Debate Night in America


Monday night, the world watched an adult female, who had spent time and effort preparing for an important meeting with her opponent, debate a petulant, unprepared child who eschewed preparation, relying instead on interruptions, one-liners, and lies. 

As the American right hastens its march to the depths of anti-intellectualism, it now denigrates hard work and preparation, likening it to “cheating”. Donald Trump’s embarrassingly cringe-worthy debate performance probably didn’t move the needle for him. With his rudeness, condescension, and incomprehensible word salad, he behaved like any similarly situated D student with disciplinary issues might. On the C-Span split screen – which was devoid of vapid anchors and hot takes – Secretary Clinton appeared calm, poised, professional – Presidential. She took the hits and interruptions with a smile. Understanding Trump’s brand of domination politics, she wouldn’t refer to him the way all of his sycophants are likely instructed to on their non-disclosure forms, “Mr. Trump”. She called him Donald, and the more she got into his head, he dropped the faux-respectful “Secretary Clinton” in favor of dismissive pronouns. The candidates didn’t need to play to their respective bases – they’re chasing after undecided voters in swing states, and Clinton was the better salesperson. Here’s a chart recording his interruptions: 

He sounded okay when discussing trade deals, if ranting repetitiveness is your jam. But when the topic turned to race relations and temperament, Clinton was as cogent as Trump was weak. Clinton went after Trump for what she termed the “racist birther” issue, and it hit him hard, knocking him far off-balance. There were no raucous audiences to cheer him on, there was no array of right-wing demagogues for Trump to insult and demean – just one smart, prepared woman who was ready, willing, and able to hit back. President Obama released his long-form birth certificate in 2011, and Trump didn’t stop until August 2016 – for that he offered African-Americans, “nothing“. Trump never denied Clinton’s charge that he paid “no taxes”, ranting instead about how the government spends them in a way he dislikes, and claiming he’s “smart”. 

When asked what he meant when he said Secretary Clinton lacks a “presidential look”, Trump said he meant she doesn’t have stamina, all the while audibly sniffing, pounding back glasses of water, and losing his cool at the slightest provocation. When confronted on his refusal to release his tax returns, he got a cheer from his audience partisans when he said he’d do it, even against his “lawyer’s advice”, when Secretary Clinton releases the 33,000 emails she deleted. Maybe Clinton should demand that Trump then produce proof that he’s actually under audit – he keeps saying it, but doesn’t uphold for himself the standard he sets for everyone else. 

Meanwhile, the Clintons have released 30+ years’ worth of tax releases, and Trump is the first candidate in modern times to refuse to release any. I wonder why a lawyer is advising him not to show them? 

The most effective part of Clinton’s presentation, however, was after a particularly ugly and ill-informed swipe Donald Trump took at our friends and allies in various military alliances – Germany and Japan, in particular. He insulted them as deadbeats whom America shouldn’t protect if they won’t pay for the protection. Clinton didn’t respond to Trump, looking instead at the camera and reassuring our friends and allies around the world that she knows the election has caused them a lot of consternation, but that they can be sure that America will uphold its commitments under our various military alliances, then reminded Trump that the only time NATO invoked its mutual self-defense clause under Article 5 of the treaty was after September 11th, and our NATO allies continue to fight terrorism around the world. 

Trump? “I haven’t given a lot of thought to NATO”, he said before launching into his spiel about how the other members need to pay up. 

Clinton also came prepared with the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe from Venezuela, whom Trump had derided as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. 

If “telling it like it is” means being unable to handle 90 minutes’ worth of predictable questioning from a network anchor, and coming across as a ranting, lying lunatic, then I guess Trump’s base came away satisfied with his performance. But if you think being President is an important job that demands thought, good temperament, information, and preparedness, then there’s only one candidate who showed up Monday night to meet that standard. Amazingly enough, being President is more complex than calling in to “Fox and Friends”.

Obama Channels Presidents Romney and Gingrich

In 2012, Mitt Romney told Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin that by the end of his first Presidential term (i.e., 2016), he would get the unemployment rate “down to 6 percent, perhaps a little lower”:

HALPERIN: Would you like to be more specific about what the unemployment rate would be like at the end of your first year?
ROMNEY: I cannot predict precisely what the rate would be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by a virtue of the polices that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, perhaps a little lower.

He later went on Fox News to repeat his promise, and added,

“People all across the country are saying, ‘Wow, 6 percent sounds pretty good,’”

Mitt Romney lost. So, how did the unemployment rate do under Marxist Fascist n0bummer?

Well, consider this:

1. During George W. Bush’s second term, the US saw a net loss of 671,000 jobs. So far, in President Obama’s second term, the U.S. has a net gain of 4,784,000 jobs.

2. Friday’s jobs report showed 321,000 new jobs, and 91% of them were not in health care, showing that other sectors are showing signs of growth, confidence, and improvement.

3. Here’s how employment has gone, starting with the 2008 Bush economic collapse:


Courtesy @ddiamond

In 2012, President Newt Gingrich blamed President Obama for high gas prices, claiming that he had a plan to bring prices at the pump at or below $2.50/gallon. Just about anyone with a brain dismissed Gingrich’s promise as utter nonsense. The President has no power over global oil prices, much less the cartel of oil producing nations. The price of gasoline had climbed during the last decade with turmoil and supply disruptions arising out of the Iraq war, and was exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina, which took a huge chunk of America’s refining capacity offline. Gas prices plummeted in late 2008 / early 2009 thanks to the global economic downturn, but oil prices soon rebounded and until recently had been north of $100/bbl.

But OPEC leaders recently were unable to agree on production cuts to prop up the price of oil, and prices have plummeted – both crude and at the pump. The average price for a gallon of gas right now is reaching $2.50 nationally.


Of course, when you compare the national average to Buffalo, you get higher spikes locally, and much slower responses to drops in prices.

Even if you compare us to Rochester, it’s evident that Buffalo seems to be taken advantage of.

I don’t think it’s because we’re at the end of some pipeline, and it can’t be taxes. It’s something else, and it’d be nice if someone figured out what.

But if you look at the national average, Gingrich’s dopey promise is coming true. The national average for a price of a gallon of gas is close to $2.50, and that’s under President n0bama.

So, thankfully we didn’t have to do a thing – the economy has been making improvements in spite of Congressional gridlock and malfeasance, such as the 2013 shutdown. The price of gas has fallen in recent months because of things that have happened in the global marketplace, rather than by Presidential fiat.

As consumers find they pay less to fill up cars that are now significantly more fuel efficient than 20 years ago – the average MPG has jumped from 20 to 25 just since 2007 – that’s money back in their pockets and helps to stimulate other spending. American crude oil production has skyrocketed since Obama took office, thanks in large part to shale oil (not to be confused with hydrofracking, which produces natural gas).

So, more efficient cars help to lower demand, and a combination of increased domestic production, and OPEC stalemate help to keep supplies high, and even with a rebounding domestic economy, we’re seeing gas prices come down to Gingrichian levels.

The current unemployment rate is 5.8%, which outperforms what Mr. Romney promised might happen under him by 2016. December’s jobs report represented the 10th straight month of job gains surpassing 200,000.

Thanks, President Obama!

#Sandy Reminder: Mitt Romney Would Abolish FEMA

As the Frankenstorm batters almost the entirety of America’s east coast, many of the affected states have already declared states of emergency (including all of New York), and the federal government has made formal disaster area declarations in many of them, as well. 

As the eastern half of the country cleans up the damage, federal aid will likely be requested and granted. When that happens, remember that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney would shut FEMA down, because 10th Amendment or something. 

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

“Including disaster relief, though?” debate moderator John King asked Romney.

“We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” Romney replied. “It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

So, there you have it. Even though FEMA routinely contracts with private industry to provide needed relief goods and services, Romney would shut FEMA down and make states and municipalities cover the cleanup on their own. It’s “immoral to pass on debt” to future generations, but it’s ok of those future generations live in a disaster zone and wade to school amid downed power lines. 

If someone asked Romney today about that FEMA answer, he’d deny ever saying it, and he’d pledge to strengthen FEMA. That’s because he’s in full Etch-a-Sketch mode and has shifted to the center, but in such a brazen way that he will quite literally say whatever he thinks his immediate audience wants him to hear. 

Horses and Bayonets on the Morrow

In debate the first, Alpha Romney showed up and stylistically, if not factually, defeated a sleepy Obama. In debate two, electric boogaloo, Romney and Obama both came to the knife fight with guns a-blazing. 

Last night, in debate number three, Alpha Obama went on offense against a stammering, sweaty Romney who, at times, seemed as if Sarah Palin had helped with debate prep. When Obama criticized Romney’s incoherence on various foreign policy matters, Romney whined, “attacking me is not a plan”. It was repeated at least twice, and sounded weak, sorrowful, and pathetic. Obama’s cross-examination of Romney on his prior inconsistent statements was effective and decidedly well-hinged.

For instance, at the first debate, Romney had complained that the 2014 deadline to leave Afghanistan was something he agreed with, except insofar as it telegraphs to our enemy that all bets are off after that. It’s a disingenuous weasel answer, and one that Romney completely abandoned last night, instead claiming to back the 2014 date. From TPM, Obama

You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends. Which means not only were you wrong, but you were confused and sending mixed messages to our troops and allies.

In 2008, Romney said we shouldn’t move “heaven and earth” to get Osama bin Laden, and that we should first ask Pakistan for permission.  Obama recounted meeting the daughter of a 9/11 victim, which reaffirmed to him that moving heaven and earth was exactly the right thing to do; “worth it”, 

“[Y]ou said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” Obama said. “If we would have asked Pakistan for permission, we wouldn’t have got him.”

On Russia: 

“I’m glad that you recognize al Qaeda is a threat. Because a few months ago when you were asked the biggest threat facing America, you said Russia,” Obama said. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

Later Obama said directly to Romney, “You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it.”

Romney repeatedly claimed to be the candidate of peace – he rebutted the elimination of Osama bin Laden with “we can’t kill our way out of this mess“. Romney tried to attack Obama from the left on this, and everything about it reeked of phoniness. The guy who has John Bolton on his foreign policy team isn’t the McGovernesque peace candidate.  On Iran, Romney actually suggested that some unnamed “world court” indict Ahmadinejad for genocide. That’s nice, but the United States has nothing whatsoever to do with the International Criminal Tribunal. And how does that jibe with the Republican anti-world-government, anti-UN, US must do everything mantras? It’s a desperate ploy by a desperate candidate. 

If, at the foreign policy debate, Romney can get no traction on his Libya attacks, he’s lost. 

Throughout the night, Alpha Obama was the calm, rational, factual counterpoint to Romney’s rushed stream of consciousness. He also gave Romney nary an inch to repeat falsehoods or reinvent history. Obama pre-empted Romney’s predictable attacks about Israel with yet another “Libya moment”. One of Romney’s clumsiest attacks was to accuse Obama of weakening our military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer “ships” now than it did in 1916(!). Obama snarkily obliterated that argument, and it was a highlight of the night – a “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment. 

Funny aside – someone on Facebook mentioned that Fox News “fact-checked” the assertion that the military doesn’t use bayonets anymore by pointing out that Marines have them. Except for the fact that the President said “fewer”, not “none”. Now we’re fact-checking deliberately false fact-checking. 

But except when they veered to domestic policy issues that are swing-state friendly, it was astonishing just how much Romney agreed with every foreign policy thing Obama’s doing, or has done. He liked everything! Romney was reduced to using long strings of words to say he’d do exactly the same thing, only perhaps louder or faster. 

In their closing arguments, Obama pivoted back to hope and staying on a path to move forward, rather than back. Romney did his best Reagan impression, but ended up sounding and looking more like a more WASPy Billy Fucillo, who really wants to see you in this purple Hyundai with low miles and EZ-terms. 

Some highlights: 

In response to Romney’s accusation about an “apology tour” where Obama purportedly ignored Israel. This was quite the Libya moment. Please proceed, Governor:

Closing with hope :

Romney’s Math Doesn’t Add Up

The Democratic Party put up a funny website that is designed to look like something from the Romney/Ryan campaign, and pokes fun at the fact that Romney’s tax plan is backed up by a complete absence of any salient details. 

Now, those dirty redistributive Kenyan socialists at Forbes and the Council on Foreign Relations have an even bigger bombshell to share. Romney/Ryan promise to reduce the income tax on the wealthy by 20% – this costs America $2.5 trillion. They promise to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, costing America $700 billion.  A repeal of the high-income payroll tax will cost another $300 billion in revenue. Corporations will get another $1 trillion tax cut. 

So, how does the government pay for that, and not affect the deficit? Here’s what Forbes’ Robert Lenzer has to say

Then, comes the problem, the headache, or maybe its the head fake. No identification of a single loophole that will be closed. No concrete exposition about raising the capital gains tax on rich people. Our friends at the Democratic Party headquarters have estimated the savings for “ending all tax benefits for the wealthy” at $1.7 trillion; eliminating ALL corporate tax benefits to offset the corporate tax cut- $1.1 trillion and then another $1 trillion of middle class tax benefits to pay for the middle class cut=- another $1 trillion.

Imagine the chaos, the bitterness, the social unrest that would occur. But, then realize these measures only get back $4 trillion. There’s another $1 trillion to go.

Even studies by that staunch Republican economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen “concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000. So much for campaign rhetoric favoring the 1% over the 99%.

 The Forbes article cites this one from the Council on Foreign Relations, which adds a chart to help aid in the analysis. 

At the VP debate, candidate Paul Ryan said that his ticket would lower marginal tax rates by eliminating $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions for high-income taxpayers. But the chart above shows those loopholes and deductions, and a full 30% of that $1.1 trillion has been deemed by Romney to be untouchable. So, they only account for $770 billion of their promised $1.1 trillion. 

Mitt Romney can lurch to the center all he wants, but he doesn’t want to change the system to benefit the middle class and the working poor – he’s done quite well under the status quo and has no incentive to change a thing. Romney and his running mate can brazenly lie and make promises that don’t mathematically add up, and seldom does it meet with much pushback because seriously, most people – most journalists – aren’t economists. 

America, Romney, and the Middle Class

I realize that Chris linked to this in today’s Grumpy, and I apologize for the redundancy, but it really deserves to be highlighted on its own because it involves a local company – Delphi – and its buyout, bailout, and retirees. Delphi still operates in Lockport, and it has a long history in western New York back to the days of Harrison Radiator. Like Trico, it has taken advantage of Mexico’s maquila system, whereby American companies send parts to Mexico for assembly, and can repatriate the finished products duty-free thanks to NAFTA. Despite taking advantage of cheap Mexican labor, Delphi still found itself in deep trouble. 

When in the midst of the global financial meltdown of 2008, GM was facing imminent collapse, the liquidation of Delphi would have been catastrophic. To replace Delphi’s supply pipeline would have cost GM tens of billions of dollars and many years. Had Delphi been allowed to go under, GM’s rescue would have been impossible – bailout or no. 

Rattner could not believe that Delphi’s management—now effectively under the hedge funders’ control—would “want to be perceived as holding GM hostage at such a precarious economic moment.” One Wall Street Journalanalyst suggested that Singer was treating Delphi “like a third world country.” Rattner likened the subsidies demanded by Delphi’s debt holders to “extortion demands by the Barbary pirates.”

Romney has slammed the bailout as a payoff to the auto workers union. But that certainly wasn’t true for the bailout of Delphi. Once the hedge funders, including Singer—a deep-pocketed right-wing donor and activist who serves as chair of the conservative, anti-union Manhattan Institute—took control of the firm, they rid Delphi of every single one of its 25,200 unionized workers.

Of the twenty-nine Delphi plants operating in the United States when the hedge funders began buying up control, only four remain, with not a single union production worker. Romney’s “job creators” did create jobs—in China, where Delphi now produces the parts used by GM and other major automakers here and abroad. Delphi is now incorporated overseas, leaving the company with 5,000 employees in the United States (versus almost 100,000 abroad).

Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, whose net worth of $1.3 billion owes much to his share in the Delphi windfall, told his fund’s backers this past July that Delphi remains an excellent investment because it has “virtually no North American unionized labor” and, thanks to US taxpayers, “significantly smaller pension liabilities than almost all of its peers.”

This article goes into excruciating detail about what happened with the auto bailout and Delphi retirees. It explains how the auto bailout was far from being a sweetheart deal for labor, but instead ended up being a winning lottery ticket for predatory hedge funds, which profit off of destitution and failure. It is vulture capitalism at its cruelest, and revolutions have been fought for less. 

Mitt Romney has personally – likely knowingly – profited from this particular series of events, and he and his billionaire allies are trying to expand their financial profit into political benefit. If the interests of the vulture capitalists can be married to the federal government, the sky’s the limit. It was under the Reagan Administration that growing the middle class took a back seat to tax breaks for the wealthy – trickle down, supply-side economics has been an utter disaster for middle income Americans. The notion that helping the rich would benefit everybody has been a colossal failure at satisfying those aims; the economy has thrived when the very rich were taxed more

So, please read this story, as it has a local effect, it’s shocking, it’s depressing, and it should make you very, very angry.  Here’s a taste: 

Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romney’s November 2008New York Times op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneys’, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.


By the end of June 2009, with the bailout negotiations in full swing, the hedge funds, under Singer’s lead, used their bonds to buy up a controlling interest in Delphi’s stock. According to SEC filings, they paid, on average, an equivalent of only 67 cents per share.

Just two years later, in November 2011, the Singer syndicate took Delphi public at $22 a share, turning an eye-popping profit of more than 3,000 percent. Singer’s fund investors scored a gain of $904 million, all courtesy of the US taxpayer. But that’s not all. In the year since Delphi began trading publicly, its stock has soared 45 percent. Loeb’s gains so far for Third Point: $390 million. The gains for Silver Point, headed by two Goldman Sachs alums: $894 million. John Paulson’s fund, which has already sold half its holdings, has a $2.6 billion gain. And Singer’s funds and partners, combining what they’ve sold and what they hold, have $1.29 billion in profits, about forty-four times their original investment.

Yet without taking billions in taxpayer bailout funds—and slashing worker pensions—the hedge funds’ investment in Delphi would not have been worth a single dollar, according to calculations by GM and the US Treasury.

The Randian John Galt fantasy in America is just mythology. The makers and captains of industry would never withdraw from the American economy and go live in a gulch to let the moochers and takers fail. They have the system stacked in their favor; they have the most compliant government money can buy. They have successfully changed the American narrative so that a great many middle-class and working poor will happily vote against their own interests. 

I don’t think this is how America was meant to work. I don’t think that this is the sort of country the Founders envisioned – where the super-rich get richer at the direct expense of the bourgeoisie; where an idle vulture class exploits everybody with the purchased assistance of the political elite, and the whole thing goes largely unnoticed thanks to a lowest-common denominator news media. 

Our country’s founding was a revolution of the bourgeoisie, overthrowing the shackles of feudal royalty based not on political legitimacy, but on fictional divine providence. 

Disingenuous or ignorant Republican hacks can question Obama’s patriotism, birth, and faith, but truth be told, Romney’s America isn’t

Maybe Tuesday Will Be Better, AMIRITE?

Liberty Building in Downtown Buffalo, NY

1. Jeremy Zellner vs. Frank Max. If you care about this in any way, chances are you rely on a government job, are an elected official, or you’re a candidate. The average western New Yorker is completely unaffected by it, and couldn’t care less. I happen to think that Lenihan did a great job as party chairman, and if his successor is half as successful as he, everybody should be pleased. The fact that certain people and factions held grudges over slights – real and perceived – and couldn’t suck it up and be big boys and girls and follow what the majority of the party committee wanted is par for the course. I wish Jeremy and Frank good luck and best wishes.  Everyone should just relax and concentrate on what a party committee is supposed to do – elect Democrats. 

2. “While Kathy Hochul distorts the truth, what do people who work for Chris Collins say?” That’s the actual opening line of an ad for Collins for Congress.  That bitch is such a liar, OMG. Here’s what people whose very livelihood is dependent on me have to say about me. That’s not an ad – that’s an out of control ego. Embarrassing. 

3. Coming back to the “everyone’s horrible” theme – the NFTA Surface Transportation Committee is made up of very wealthy and influential people, none of whom are likely to actually use NFTA surface transportation on any sort of regular basis. Jim Eagan – Democratic money guy who was until recently running to run ECDC, big firm lawyer Adam Perry, and restaurateur Mark Croce are all quoted in this story, all identified as committee members. Meanwhile, the people who use the LaSalle Metro station every day have dealt with a broken escalator for four months with no fix in sight. The NFTA committee members started yelling at each other like children over whether the work should be done by the regular maintenance contractor or sent out to bid. Just fix the escalator, and it’s high time the NFTA was run by people who actually use the service.  

4. The reason Mitt Romney is doing poorly? He’s exactly what the tea party, evangelicals, and very rich Republican benefactors always wanted in a candidate. 

5. Third time’s the charm. Since August, food trucks the Cheesy Chick, the Knight Slider have been chased away from the town of Amherst in the middle of service. Last year, a battle was waged to implement a law allowing and regulating food trucks to work the streets of the city of Buffalo. In reputedly business-friendly Amherst, however, no such regulation has been implemented. Yesterday, the Lloyd Taco Truck boys Tweeted this: 

That’s odd, because the truck was operating with permission on private property. The town has no food truck legislation or regulation, so no one is quite sure what Lloyd is alleged to have violated. The town’s code enforcement officers have been chasing the trucks away, and the town leadership was caught completely unaware.  

The only current regulation that could feasibly apply to food trucks is a transient vendor permit that is costly, only good for 90 days at a time, and specific to a location. If Lloyd wants to operate its north Amherst and Ridge Lea private property regular locations, it would need two licenses, each renewable every 3 months for $100

Just a few weeks ago, the Amherst town board passed a resolution to address and change the local law to specifically update the transient business permitting process to better reflect the current reality including food trucks. 

6. You aren’t a “pet parent”. Please. 

Romney vs. the 47%

1. David Frum is the Tweeter to watch this campaign season. 

2. Mitt Romney began running against the press last week; he’s running against half of America today.

It was supposed to be a campaign reboot. But instead, Mitt Romney had a bad day. What a day Mitt had. Sad. Mitt. Bad. Had. 

The day started with a Politico article detailing what can best – and most charitably – be described as complete and utter disarray within his campaign apparatus.

For a guy running on his management bona fides, he’s running the worst national campaign I can remember. Heavy on ideology – light on details, the Romney campaign is now suffering through the type of postmortem interviews that usually happen after they lose on election day. (It was then that all the stories about just how awful Sarah Palin was came out).  David Frum Tweeted: 

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It got worse. 

Late yesterday, former Bush aide and current sane conservative David Frum Tweeted that, “If you’re not running for president of all the country, you won’t be elected president of any of it.”

He was writing in response to a blockbuster series of videos that were clandestinely recorded during a big-money fundraiser that was held in Boca Raton on May 17th, where Romney spoke. What it revealed was the real Mitt Romney – the guy who is in his element and doesn’t feel constrained by politeness, inclusiveness, or basic political correctness – some pretty key qualities needed in a viable candidate in a general election for President of the United States. 

In a surprising nod to the theories of horrible person Ayn Rand, Romney broke down the American electorate into producers and moochers;  that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, don’t work, take no personal responsibility and enjoy being dependent on government for all needs. Why, they even feel entitled to receive health care! Can you believe it?! Romney concluded that he was never going to convince these people to vote for him, so he wasn’t running to convince them. He even added – astoundingly – that they pay no income tax and had no sense of personal responsibility. Instead, he explained, he was running for the 5 – 10% of the electorate that are “thoughtful” “independents” who voted for Obama but are disappointed in him – pretty much the theme of Romney’s convention speech. 

Romney painted himself into a corner by affixing a percentage to that number. He has no wiggle room – he can’t say, “oh, I was talking about a small population that just lives off of public assistance” – he indicted almost fully half of the American population for being do-nothing takers and moochers. That’s astonishing

On the first anniversary of the Occupy movement, you’re not just the 99%, you may also be the 47%. 

Coincidentally, 47% is how many people in Michigan plan on voting for Obama versus 37% for “native son” Romney. 

The Atlantic broke down and identified the 47%:

In 2011, 47% of Americans paid no federal income taxes. Within that group, two-thirds still pay payroll taxes. The rest are almost all either (a) old and retired folks collecting Social Security or (b) households earning less than $20,000. Overall, four out of five households not owing federal income tax earn less than $30,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Here’s another, slightly wonkier, way to think about the 47%. Divide the group into two halves. The first half is made tax-free by credits and exemptions, the vast majority of which go to senior citizens and children of the working poor. The half that you’re left with is so poor, they wouldn’t owe federal income taxes even if there were zero tax expenditures.

There are some not-so-poor outliers, like the 7,000 millionaires who paid no federal income taxes in 2011. But for the most part, when you hear “The 47%” you should think “old retired folks and poor working families.” …

…Mitt Romney’s off-the-record comments were inelegant. But they were also part of a long trend of Republicans attacking the 47% as lazy, or playing by a different set of rules, or not fully contributing to the country. Michele Bachmann went after the non-payers. So did Rick Santorum. And Sen. John Cornyn.

The 47% aren’t lucky ducks cheating the system. They’re mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they’re following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. “Non-payers” have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.

It would be one thing to ask poor working families to pay higher taxes if Republicans were trying to raise money to improve government services. Quite the opposite, Romney’s tax plan would, if passed, either reduce revenue or come out neutral by raising taxes on upper-middle class families. Meanwhile, his budget would gruesomely gut Medicaid and income-support programs below their projected 2020 levels.

The working poor families and elderly people who make up the 47% also tend to live in the deep South, in predominately red states: 

But now, remember that Mr. Romney has repeatedly refused to release more than (a) a partial, incomplete 2010 income tax return; and (b) an estimate for 2011 income taxes. He will not release any more taxes.  Here’s a guy who wanted pretty desperately to change the subject on his own taxes – and thanks to a press that’s sensitive about being called “liberal”, he was largely successful. Yet here he opened the door for everyone to re-examine his own tax situation.

When you factor in the payroll taxes that the working poor automatically pay every pay period, the actual figure for Americans who pay “no income tax” is reduced to about 18%

…according to the Tax Policy Center, more than 60% of those non-income tax paying households did pay federal payroll taxes—meaning Social Security and Medicare taxes.  (Considering all Americans households, including those that owed income tax, 62% paid more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.)

What of the 18.1% of U.S. households that paid neither income nor payroll taxes?  More than half of them were headed by a senior–in other words, by someone who paid payroll taxes and likely some income taxes too, in the past.  (No, the amount the elderly have paid in does not cover the cost of the Medicare  benefits they are now getting. And that is true despite the fact that in a Romney TV adattacking Obamacare’s cuts to the growth in Medicare spending, an announcer seems to suggest otherwise, intoning:  “You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck…. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed healthcare Is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”)

Of course, it goes without saying, that those  folks who aren’t paying federal taxes are almost all paying state and local taxes—state sales taxes, real estate taxes (either on their homes or built into their rents) and possibly state income taxes too, since those taxes tend to exempt fewer poor families than does the federal income tax.  If they buy gasoline, liquor or tobacco, or have telephones, they’re also feeding the federal purse.

The tax deadbeat thinks half of Americans are tax deadbeats who aren’t worth fighting for. We’ve become a country where the millionaires and billionaires express envy for the extremely poor. This is evidence of madness. 

Here are the videos. 

Reid Gives Republicans A Taste of Their Own Medicine

Did you hear how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor to accuse Mitt Romney of not having paid income taxes in 10 years? He says someone with deep knowledge of Bain Capital finances told him that, but he’s unwilling to reveal his source, and the Republicans and Romney are going absolutely out of their minds about it. 

Is the charge true? Is it false? Who knows? Obviously, the easiest way to prove its falsity is to release 10 years’ worth of tax returns – something Romney has repeatedly refused to do. The Romneys say we people have all we’re going to get from them – an incomplete 2010 return and a 2011 estimate. Romney deliberately omitted a document he would have filed with the IRS detailing the holdings he has in foreign banks in Switzerland, the Caymans, Bermuda, and other traditional tax-evasion havens with expanded secrecy laws to help, e.g., absolve Americans of their duty to pay taxes (and more nefarious reasons like money laundering). ABC News pointedly asked Romney whether he’s ever paid less than 13.9% in income taxes, and he said he’d go back and check – that’s not a “no”. He never came back to tell us one way or another. 

The Republicans are going nuts, demanding Reid’s taxes, Pelosi’s taxes, Obama’s college transcript – they’re grasping at completely manufactured straws and bringing up remarkable non-sequiturs to avoid one salient fact: 

While the rabid right-wingers in Breitbartland demand a “vetting” of Obama that happened in 2008 and they’ve conveniently ignored, they absolutely refuse to vet their own nominee. That refusal to vet – hey, rich white guy, former Governor – is already haunting them. You can’t complain about transparency when you have a candidate who’s hiding something. You can’t complain about job creators and taxes when your ultrawealthy one percenter candidate pays no taxes. 

(Why aren’t we demanding to see how much Chris Collins has been paying in taxes?)

But if you read anything about the set of balls on Harry Reid, you should read this piece from the Rude Pundit. His writing is NSFW, but I haven’t yet found anything that more creatively and pointedly explains why this is all fantastic.  (Quote after the jump, due to language – those with vapours should avoid).  Read more

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