With federal and state courts handing down decisions on ballot casting and counting, the presidential election may hinge partly on last-minute legal battles by both parties.
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By Steve Coll (The New Yorker)
There is really only one plausible scenario in which Republicans could enact some version of Paul Ryan’s radical, government-shrinking budget plan during the next two years. That would be if Mitt Romney wins the White House and Republicans eke out control of the Senate in November. (The Democrats now hold the Senate by a 53-47 margin.)
Otherwise, at least until the congressional elections of 2014, the country will have some form of divided government—partisan gridlock, as it is usually called. That is because Republicans almost certainly will hold control of the House of Representatives this year, according to professional election forecasters. Even if Obama is reëlected, then, he will have to govern, as he has since the Tea Party’s rise in 2010, in a constrained muddle of veto threats and negotiations, administrative rule writing, court battles, and political-appointment fights.
The American electorate has voted repeatedly to create this sort of stalemate. Optimists about the wisdom of democratic crowds perceive a collective wish for checks and balance; some of us darker souls see a country paralyzed by moneyed special interests, and at war within itself. In any event, in the thirty-two years since 1980, the party that has held the White House has also controlled both chambers of Congress for a total of only six years, or less than a fifth of the time—the Republicans after the September 11th attacks and the Democrats for the first two years of the Obama Presidency. ...
by Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” That’s the question Ronald Reagan famously used in 1980 to end Jimmy Carter’s hopes for a second term as U.S. president. And that’s the question Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want on your mind going into November.
But four years ago, George W. Bush was still president. So perhaps a better question would be, “Are you better off than you were three years and eight months ago?” That brings us back to the beginning of February 2009, the first full month of Barack Obama’s presidency. Since then, the economy has experienced a net loss of about 316,000 jobs, or -8,000 jobs a month. Real weekly wages are up by 0.6 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 74 percent.
Yet it’s a little odd to blame Obama for the first few months of his presidency. After all, he entered office amid a convulsive economic downturn. Blaming him for, say, the 724,000 nonfarm jobs lost in February 2009 is like blaming firefighters for the damage done by a blaze while they’re getting out of their truck.
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, agrees. “We ought to give whichever president is going to be elected at least six months or a year to get those policies in place,” he told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow in July. So let’s extend one year to Obama for his policies to take effect. Now the clock begins at the start of February 2010. Since then, the economy has added, on net, about 4 million jobs, an average of 132,000 jobs a month. Real weekly wages have risen by 1.5 percent. The S&P 500 has risen 34 percent. Overall, that’s a better record.
According to most political scientists, however, that’s not the record voters care about. Instead, voters tend to focus on the year leading up to the election. Just ask George H.W. Bush or Carter, both of whom had positive economic records over the full course of their presidencies but were plagued by economic trouble during their reelection campaigns.
With a couple months to go before this November’s election, we can get a rough idea of what Obama’s election-year record will look like by measuring the 12 months that ended July 31 (which is the most recent month for which we have jobs data). In that year, the economy added about 1.8 million jobs, or an average of 153,000 jobs a month. Real weekly wages rose by 0.6 percent. The S&P 500 rose 12 percent.
By Susanna Kim (ABC News)
How the US reached $16 trillion in debt is a question for both political pundits and economists, but the answer may also be found in the history books.
On Tuesday, the Treasury Department said the national debt has passed the $16 trillion mark for the first time. That's more than $50,000 for every man, woman and child in the US.
"During less than four years under President Obama's leadership, the national debt has increased an astonishing $5.4 trillion," Brady said in a statement. "And yet the president persists in pushing his agenda of more spending and higher taxes on job creators that is crippling our economy."
"Under President Obama's stewardship, the national debt has grown by more than $4 billion per day, $170 million per hour, $2.8 million per minute and more than $47,000 per second," he said.
"The fact of the matter is," Obama said earlier this year, "is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion -- $1.3 trillion. So when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true. And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is, we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade."
Obama points out that he inherited an economy on the brink of collapse that needed more than $1 trillion in stimulus, two wars that were simply added to the national debt, a prescription drug program for seniors that wasn't paid for and the Bush-era tax cuts that were not matched by cuts in spending -- in other words, not paid for.
But debt has been carried by the US every year since 1790, according to the US Treasury Department. It didn't top $1 trillion until 1982. The growth since then has been breathtaking.
Here are six significant moments that have affected the national debt. ...
Excerpt from MICHAEL COHEN's essay in The Guardian
The GOP's zealotry on tax cuts is only matched by its zealotry in pursuing austerity policies. In the spring of 2011, federal spending cuts forced by Republican legislators took much-needed money out of the economy: combined with the 2012 budget, it has largely counteracted the positive benefits provided by the 2009 stimulus.
Subsequently, the GOP's refusal to countenance legislation that would help states with their own fiscal crises (largely, the result of declining tax revenue) has led to massive public sector layoffs at the state and local level. In fact, since Obama took office, state and local governments have shed 611,000 jobs; and by some measures, if not for these jobs, cuts the unemployment rate today would be closer to 7%, not its current 8.2%. In 2010 and 2011, 457,00 public sector jobs were excised; not coincidentally, at the same time, much of the federal stimulus aid from 2009 ran out. And Republicans took over control of Congress.
These cuts have a larger societal impact. When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save "our children and grandchildren" from "crushing debt" is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future. In addition, with states operating under tighter fiscal budgets – and getting no hope relief from Washington – it means less money for essential government services, like help for the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
This is the most obvious example of how austerity policies are not only harming America's present, but also imperilling its future. And these spending cuts on the state and local level are matched by a complete lack of fiscal expansion on the federal level. In fact, fiscal policy is now a drag on the recovery, which is the exact opposite of how it should work, given a sluggish economy.
This collection of more-harm-than-good policies must also include last summer's debt limit debacle, which House speaker John Boehner has threatened to renew this year. This was yet another GOP initiative that undermined the economic recovery. According to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, "over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008." Only after the crisis did the consumer confidence stabilize, but employers "held back on hiring, sapping momentum from a recovery that remains far too fragile." In addition, the debt limit deal also forced more unhelpful spending cuts on the country.
Since that national embarrassment, Republicans have refused to even allow votes on President Obama's jobs bill in the Senate; they dragged their feet on the aforementioned payroll tax and even now are holding up a transportation bill with poison-pill demands for the White House on environmental regulation. [MORE]
By Alan Johnson and Jim Siegel, the Columbus Dispatch
Bowing to pressure from a federal judge, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today rescinded his order prohibiting the setting of voting hours in the last three days before the election and has asked the court to stay its ruling until an appeal is complete.
U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus this week ordered Husted to appear in court next week to explain why he issued an order to all 88 county boards of elections that defied the judge’s ruling clearing the way for weekend voting.
Husted today rescinded the order.
by LANNY DAVIS, Fox News
Of all the messages, President Clinton used the language of respect -- and respectful disagreement -- with Governor Romney and Rep. Ryan's ideas. And he said he saw in President Obama a willingness to practice his kind of politics --not the kind that announced that the central priority would be to defeat President Obama, rather than solve the problems of our country.
By Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, Bloomberg
Mitt Romney touts his business acumen and job-creation record as a key qualification for being the next U.S. president.
What’s clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.
What’s less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public, especially the middle class.
Thanks to leverage, 10 of roughly 67 major deals by Bain Capital during Romney’s watch produced about 70 percent of the firm’s profits. Four of those 10 deals, as well as others, later wound up in bankruptcy. It’s worth examining some of them to understand Romney’s investment style at Bain Capital.
In 1986, in one of its earliest deals, Bain Capital acquired Accuride Corp., a manufacturer of aluminum truck wheels. The purchase was 97.5 percent financed by debt, a high level of leverage under any circumstances. It was especially burdensome for a company that was exposed to aluminum-price volatility and cyclical automotive production.
In 1992, Bain Capital bought American Pad & Paper by financing 87 percent of the purchase price. In the next three years, Ampad borrowed to make acquisitions, repay existing debt and pay Bain Capital and its investors $60 million in dividends.
As a result, the company’s debt swelled from $11 million in 1993 to $444 million by 1995. The $14 million in annual interest expense on this debt dwarfed the company’s $4.7 million operating cash flow. The proceeds of an initial public offering in July 1996 were used to pay Bain Capital $48 million for part of its stake and to reduce the company’s debt to $270 million.
From 1993 to 1999, Bain Capital charged Ampad about $18 million in various fees. By 1999, the company’s debt was back up to $400 million. Unable to pay the interest costs and drained of cash paid to Bain Capital in fees and dividends, Ampad filed for bankruptcy the following year. Senior secured lenders got less than 50 cents on the dollar, unsecured lenders received two- tenths of a cent on the dollar, and several hundred jobs were lost. Bain Capital had reaped capital gains of $107 million on its $5.1 million investment.
by Matt Taibbi
The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.
The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who'd be honored to tell Oliver Twist there's no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race.
by Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times
At a bus stop near an abandoned shopping mall 15 minutes east of this city's attractive and buzzing downtown, President Barack Obama's hope and fear sit 20 feet apart.
"You can't expect Obama to get in there and change everything in four years. I'll vote for him again," said Valhalla Davis, 40.
She has been unemployed as long as Obama has been in office but holds faith, even as she scrapes by on twice-a-week trips to donate plasma. "There's a job out there," Davis said. "It's coming; I've just got to be patient." [MORE]
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Powerful corporate interests want to use the TPP to:
- Offshore good-paying jobs to low-wage nations and undercut working conditions globally
- Create new tools for attacking environmental and consumer safety standards
- Expand the deregulation of banks, hedge funds and insurance companies
- Further concentrate global food supplies, displacing family farmers and subjecting consumers to wild price fluctuations
- Institute longer patents that restrict access to affordable, generic medications
Instead of being debated out in the open, the TPP has thus far been negotiated in the shadows. Approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been given access to the TPP negotiating texts. A handful of civil society groups also have access to the texts, but they are vastly outnumbered and are legally prevented from sharing what they’ve read. Meanwhile, the people whose lives will be affected by the TPP have been barred from even reviewing what negotiators have proposed in our names.
From the ACLU
Voter turnout in the 2008 election was the most racially diverse in American history, closing the longstanding gap between white and minority voter participation. And in response to this historic moment, lawmakers nationwide have erected more barriers to the ballot box. States are making it harder and harder for people to vote, virtually guaranteeing that many people won’t really have the right at all. Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to more modern voter suppression tactics packaged as voter ID laws, restrictions to voter registration and cuts to early voting. With these new laws in effect, up to 5 million voters could be turned away at the polls in November. We cannot afford to have laws that push people out of the electorate. In order for this to be a true democracy, every eligible American must be able to vote. [MORE]
By Glenn Kessler (The Washington Post - The Fact Checker)
Eight years ago, when Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) was the Democratic nominee for president, he blasted then-President George W. Bush for his record on jobs. He often noted that Bush was on track to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss in jobs.
With the economic shoe on the other foot, now it’s GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney who uses the attack lines honed by Kerry, and it’s President Obama who relies on Bush’s strained economic accounting.
Such manipulation of statistics is standard fare for political campaigns, which is one reason why voters should always take such claims with a grain of salt. Yet something deeper and more disturbing is also affecting the political system.
With the conclusions of the back-to-back political conventions, it is clear that both parties occupy parallel universes, with their own narratives and starkly different philosophies. The Fact Checker column tries to steer clear of philosophical disputes, but increasingly claims made by politicians are geared for the echo chamber of the party faithful. ...
The public is catching on to the GOP’s strategy of deliberate economic sabotage — and they don’t like it.
by BRIAN BEUTLER, Talking Points Memo
President Obama and the Democrats have succeeded at convincing voters that Republicans are trying to delay economic recovery, according to a series of recent polls.
The new data suggests that about half the country, including a majority of self-identified independents, believe that congressional Republicans are using their political power to thwart Obama’s efforts to reduce unemployment, presenting Democrats an opportunity to make this argument more explicitly as the 2012 campaign moves forward — to undercut Republicans’ claims that Obama and the Dems bear full responsibility for the economy, and to make their pattern of obstruction a real liability for them.
Suffolk University polled registered voters in Florida and found that nearly half of voters, including large minorities of conservatives and Republicans, believed “Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jump-start the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not re-elected?”[MORE]
From PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter:
In making the case for President Barack Obama’s re-election, former President Bill Clinton vouched for job creation under Obama’s reign despite the "deeply damaged economy" he inherited.
Clinton singled out Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus program, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as a positive step for the economy.
"In 2010, as the president's recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around," Clinton said in his keynote Democratic National Convention speech. "The Recovery Act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes -- let me say this again -- cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people."
Clinton borrowed this factoid from the man of the week, who made it part of his 2008 campaign and bragged about it in his 2010 State of the Union speech. That night, Obama said, "We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families." PolitiFact rated that claim True. ...
by ERIC BYLER, Coffee Party USA
I've stopped marveling when consumers of Republican media products ignore anything that isn't included in the frame of their television sets, and embrace anything that is. It is part of the modern political equation. But Ezra Klein's recent blog post has revealed something new about the possible motivation of those who scripted and produced the "Debt-ceiling Hostage Crisis" and other soap operas that have dominated American political discourse and impacted federal policy since President Obama took office. The thought was that, if an expertly crafted narrative about debt and deficit could force a reduction in public sector employment at a time of economic peril (the very sort of austerity we now see imploding in Europe), it might succeed is stalling or reversing our economic recovery in time for the 2012 election.
Consider how much the 2012 presidential campaign has been impacted by the economic malpractice of cutting government jobs during a recession. While private sector job creation since the 2008 economic collapse has been relatively robust (4.3 million jobs created), a recent analysis from Yale University finds that a "hidden austerity program" that steadily cut public sector employment has been enough to increase our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, achieving the 8 percent unemployment rate that has been the centerpiece of the Republican electioneering narrative since 2009. (For those who don't recall, 8 percent is a crucial bench mark because the Obama administration justified the middle class tax cuts and other measures in the Recovery Act also known as the "stimulus" by saying it would keep the unemployment rate below that mark).
During today's show, we want to hear from people who watched or witnessed one or both of the two major party conventions. I've been so busy that I haven't seen enough of either of them to offer an informed critique. So I'll need to hear from you. Please call (646) 929-2496 at the top of the hour to add your voice to our conversation.
The Bottom Line with Jessica English
LISTEN LIVE Sunday Sept. 9
5 to 6:30 pm Eastern Time
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Eric Byler will call in to tell us what he witnessed as a volunteer filmmaker at the DNC convention, talk about his latest blog about "austerity" and debt, and explain his latest thinking about how the Coffee Party is a approaching the 2012 election. He recently wrote to a reporter:
The Coffee Party organizes around the principles of civility, respect for diverse cultures and diverse perspectives, and a fact-based, solutions-oriented approach to our deliberative process.
In April of 2010, after polling our members, we decided to focus on three issues:
We are a trans-partisan organization that includes many Republicans and even more former Republicans. But, if our goals and principles have any meaning, we cannot abandon them in order to find the "middle" between extremism and mainstream America.
We feel compelled to criticize political parties when they exhibit incivility, lack of respect for facts, lack of respect for diverse cultures. We feel compelled to criticize policy platforms that include designer tax codes for the super-wealthy, unlimited, anonymous spending to influence our elections, and a return to the lawless casino on Wall Street that destroyed the global economy four years ago. [MORE]