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Posts Tagged ‘mitt romney’

Sullivan:

These are not the words of a president serious about cutting the debt. Cutting “waste” in government isn’t going to get you anywhere near what you need. And the president needs to get serious about the burgeoning long-term costs of Medicare. That requires real honesty about real future sacrifice – not blandishments about how we might be able to bend the cost curve slightly.

Can we, please, get something other than typical deficit-scold group think? Andrew seems to think that all we need is more seriousness and more sacrifice and then we’re golden. He decries the President’s desire to raise additional revenue as not serious because it won’t raise enough. Well, OK, I agree it won’t raise a whole hell of a lot. But previously Sullivan complained that the President wanted too much (relative) revenue! 

I would ask how much, specifically, is thecorrect amount? 

More importantly, I would ask how much deficit reduction, specifically, is the correct amount? 

We’ve already done $2.4 Trillion. But I guess that’s just not enough serious sacrifice for the deficit scolds. They won’t be happy until, well, they will never quite say. Is stabilizing the debt to GDP ratio sufficient? We can do that with another $1.2 Trillion. Obama’s “not serious” revenue ask gets us half way there. 

Alas, we will now continue our charade of THE DEFICIT WILL KILL US ALL MORE AUSTERITY NOW I’M VERY SERIOUS AUSTERITY NOW! followed by AUSTERITY WILL KILL US ALL! (remember the fiscal cliff?) and then back again. 

If you’re having trouble making sense of the Very Serious beltway opinion on fiscal matters, its because it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of sense. 

Sullivan finishes:

If you want to go small, Mr President, and leave the real debt cutting to your successor, that’s your prerogative. But it is not the change we believed in. Or voted for.

Well, actually that’s exactly what we voted for. Obama made no secret of his desire to squeeze revenue out of the rich via sunsetting the Bush tax cuts for only high earners and via closing Mitt Romney’s favorite loopholes. In fact, it was the entire premise of his campaign. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s (conflicting) versions of austerity for Obama’s “balanced” and minimally austere (by comparison) approach. 

I don’t ever recall Barack Obama running on a platform of “serious” austerity. Sullivan has been lamenting Obama’s failure to “embrace Bowles-Simpson” for two years, a lamentation that made as little sense then as now. On spending, Obama actually has (very nearly) embraced BS (in terms of net amounts, if not line items). On revenues, he never intended to. He’s made that abundantly clear for almost two years. 

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Apparently yesterday we got a shiny new re-authorization of warrant-less wiretapping. I agree with Drum’s take:

Glenn [Greenwald] thinks that liberals have largely given up criticizing this stuff because we now have a Democratic president in the White House rather than George W. Bush, and I suppose that’s part of it. But a bigger part, I think, is simply that it’s all become so institutionalized. Back in 2004 and 2006, we were outraged because this was all so new. Today, after fighting and losing, it’s just part of our brave new world, along with 3-ounce bottles on airplanes, unreviewable no-fly lists, and cops who demand to know what you’re up to if you start taking pictures in public places.

As a country, we’re now divided into two parts: those who aggressively support things like warrantless wiretapping because they’re consumed with fear, and those who don’t but have given up trying to fight about it. There’s hardly anyone left still willing to tilt at this particular windmill. It’s sad as hell.

Yep, that sounds about right to me. A lot of people cry “hypocrisy!” over this because, in their view, liberals only ever cared about this issue insofar as it was politically expedient to use it as a cudgel against Bush but now that our guy is in the West Wing it is politically expedient to ignore it. Maybe that’s at least partially right but I entirely agree that the bigger issue is that it’s just the new normal. 

My reasoning for thinking this is simple: liberals just plain suck at the whole “rally ’round the flag” thing that conservatives are so good at. Anyone who paid even passing attention to political commentary in 2012 should have noted this. As an example, take Barack Obama’s performance in the first presidential debate. It was widely regarded as horrible, and the left wing pundits were tripping all over themselves to scream their heads off about what a disaster it was and how terribly Obama performed and ITS GAME OVER, MAN! I’m pretty sure Andrew Sullivan was on suicide watch. 

But can you imagine the conservative response had the tables been turned, and it was Mitt Romney who performed poorly? They would have been lining up to explain why actually he did wonderfully and Barack Obama is a pushy, un-presidential asshole for treating the kindly, good-hearted Mitt the way he did and anyone who says otherwise is all just part of the liberal media Chicago establishment anyway so who cares. Every. Single. Pundit. These guys get their marching orders and off they go. Kevin Drum calls it the hack gap because liberals, for better or worse, just suck at it. They just can’t pull off that kind of united front. 

So the idea that we’ve all just decided to drop an issue that was once so important out of political expediency just isn’t a good enough explanation. I do think its an important issue and liberals really should keep fighting on it, and I’m sure the Greenwald cynicism is a part of it, but a much, much smaller part. Liberals are by no means blameless here, but I just don’t buy it, not completely. 

And on that note, that’ll do it for 2012. Happy new year, everyone! Posting should resume sometime next week, provided we survive the fiscalcliffpocalypsemageddon. 

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In the morning, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I won’t go over all the specific policies and reasons why, if you read this blog you already know them.

But there are two things I’d like to bring up. This won’t be a particularly well written piece because its late and I’m tired, but I want to toss it out there before the polls open.

First, the issue of foreign policy and civil liberties. This is where I think the strongest case against Obama can be made, and so I’d like to take a brief second to refute it somewhat. Obama’s record in this area has been dismal, but I do not think this is a reason to vote against him. Mitt Romney would be far, far worse.

Obama’s policy towards Iran has been about as measured and calm as can be expected. Were Mitt Romney president right now, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we would be in a full scale war with Iran.

While he has not held anyone accountable for the US torture regime, Barack Obama has ended it. Mitt Romney would not only re-instate it, but expand it! When asked if he considered water boarding torture, he indicated that he did not, and that he would seek to increase the list of techniques used by interrogators. Barack Obama attempted to close Guantanamo Bay and hold actual trials for detainees, but was stymied by congress. Mitt Romney wants to double Guantanamo. You may not like Obama’s record on these issues, but Mitt Romney would be so much worse. If you truly think there is no difference between them on these issues, you’re fooling yourself.

Secondly, and more importantly, I will be voting for Barack Obama because we absolutely must take a stand against the GOP of the past four years. If they win, it will be an affirmation of their tactics. It will show that the public is accepting of putting party before country. It will vindicate the strategy of rank, baseless obstructionism. The GOP has not been even remotely interested in actual governing, except where they see an opportunity to score partisan points. From day one, their primary goal has been to make Barack Obama a one term president. If Mitt Romney wins, they will have been proven right. We will be telling them that their irresponsible, reprehensible strategy was correct, effective, and acceptable.

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Lump of Coal

I’ve been seeing a ton of ads from Romney and friends the last few days all along the lines of “Obama’s policies are killing the coal industry”.

This is a point I’ve made before, but cheap natural gas from shale is actually what’s killing coal. Romney is against the government “picking winners and losers” and thinks energy choices should be up to the free market. That’s all fine, but the result of it is a dying coal industry.

Obama is not killing coal, shale gas is. I don’t see what’s so difficult to understand about that, but it seems to be a point of confusion.

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If you’re anything like me, you probably found the worst part of the Presidential debates to be the section on energy. Essentially, the candidates spent a couple minutes arguing over Solyndra and then a couple more seeing who could say the most nice things about West Virginia’s 5 electoral votes coal, then they reached a consensus that neither of them actually care when they could be arguing over who is the better job creator instead. 

So I was glad to see that an entire debate was held between the campaigns on energy at MIT. Here’s the transcript. The candidates themselves weren’t present, but their (high level) campaign surrogates were, which I suppose is the best we can hope for in what 99% of the public would find to be an excruciatingly boring debate put on by a bunch of MIT nerds. Romney was represented by his campaign’s domestic policy director, Oren Cass, and Obama by former White House energy and environment adviser Joe Aldy. I won’t write up a complete play by play commentary here, but I do want to point out a couple things. 

On the question of government incentives to spur energy innovation, Romney’s campaign would focus on basic research, rather than direct subsidies to specific companies (read: Solyndra). It kind of gets lost in an argument over wind subsidies, but both campaigns are really saying the same things here, that basic research is something the government should be doing. They both go on to praise ARPA-E (a DOE energy research funding program, modeled on a defense research funding program). The Obama campaign also sets a solid benchmark: a goal of 80% “clean energy” by 2035 in the power sector (ie electricity, not liquid transportation fuels). The problem is that coal and natural gas are included as clean energy. I’m less concerned about the carbon emissions aspect of this (and this holds true for my views on energy as a whole) than I am about the non-renewable nature of these fuels. My concern with a heavy reliance on coal and natural gas is that we will run out of both of these things, and find ourselves in the same boat down the road. We would be better served by renewables. 

The Romney campaign’s follow-up to that is, I think, very troubling (emphasis mine):

I think an interesting thing that Joe mentioned that begins to raise deeper issues about the president’s plan is that he frequently cites job creation as the goal. If job creation is the goal for energy policy, and Governor Romney believes it should be, then we should be focusing our energy policy in a direction that creates jobs. Now it is true that jobs are created assembling wind turbines, assembling solar panels, but in fact, the jobs that are destroyed and eliminated elsewhere in the economy every time we do that are significantly larger.

There is no evidence, frankly, that the sorts of investments the president is making in green energy are superior to using the far more economically effective energy technologies we already have available, and as with almost every area of technology we see, the best way to produce those innovations is not, again, through government choosing which technologies are best, but through actually encouraging innovation in the private sector.

Job creation is a wonderful, important thing. I support it! But it should not in any way be the goal for energy policy. As an added benefit, awesome, but not the goal. The goal of our energy policy absolutely must be to find a way to obtain energy sources that we can continue using for some time. Again, I don’t view this as much as an environmental issue (though it certainly is) than an issue of having the energy we need to do the things we want to do. Continued reliance on fossil fuels, coal and natural gas included, doesn’t fit the bill. We can and should continue our use of fossil fuels, but they will become progressively scarcer and more expensive, and will by necessity be phased out. We need renewable energy to fill their gap. Now is the time to find those sources, before we experience significant disruptions to our economy. Disruptions which, by the way, will have a massively larger impact on jobs than any individual policy we could argue over in this area.

In an exchange about shale gas, we get back into the argument we heard at the Presidential debate over drilling on federal vs. non-federal land. I really don’t undertand the distinction. It seems like a way to cherry pick the data to make a point, and the whole thing is being used as a proxy for an argument over the role of government. That’s all fine, but when it comes down to the actual issue of energy, 1 BTU derived from federal land = 1 BTU from private land. 

On the issue of “energy independence”, the Obama campaign’s answer acknowledges that the energy market is global. This is an important fact that I think is often misunderstood. Even if the US has the necessary energy production (from whatever sources) to meet 100% of its demand, it still participates in a global market. Some of that energy will be sold abroad and some domestically. We will likely never encounter a situation where we utilize only what we produce. 

The Romney campaign defines energy independence as “the economic activity associated with energy production is something that occurs here, so that the wealth that we are seeing experienced in the places that we import from now is instead occurring in our own communities.” But in the very next sentence he goes on to say we need to expand production in Mexico and Canada! 

In an exchange regarding explicit subsidies for various energy sources, The Obama campaign makes what I think is a very important point:

Now when we actually think about reforming these, I think it’s important that’s there some who say, let’s just have a level playing field. Let’s get rid of all the subsidies. Now when you’re doing that, you may say, hey, we don’t want to pick winners, but you are picking winners. First, those who have benefited by subsidies for an incredibly long time, the incumbents in the fossil fuels that have benefited from subsidies for, in the case of oil, nearly a century, they’re winners. They’ve become established, and they will actually benefit if you got rid of all of these.

Exactly. “Leveling the playing field” automatically hands advantage to oil, as the incumbent. Now you may say that this is just the free market at work, and that’s a perfectly reasonable opinion. But my problem is that markets are reactive, not pro-active. The free market case goes that when, for example, oil is no longer preferable, market forces will shift towards renewables (or whatever, non-oil). In the time it takes to make that shift, though, we will be hobbled by soaring energy prices. That will be crippling for the economy. Why, when we know that oil will become increasingly scarce, wait on the market signals? Best to develop the alternatives now, in my opinion, in order that they are ready for deployment when needed. 

The argument then goes on to what counts as a subsidy, and gets a little semantic, but neither side makes what is, to me, the obvious point. The largest government subsidy in the energy sector is the United States Military. The global flow of oil is secured in large part thanks to the fact that anyone who decides to block our flow of sweet, sweet crude will find themselves on the receiving end of a carrier battle group. This is never brought up in the discussion of energy subsidies, or cost/benefit analyses, but it is very significant. If we didn’t have oil to secure, our role in the middle east would be much reduced. 

On the topic of coal: Everyone loves it! West Virginia, 5 EV, etc. The debate quickly becomes a he said / she said on the job killing EPA and the cost / benefit of “clean coal” (ugh), but the Obama campaign makes the fundamental point when talking about the coal industry’s future:

In fact, when you actually look at the analysis, EPA did not say there’ll be no new coal plants because of this regulation. They actually said that because of natural gas prices, we don’t foresee any new coal plants coming online. So they actually estimated that there is not this burden on the coal industry because they are going to have challenges with new plants competing with natural gas.

Exactly right. Coal simply is not competitive with cheap natural gas. That’s just the reality of it. If you want coal to be a big part of our energy future, you have to shut down shale gas or heavily subsidize coal. Romney’s campaign can’t go all free market on us while simultaneously talking up coal’s bright future. Sorry, West Virginia. Yes, EPA regs will exacerbate coal’s problems, but they’re icing on the cake. Coal is going down in the face of cheap natural gas, with or without those job killing lazy socialist bureaucrats at the EPA. 

On the policy steps each campaign would take to reduce carbon emissions, Romney’s campaign makes the crucial point:

China’s increases in coal consumption are extraordinary. In fact, over President Obama’s term, for every 1 unit of coal that has been cut in the United States, China has increased its consumption by 10. And so in that context, for the United States to take action to drive up the price of carbon in this country to try to reduce emissions is not going to address what is a global problem. What it is going to do is hurt our economy very seriously, and it’s going to drive a lot of industrial activity from the United States to countries that are frankly much less efficient in their use of energy. So the positive benefit is weakened even further in that respect.

I don’t agree with the economic analysis here, but I’m glad Romney’s camp recognizes that carbon emissions are a global issue, and that the energy appetite of developing countries is voracious. Our reductions will pale in comparison to others’ increases. Now I don’t think that’s a reason not to attempt to curb our own emissions, but it’s an important aspect of the situation to recognize. Improving our efficiency and switching to renewable forms of energy will reduce our emissions, and have the benefit of reducing our demand for non-renewable energy! We can’t just ignore the problem because China. 

On the larger question of climate change, this came as news to me:

So what Governor Romney has said about climate change generally is that he believes its occurring, that he believes human activity contributes to it, but that he thinks there’s absolutely still a debate around the extent of — on both of those factors, and the nature of the threat that that poses. And so he certainly supports continued scientific inquiry in that respect.

Mitt Romney: Not a “climate denier”? Who knew? Don’t tell the Republicans. 

This post is already long and rambling so I’ll wrap it up. In my opinion, the largest problem we face on the issue of energy is that we rely on non-renewable sources which we will exhaust, at massive cost to our economy and society. We must find reliable, renewable alternatives. The issue of energy is largely misunderstood, and its discussion typically comes down to tree hugging hippy liberals vs. greedy pollution loving conservatives, but that’s a silly framing. Overall this was a good, substantive, and informative debate. I wish people knew it actually happened, and I wish the candidates themselves could engage in a debate like this, on this and every other issue. We would be a lot better off. 

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My opinion of Mitt Romney is not exactly a secret, and I kind of figured I really couldn’t like him any less.

I was so very wrong (all emphasis is mine):

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,’’ reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father’’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,’’ in ink.

The practice of requiring high-level legal review continued for the rest of Romney’s term, despite a warning from a Department of Public Health lawyer who said such a system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage.

The changes also would impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post-9/11 world, she said, and children with altered certificates would be likely to “encounter [difficulties] later in life . . . as they try to register for school, or apply for a passport or a driver’s license, or enlist in the military, or register to vote.”

Mitt Romney personally created a legal loophole designed to punish gay people and newborn babies because he doesn’t like gay people. Rather than complying with the spirit of the law, Mitt Romney set out a system to harass gays and their children from the moment of birth. Indeed, it seems like gay bashing is a bit of a life long pattern for Mitt. I previously wrote that one incident was not enough to label Mitt Romney a gay basher,  but what he did as Governor was a direct attack on gays because he didn’t like them. It was not a physical assault, but it was malicious nonetheless.

Unbelievable. The next time this guy talks about family values, laugh in his face.

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The latest twist in the Benghazi attack non-scandal is that the administration knew there was terrorist involvement. This shouldn’t be a shocking revelation because, as Mittens hilarioisly learned, they said exactly that at the time.

Kevin Drum notes:

This is crazy. Where does this stuff keep coming from? Based on the evidence we know today, the worst you can say about the White House is that they didn’t do a very good job of coordinating the messages being delivered to the public by all the various agencies.

I agree! I would further note that if the administration had actually done a good job of coordinating the various agency messaging, we would all now be listening to righteous outrage that the President was too busy dealing with messaging, and by extension campaigning, to deal with the crisis. We even got a preview of that line of attack from Romney himself.

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