) I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.
(2:23) But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Continuing the RyanFest

Paul Krugman on the unserious Mr. Ryan...and the unserious "serious" people who take him seriously:
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him. 

But he isn’t and they don’t. Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket. 

Let’s talk about what’s actually in the Ryan plan, and let’s distinguish in particular between actual, specific policy proposals and unsupported assertions. To focus things a bit more, let’s talk — as most budget discussions do — about what’s supposed to happen over the next 10 years. 

On the tax side, Mr. Ryan proposes big cuts in tax rates on top income brackets and corporations. He has tried to dodge the normal process in which tax proposals are “scored” by independent auditors, but the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math, and the revenue loss from these cuts comes to $4.3 trillion over the next decade.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The many faces of Paul Ryan

Up with Chris Hayes:
Long before he became one of the right’s most vocal critics of the idea that government spending could help boost the flagging economy, Rep. Paul Ryan offered a forceful, full-throated defense of stimulus spending — when then-President George W. Bush wanted it in 2002.

Ryan has denounced the 2009 Recovery Act signed by President Obama as “a wasteful spending spree” and “failed neo-Keynesian experiment,” and – as The Huffington Post pointed out this morning — dismissed as “sugar-high economics” the idea that government spending, through measures like payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, can help shore up a faltering economy.

But in 2002, when then-President Bush was seeking a roughly $120 billion package of tax cuts, tax incentives for business and unemployment benefits to jump-start the economy, Ryan offered a vigorous defense of the plan. “What we're trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed..." The remarks came during a House debate on the measure on Feb. 14, 2002.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

"A slick salesman..."

Economist Mark Thoma @ NY Daily News:
When Mitt Romney introduced Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate in the presidential election, he emphasized that Ryan “has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party” on economic policy. But a close examination of Ryan’s monetary and fiscal policy proposals makes it hard to understand why he is held in such high regard.
Ryan’s views on monetary policy are, by his own admission, heavily influenced by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Concerns about inflation – currency debasement – are prominent in Rand’s novel, and those concerns drive Ryan’s monetary policy proposals. For example, Ryan introduced legislation in 2008 to replace the Fed’s dual mandate to stabilize both inflation and employment with a single mandate to stabilize inflation. Under Ryan’s proposal, the Fed would ignore employment when making policy decisions.
Ryan’s lack of concern over employment is disconcerting, but it’s at least possible to find economists who support a single inflation mandate for the Fed. It’s much harder to find anyone who will support another inflation prevention policy Ryan has proposed, a policy similar to a gold standard.

The Madness...

Think Progress:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blaming Obama

Sane conservative Bruce Bartlett at Economix:
Although it was quickly overshadowed by his choice of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney released an important document last week by his principal economic advisers that deserves more attention than it got. It is an audacious attempt to blame Barack Obama for the economic mistakes of George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress.

The Choice

Via Daily Kos:
President Obama in Dubuque, Iowa, returning fire on Medicare in the wake of the Romney-Ryan campaign's new "Mediscare" attack ad:

"I think they know their plan is not very popular," the president said. "You can tell that because they're being pretty dishonest about my plan." 
"Here's what you need to know," the president continued. "I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs." Obama was referencing the fact that Obamacare closed the donut hole, which Romney and Ryan would reinstate. "I have proposed reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the system. Reforms that will not touch your Medicare benefits, not by a dime."
As for Romney and Ryan? "They have a very different plan," the president said. "They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program." That would end the guarantee of Medicare, Obama said, citing the CBO study showing that the Ryan plan would cost seniors an extra $6,400 per year.
"My plan has already extended Medicare by a decade. Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. My plan reduces the cost of Medicare by cracking down fraud, and waste, and subsidies to insurance companies. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. That's the difference between our plans on Medicare, that's an example of the choice in this election.."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Romney, Ryanism and Ayn Rand

Simon Schama at Financial Times:
This much you have to give Mitt Romney: by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate he has made it impossible to avoid turning the presidential election into a genuine and long overdue debate on the nature, extent and responsibilities of American government...

Because Mr Ryan (unlike the top of the ticket), is in the habit of actually attaching numbers to his budget proposals, there is a faint possibility that the debate between Americans who want to retain the institutions of the New Deal and the 1960s (such as Medicare) and those who believe that under Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson the country took a fatal step towards collectivism, will actually have to consider evidence rather than collapse into the usual exchange of uninformed abuse that gets confused with argument.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan's crackpot 2005 Social Security Privatization scheme would have brought the entire economy under state control

Wonkblog turned up this "believe it or not" moment in the history of crackpot "Ryan Plans":

Ryan’s Social Security privatization proposal,  the Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, which he sponsored along with then-Sen. John Sununu (whose father has been a prominent Romney surrogate), would have allowed workers to funnel an average of 6.4 percent of their 12.4 percent payroll-tax contribution to a private account. Lower-income workers would be able to divert more of their wages, as the plan allows 10 percent of income up to $10,000 and 5 percent of income up to the payroll tax cap to be diverted. By default, the private account would be invested in a portfolio set by the Social Security Administration of 65 percent stocks and 35 percent bonds. Workers could choose an 80/20 stock-bond portfolio, or a 50-50 portfolio, but would not be able to pick individual stocks or bonds. At retirement, all participants in the plan would be required to buy an annuity.

Tell it to Paul Ryan
The Social Security Administration concluded that the Ryan-Sununu plan would require huge increases in general budget revenue to make up the shortfall left in payroll tax revenue. Specifically, revenue would have to increase by 1.5 percent of GDP every year, an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found, or about $225 billion at current GDP. That’s a big honking tax hike. What’s more, under the plan, investments in the stock and bond markets would skyrocket such that by 2050, every single stock or bond in the United States would be owned by a Social Security account. This would mean that the portfolio managers at the Social Security Administration would more or less control the entire means of production in the United States.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

All you need to know about Paul Ryan

Aside from his fealty to the sociopathic cult novelist Ayn Rand (she of the "Christian morality is evil" Objectivist  philosophy that was embedded in a series of melodramatic  novels), the following is IMHO the single most salient fact attached to Paul Ryan:
(B)ecause commercial insurers cost more to run than government plans, the Wisconsin Republican's proposal to privatize Medicare starting in 2022 would actually spark a dramatic increase in how much the nation spends on healthcare for the elderly, according to an independent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
There is not an ounce of "fiscal conservative" in this scheme - it's privatization for the sake of ideology - Ayn Rand's "moral foundation" for unbridled capitalism of the sort that makes sociopaths and parasites like Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney multi-millionaires many times over.

Willard decides that Bain Capital isn't a large or repugnant enough enough stone to be tied to his neck - his "game changeer" Veep pick brings on Dick Cheney, Ayn Rand and killing Medicare


 Ed Kilgore @ Washington Monthly:
For progressives, the choice of Ryan makes the task of exposing Mitt Romney’s agenda for the future of the country—already mortgaged to the conservative movement as the price of his nomination—vastly easier.

The choice of a running-mate is often described as the “first presidential decision” of any party nominee. By picking Ryan, Romney has finally forfeited any opportunity to pose as a technocratic crypto-moderate who is a safe alternative for voters disappointed by life under the Obama administration.

All along, Obama’s reelection has depended largely on his ability to make November 6 a clear and dramatic choice between two future courses for the country rather than a referendum on the status quo. The Romney-Ryan ticket makes a “choice election” unavoidable.
In his relentless, desperate pandering to the Tea Party base of the GOP he presumes to lead, Willard doubles-down and offers us "Ryan's Choice" - a dystopian Ayn Rand "moral foundation" for the deregulated capitalism that makes Dick Cheney a very happy man, while seniors see the future of Medicare turned into discount coupons  to help them try to buy the world's most expensive health care from private insurance companies. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Willard and the Fuzzy Fantasy Factory

Andrew Rosenthal @ NYT:
Mitt Romney is hardly the first Republican presidential candidate to assure Americans that cutting taxes and ending regulation will bring joy to the nation.

Ronald Reagan did it, George H.W. Bush did it, and George W. Bush did it. They won. We got soaring deficits, the worst income inequality since there was income and out-of-control financial institutions that nearly destroyed the American economy. Mr. Romney seems to have learned nothing from that history. He claims President Obama’s stimulus-based policies made the recession worse and then hamstrung the recovery, while his brand of austerity will restore prosperity.
Mr. Romney keeps his economic platform pretty fuzzy, with good reason. The more he spins his story, the more evidence there is that it’s a fantasy.

Mr. Romney has said, for instance, that he can cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent, eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum income tax and end capital gains taxes for middle-income Americans without reducing the amount of money flowing into the Treasury.

The answer, he said, is getting rid of certain loopholes. He won’t say what those are, of course...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Willard M. Romney's "Nowhere Man" policy proposals

Ezra Klein at WaPo:
The central difficulty of covering this presidential campaign — which is to say, of explaining Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s disparate plans for the country — is the continued existence of what we might call the policy gap. The policy gap, put simply, is this: Obama has proposed policies. Mitt Romney hasn’t...

Romney’s offerings are more like simulacra of policy proposals. They look, from far away, like policy proposals. They exist on his Web site, under the heading of “Issues,” with subheads like “Tax” and “Health care.” But read closely, they are not policy proposals. They do not include the details necessary to judge Romney’s policy ideas. In many cases, they don’t contain any details at all.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mitt's impossible math...

Ezra Klein at WaPo:
I can describe Mitt Romney’s tax policy promises in two words: mathematically impossible.

Those aren’t my words. They’re the words of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which has conducted the most comprehensive analysis to date of Romney’s tax plan and which bent over backward to make his promises add up. They’re perhaps the two most important words that have been written during this U.S. presidential election.

If you were to distill the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign to a few sentences, you could hardly do better than this statement of purpose from the speech Romney delivered in Detroit, outlining his plan for the economy: “I believe the American people are ready for real leadership. I believe they deserve a bold, conservative plan for reform and economic growth. Unlike President Obama, I actually have one — and I’m not afraid to put it on the table.”

The truth is that Romney is afraid to put his plan on the table. He has promised to reduce the deficit, but refused to identify the spending he would cut. He has promised to reform the tax code, but refused to identify the deductions and loopholes he would eliminate. The only thing he has put on the table is dessert: a promise to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board and to do so without raising the deficit or reducing the taxes paid by the top 1 percent.

The Tax Policy Center took Romney at his word. They also did what he hasn’t done: They put his plan on the table.

To help Romney, the center did so under the most favorable conditions, which also happen to be wildly unrealistic. The analysts assumed that any cuts to deductions or loopholes would begin with top earners, and that no one earning less than $200,000 would have their deductions reduced until all those earning more than $200,000 had lost all of their deductions and tax preferences first. They assumed, as Romney has promised, that the reforms would spare the portions of the tax code that privilege saving and investment. They even ran a simulation in which they used a model developed, in part, by Greg Mankiw, one of Romney’s economic advisers, that posits “implausibly large growth effects” from tax cuts.

The numbers never worked out. No matter how hard the Tax Policy Center labored to make Romney’s promises add up, every simulation ended the same way: with a tax increase on the middle class. The tax cuts Romney is offering to the rich are simply larger than the size of the (non-investment) deductions and loopholes that exist for the rich. That’s why it’s “mathematically impossible” for Romney’s plan to produce anything but a tax increase on the middle class...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Romney's plan to dig a deeper hole...

John Cassidy at The New Yorker:
In today’s Wall Street Journal, the Columbia economist Glenn Hubbard, who is one of Mitt Romney’s top economic advisers, has an op-ed piece entitled “The Romney Plan for Economic Recovery.” When I saw the headline, I felt a rush of anticipation: at last, I thought, here is the big new jobs initiative that the G.O.P. campaign is relying on to turn things in its favor.

I was mistaken. The first two thirds of Hubbard’s piece is taken up with an attack on the Obama Administration’s economic record: ineffective stimulus, too much regulation, failure to tackle the housing market—all very familiar stuff. When Hubbard eventually gets to laying out Romney’s alternative, there is nothing new either, just a reiteration of the existing policy plaform: a vague promise to cut federal spending and reduce the budget deficit, an even vaguer plan to cut taxes but in a “revenue-neutral fashion,” and a commitment to repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Judging by this piece, and by recent statements from Romney himself, the G.O.P. campaign still doesn’t have a recovery program worth the name. Indeed, if we are to believe the evidence of our eyes and ears, he remains committed to immediate spending cuts that could well bring on another recession.

Mitt Romney wants to raise your taxes and cut his

 David Firestone at NYTs:
The Romney campaign’s increasingly desperate attempts to dismiss a new study of its tax plan are a pretty good sign that the study is devastating. That isn’t to say the campaign is trying to counter it with actual specifics.

The big red one at the far right is tax cuts to the top 1%
Performed by the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, the study shows that Mitt Romney’s proposal would lead to significantly lower taxes for the rich, and a higher tax burden on middle- and lower-income taxpayers.

It’s been well known for a while that Mr. Romney’s tax plan was a mathematical impossibility. He promised to reduce marginal tax rates by 20 percent, eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and end the capital gains tax for middle-income taxpayers – all while not lowering the amount of revenue coming into the treasury. Mr. Romney said he would offset those losses by ending a series of loopholes, but has yet to cite a single loophole he would delete.