Monday, October 8, 2012


While watching the debate last Wednesday night I was initially struck by the failure of President Obama to confront what turned out to be another Romney “Pants on Fire” rant where the truth was more elusive than ever (more later). Despite the fact that many of Romney’s statements have been debunked and catalogued as pure fabrication, even by members of his own party, he continues to use them.   We conjectured that with no one willing to challenge Romney face to face on his lies with the exception of Saturday Night Live and the fact-checkers, he will take that as license to continue to use them.

Romney was polished and appeared to follow a well-rehearsed path and script.  He used a lot of the same rapid-fire verbiage over and over prompting some to think he was using crib notes.  He would not be denied, seemingly a manic “one man truth squad” who in bully fashion broke the debate rules time and time again, much to the exasperation of the highly respected panel moderator, Jim Lehrer, who early on lost total control over the debate.  Romney rudely interrupted Lehrer and Obama many times and showed absolutely no respect for protocol to the point that while Lehrer may have kept things moving, he appeared extraneous to the whole spectacle.

Romney acted like he was going 100 in a 45 and without a strong moderator, no one seemed willing to pull him over, rein him in or confront his lies.  Romney ran roughshod over Lehrer and Obama to the point that it appeared that Obama had carried a knife to a gun fight.  Solution – cut off their mikes at the time limit much like they do at the Academy Awards or the Emmy presentation ceremonies or with debate protocols impossible, just turn them loose in a free-for-all. And wow, did Lehrer look old and a long way from KERA-TV and the Dallas Times Herald.    

Romney seemed almost crazed at times knowing he had to perform or his campaign would be lost.  Having said that, by his estimation of “winning” the debate he may have lost it.  Many opine that his lies in the face of continued rebuttal condemn him as not fit for The Presidency. One day after the debate we learned that Romney now states that he was, “completely wrong” in his characterization of the, “47 Percent.” Here is yet another Romney flip-flop as he tries to reinvent himself on the fly to be all things for all people. 

Folks we know reported raucous comments from Romney supporters following the debate characterizing Romney as having, “Kicked Obama’s ass.”  One very giddy, euphoric and pedestrian Romney supporter was seen waving around his smart phone while saying, Even the Washington Times says it’s so…apparently unaware that this paper is the conservative propaganda rag owned by the Unification Church and the late Dr. Moon.  But we all have our sources and he probably wouldn’t care.

Some of Romney’s continuing debate spin follows with some of our observations.

The accusation that Obama will raid Medicare of $716 billion continues to be a star in the Romney crown of lies. First of all, no president can take money out of the Medicare trust fund.  Medicare holds those assets in Treasury bonds which are there when needed.  The money Romney is talking about is the savings mostly realized by reductions in the future growth of payments to hospitals - literally incentives to healthcare providers to deliver higher quality care. This figure also reduces the extra Medicare payments to hospitals that treat indigent patients.  Why? They would already be insured under the Affordable Care Act. In reality, the spending cuts realized in the Affordable Care Act will actually prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund.

Romney stated, "We've got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country." The U.S. Labor Department puts the figure at 12.8 million people – pretty bad – but far from Romney’s 23 million figure. Romney, Eastwood, et al cook their figures by adding in those who have stopped looking (we agree) but also include the more than 8 million wage earners who hold part-time jobs as also being "out of work." While we understand that many who hold part-time positions would like to transition to full-time, they are gainfully employed. 

The recent dramatic drop in the unemployment figure to 7.8 percent has been mostly warmly received though some Republicans have actually accused Obama and the Bureau of Labor Statistics of cooking the books. That absolutely ridiculous assertion characterizes the current environment especially given that Obama inherited this whole mess.  It seems that if the truth conflicts with your agenda you merely deflect and spin away…

Romney stated, "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut." Inexplicably Obama let Romney repeat this lie several times during the debate.  Romney has stated that he will cut middle class income-tax rates across the board by another 20 percent to incent the economy. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) reflects that the price tag for those cuts would be $360 billion annually and $5 trillion over a decade.  Bloomberg Government reflects, however, that there would be winners and losers under Romney’s so called cap for deductions and as yet no real clarification where the money would come from to replace these lost revenues.  It’s all spin…

Cutting taxes has been perceived by many as the avenue to incent individuals and businesses to invest thereby resulting in higher revenues to the Fed. While Obama has cut more taxes on the Federal level since Dwight Eisenhower, there is little evidence that cutting taxes by itself promotes economic growth.

Economists (and politicians) are well aware that the ever changing business model in the US is one of the major factors.  There is no debate that we are fast going from manufacturing to what would be a disastrous service economy.  Whether this situation is recoverable or not, it’s obvious that we all can’t be just consumers…

We have to recover outsourced jobs whatever or wherever they are.  We need to enhance, expand and protect our manufacturing base and continue to be more “creative” and responsive.  Given what happened in the last debate we don’t think the Undecideds can really tell whether the candidates (especially Romney) have meaningful, substantive plans to successfully address our challenges.
As Bill Bonner co-author of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving The Soft Depression of The 21st Century and Empire of Debt reflects that the moment of reckoning  which he calls the Great Correction is, “like a hurricane sitting just off the coast…now, it’s back out at sea; its winds are picking up speed. It’s getting larger…stronger… It’s intensifying.”

Romney stated, "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."  That sure doesn’t appear to be his intent.  Of course, Romney has indicated that he won’t raise the taxes on the wealthy either.  Romney didn’t provide any details save that his tax cuts are “revenue neutral” countered by closing a variety of as yet identified loopholes and deductions?  The Baltimore Sun opined about Romney’s tax cut proposal reflecting that even by the most generous of interpretations, it just doesn't add up.

As stated above it appears that some of that shortfall is going to be made up on the backs of the middle-class, the so-called beneficiaries of the Romney tax cuts.  The nonpartisan, pro-business Tax Policy Center is again weighing in on this issue and concluded that Romney's proposal isn’t revenue neutral and would create a "net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower and or middle-income taxpayers." While the conservative, Republican centric Heritage Foundation countered TPC with some “what ifs,” they made some unrealistic assumptions admitting that anything less than a 1 percent pre-tax income growth rate would result in a decrease in after-tax income for low-and-middle-income groups. That’s called a tax increase.
Romney stated that Obamacare "puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have." Romney knows this isn’t true and is reviving the oft-debunked Sarah Palin death panel lie. As President Obama countered in the debate, the Affordable Care Act establishes an Independent Payment Advisory Board (made up of experts subject to Senate confirmation) to help constrain the growth of Medicare spending and has no authority to dictate medical treatment.  In fact, the law explicitly bans the board from limiting medical benefits to anybody, including seniors.

Romney states that, "Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan." Well, not really as this statement comes with the clarifier, “Only if...”  Romney again would defer to the individual states and according to one aide, “The governor believes that those who have continuous coverage should not be dropped, if they change plans and have a pre-existing condition.” This is not a magnanimous gesture by Romney since this is already current law. Ultimately, it would all be up to the states to enact health care legislation similar to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and according to Romney he’s not going to direct them to do anything.  If states do not act then we do not see any guarantees of coverage for those who are denied insurance or reach coverage limits.  So, if you have a pre-existing condition and for whatever reason you have been unable to obtain insurance coverage or even had to drop coverage for over ninety days because you lost your job and couldn’t afford COBRA, then there is no safety net for you. Romney’s blowing smoke…

Romney states, “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird, but...” Romney shows his ignorance here again since the federal funding Romney was referencing doesn’t go directly to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The funding actually flows to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) created by Congress well before PBS existed.  The board of CPB is bipartisan consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans.  The mission of CPB is all about education, communication and minority empowerment and providing support not only to PBS but also National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), American Public Media, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as well as promoting the growth and development of public media in communities throughout America.  If you say, well, we have to start somewhere, please note that it’s more than a debate about Big Bird especially when you consider that CPB supports more than 21,000 American jobs which contribute more than $1 billion to the national economy. That’s a bargain when you consider all that for fiscal year 2012, its appropriation was US $445.2 million or 1/100th of ONE PERCENT of the federal budget.  Cutting Big Bird would actually add to the deficit and cut funding that also empowers diversity in public broadcasting. 

Can Romney really do that unilaterally as President?  No, he can’t though with his election and a Republican Congress he might just try to save face given this absurd promise.  If the American Public sees Congress spending time trying to defund PBS, when they need to be debating other more substantive issues, then we need to see this as yet another red flag of a potential Romney presidency.
We could go on and on with Romney lies and, yes, even include some obtuse remarks by Obama though they pale beside the Romney spin.  We were disappointed with the Obama demeanor during the debate though concede it might have been far better to just open Romney’s mike and let him talk.  He has demonstrated a penchant for inserting foot in mouth, a malady that will surely continue to plague him.  We think that Obama and his advisors anticipated what Romney would say and do and that his unfettered actions and lies would expose him for what he is.  In what would have resulted in more of a “He said/he said” exchange, no real good could have been accomplished.

We think the proof of that pudding is that Romney had been looking for an opportunity to reverse his “47 Percent” fund raising rant and hoped that opportunity would come up in the debate.  It never did prompting his reversal following the debate on FOX TV.  

If you’ve forgotten Romney’s statement, “…there are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”  Romney added that as a candidate for the White House, "My job is not to worry about those people."

In the justifiably dark days that followed, Romney tried to soften the blow in various ways by saying his remarks were "not elegantly stated," but still embraced their "substance" none the less. One day after the first Presidential debate, however, in what appears to be a carefully choreographed interview, conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity asked how he (Romney) would have responded had President Obama brought up his controversial comments in the debate. Romney did a complete 180, calling the "47 percent" assertion "just completely wrong."

Case closed, washed my hands, counted to three – time to move on.  We need to understand the significance of his statements, reversal and put them into perspective.

While Obama has apparently taken the high road in their first meeting he will have to bring more to the rest of the debate.  And do I think that Biden will fare well against Ryan?  We have no clue but suspect that he will be more assertive than Obama was.

We feel that those already in the Romney camp will stay there as will the Obama supporters.  Nothing will change with the candidates and politicos looking to the vast majority of the undecided independents who will ultimately determine where this election goes – and in just a couple of states. It is for you that this post was written.

We boil the difference between the two candidates down to character/substance or the lack thereof.  One blogger noted following the first debate that there now appears to be, “such a thing as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ math.”  We are much more inclusive and offer that there surely appears to be Republican and Democratic math in 2012.  Then we have the numbers as verified by bipartisan sources with no dog in the fight.  We believe them.  We are all reminded of the old IT saying, “Garbage in, Garbage out” (GIGO) where computers with no heart or soul will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical input data (Garbage in) and based on that data produce equally nonsensical output (Garbage out).  Sounds familiar…

As Jay Bookman, columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution commented on Romney recently, “Believe him at your peril.”


Ned Buxton

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