“You Didn’t Build That”: Put it in Context

October 9th, 2012 by Whitey 5 comments »

OBAMA’S STATEMENT, “YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT.”

 

The facts:

Obama’s remark came at a July 13 speech at a firehouse in Roanoke, Virginia, where he attacked Republican opposition to his economic plans and defended the role of government in promoting economic growth. It is true that he used the phrase, “you didn’t build that.” However, when you put it in context, there is nothing in the statement that indicates that he is saying small business leaders did not build their business and that somehow the government did. Nothing. Keep reading.

 

Here is the full text:

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” he said. “You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” he continued. “Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.”

So there it is. Everything before and after “You didn’t build that” refers to infrastructure, education and public services.

Obama released a rebuttal to the criticism within two weeks of his Roanoke appearance. In a television spot, the president tells viewers, “Of course Americans build their own business. Everyday hardworking people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs, and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has. By investing in education, training, roads and bridges, research and technology.” He called ads that used the edited version of his remarks “flat-out wrong.”

 

(Source: CNN)

Debate: Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly

October 7th, 2012 by Whitey 1 comment »

This debate is a must-watch. Very entertaining and enlightening.

http://secure.therumble2012.com/f/watch

Who Really Pays Taxes?

October 7th, 2012 by Whitey 2 comments »

Let’s explore the misconceptions and realities about who pays taxes.

Republicans love to paint the rich as the minority-victims who pay most of the taxes in this country. Mitt Romney’s recent video gaffe is a perfect example of this view. They will say things like, “86% of all income taxes are paid by the top 25% of income earners” (source). Or in the case of Romney, he claims that 47% of the country does not pay taxes and mooches off the system; these people are therefore entitled and will not take responsibility for their lives. These claims are wildly inaccurate. Their point is to paint the rich as victims and force more of the tax burden on the poor and middle class. They have despised our progressive tax system for decades, favoring a flat tax that would dramatically harm the poor and middle-class to the benefit of the wealthy (go learn about “regressive taxes“).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides some important insights on this topic.

“The notion that ‘half of Americans don’t pay taxes’ not only overstates the share of households that do not pay federal income taxes in a typical year.  It also ignores the other taxes people pay, including federal payroll taxes and state and local taxes.  Policymakers, pundits, and others sometimes overlook this point.” Source: bit.ly/iWtaO0

“The reality is that the income tax is one of a number of types of taxes that individuals pay, both over the course of their lifetimes and in a given year, and it makes little sense to treat it as though it were the only tax that matters.  Some 82 percent of working households pay more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes. In fact, low- and moderate-income people pay a much larger share of their incomes in federal payroll taxes than high-income people do: taxpayers in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale paid an average of 8.8 percent of their incomes in payroll taxes in 2007, compared to 1.6 percent of income for those in the top 1 percent of the income distribution.” Source: bit.ly/iWtaO0

See also: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/just-how-progressive-is-the-tax-system/

“The liberal Citizens for Tax Justice says the highest overall tax rate (this includes federal, state, and local taxes) is 32.2 percent. The top 1 percent pay even less—30.9 percent. They include employer-paid FICA taxes as income, which seems wrong to me. But the conservative Tax Foundation reports that the top 0.1 percent pay an effective federal tax rate of 21.5 percent. The last total tax rate I see from them is 2004, when it reported that the top quintile of earners paid an average total tax rate of 34.5 percent. They don’t break out the top 1 percent, but their rate would actually be lower than that of the top 20 percent as a whole.” (Source)

 

And: http://morallowground.com/2011/11/21/u-s-billionaires-paying-1-tax-or-why-the-buffett-rule-makes-sense/

 

 

 

Critique of D’Souza’s film “2016: Obama’s America”

October 7th, 2012 by Whitey 4 comments »

Official Synopsis:

Immersed in exotic locales across four continents, best selling author Dinesh D’Souza races against time to find answers to Obama’s past and reveal where America will be in 2016. During this journey he discovers how hope and change became radically misunderstood, and identifies new flash-points for hot wars in mankind’s greatest struggle. The journey moves quickly over the arc of the old colonial empires into America’s empire of liberty, and we see the unfolding realignment of nations and the shape of the global future.

 

Review:

This film is full of misinformation and fear-mongering and includes irrational—even ridiculous—ideas such as the implication that Obama is turning the U.S. in “the United States of Islam.” Virtually every claim in the film can be easily debunked in a five-minute Google search. To me, the real question to ask is, “What specifically has Obama done in the last fours years that would indicate that he has sinister plans for the country based on hi so-called ‘anti-colonial’ beliefs?”

A word about anti-colonialism: D’Souza has been pushing this idea that the Democrats hold anti-colonial views ever since his 2002 book, “What’s So Great About America?”. Anti-colonialism is basically the same thing as anti-imperialism. Anti-imperialism simply means opposition to wars of conquest, like early Americans’ opposition to British rule. It is not synonymous with terms like socialism, communism, or any other extreme philosophical view. The filmmakers certainly wants the viewer to think this is some extreme, scary philosophical perspective. Nevermind the fact that one is hard-pressed to find any positions, let alone actions, that would indicate that Obama has some kind of extreme secretive philosophical perspective.

A couple of years ago I called into the Sean Hannity show. I criticized Hannity for his irresponsible rhetoric about President Obama. Hannity’s most recent book alleges that Obama is a socialist. Obama had recently signed this 2009 stimulus bill into law, which is made up of a huge number of tax cuts to lessen the financial burden on taxpayers. The tax cuts would affect 98% of taxpayers. I asked Hannity, “do you really believe Obama is a socialist?” His answer was, “yes, yes I do.” My response to Hannity was: I don’t know if you have read Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” but it outlines a number of Obama’s positions – and he is clearly a believer in the free market and the role of small businesses in creating jobs. Also, I asked, “does a Socialist give 98% of Americans tax cuts?” Hannity hung up on me and did not answer the question.

Like Hannity, D’Souza is attempting to scare viewers with a misunderstood label into thinking their president has a hidden agenda and he means to harm them in some way. This is the epitome of poor journalistic standards.

Below, I have included a number of critical reviews of the film “2016: Obama’s America.”  Nearly every review that I found on this film ripped the film apart as being completely irresponsible. I am also including some additional responses to some of the issues raised in the film, such as Obama’s relationship with Israel.

 

Critical Reviews:

“The assertion that Obama’s presidency is an expression of his father’s political beliefs, which D’Souza first made in 2010 in his book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” is almost entirely subjective and a logical stretch at best.”

 

“In Hawaii, D’Souza asserts with no evidence that Obama sympathized with native Hawaiians who felt they had been marginalized by the American government when Hawaii was becoming a state. D’Souza also asserts – again with no evidence – that Obama had been coached to hold those views at Punahou, the prestigious prep school he attended.”

 

“‘Oppression studies, if you will. Obama got plenty of that when he was here in Punahou,” D’Souza says, standing on the campus in Honolulu.

In Kenya, D’Souza interviews Philip Ochieng, a lifelong friend of the president’s father, who claims the elder Obama was “totally anti-colonial.” Ochieng also discloses some of his own political views, complaining about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq and saying the U.S. refuses to “tame” Israel, which he calls a “Trojan horse in the Middle East.” D’Souza seems to suggest that if a onetime friend of Obama’s late father holds those opinions, so, too, must the president himself.

“D’Souza then goes through a list of actions Obama has taken as president to support his thesis. Many of them don’t hold water:

  • D’Souza rightly argues that the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama. But he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the U.S. economy.
  • D’Souza says Obama is “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He does not mention that Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the drone strikes that have killed dozens of other terrorists in the region.
  • D’Souza wrongly claims that Obama wants to return control of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina. The U.S. refused in April to endorse a final declaration on Argentina’s claim to the islands at the Summit of the Americas, provoking criticism from other Latin American nations.
  • D’Souza says Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions, despite the severe trade and economic sanctions his administration has imposed on that country to halt its suspected nuclear program. Obama opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the U.S. or Israel, although he says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
  • D’Souza says Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism. White House curator William Allman said the bust, which had been on loan, was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office. Another bust of Churchill is on display in the president’s private residence, the White House says.”

(Source: KSL, Sept. 20, 2012 [Associated Press])

 

“The film is based on D’Souza’s book, The Roots Of Obama’s Rage, and most of the claims in both works have been dismissed and/or debunked by a variety of fact-checkers and news outlets. But that hasn’t stopped the movie from grossing $26 million, making it one of the most successful documentaries of all time. D’Souza cites Michael Moore as an influence, and the production values are very slick, even with the cheap $9 million production cost.”

“Basically, he argues that Obama is trying to impress his father he carrying out anti-colonial retribution.”

“According to the film, Obama’s anti-colonial worldview was cultivated in his father’s absence by a series of mentors, who D’Souza terms these men Obama’s ‘Founding Fathers’:

  • Frank Marshall Davis, described as a Soviet
  • Edward Said, described as a Palestinian radical
  • Roberto Unger, described as a Brazilian revolutionary
  • Bill Ayers, described as a terrorist
  • Reverend Jeremiah Wright, described as Obama’s surrogate father.

“In reality, a lot of the ties that D’Souza draws between these men and Obama are tenuous at best:

  • Davis was a liberal journalist and labor activist who befriended Obama’s maternal grandfather
  • Said was a Palestinian-born Columbia University literature professor who is said to be the founder of post-colonial literary theory though it is not clear what, if any, kind of relationship Obama had with Said
  • Unger is a Brazilian philosopher and longtime Harvard Law School professor who helped co-found Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party when the country emerged from military rule in the 1980s
  • Obama’s relationships with Ayers and Wright have been well-documented.”

“According to D’Souza, these influences have resulted in Obama attempting to bring down the United States to compensate for Western colonial abuses abroad.Practically, D’Souza argues that this has manifested itself in Obama’s policies, although the only specific policies mentioned in the film are his decisions to stop development of the Keystone Pipeline, and to export oil rights to Brazil and Argentina.”

“In the end, the only two outright predictions in the movie for what Obama will do if he is re-elected in 2016 are that he will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and that he will turn the national debt into a “weapon of mass destruction,” although the film doesn’t explain how Obama would go about accomplishing these goals.”

(Source: Business Insider, Sept. 11, 2012)

 

“The central thesis of “2016” is that Obama’s worldview — his “compass,” as D’Souza calls it — was largely shaped by the anti-colonialist, anti-white and anti-Christian politics of Obama’s supposedly radical Kenyan father. Never mind that Obama, growing up, spent precious little time with the man, who for most of his son’s early life was estranged from Obama’s mother.”

“Why is the film called “2016”? D’Souza’s one-sided argument ultimately stoops to fear-mongering of the worst kind, stating in no uncertain terms that, if the president is reelected, the world four years from now will be darkened by the clouds of economic collapse, World War III (thanks to the wholesale renunciation of our nuclear superiority) and a terrifyingly ascendant new “United States of Islam” in the Middle East. These assertions are accompanied by footage of actual dark clouds and horror-movie music.”

(Source: Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2012)

 

“2016: Obama’s America is a nonsensically unsubstantiated act of character assassination. D’Souza’s thesis is that Obama has spent his life trying to please his late Kenyan father — and that the result is he’s an anti-colonial socialist revolutionary. What’s the evidence? Shockingly, it’s Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father. D’Souza quotes it as if Obama’s attempt to understand the father he barely knew was a confession of radicalism — a confession that, somehow, he was also out to hide.”

(Source: Entertainment Weekly, 8/22/2012)

 

“What he is, according to D’Souza, is (in so many words) an anti-American anti-colonial who wants to redistribute the wealth of America to the third world.  He also wants to bankrupt America for revenge…for something.  He also wants to weaken the American military.  D’Souza ignores that American defense spending continued to grow under Obama and instead focused on the reduction in nuclear arms under the New START treaty of 2010 from 5,000 to 1,500 nuclear weapons.”  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_START

“D’Souza did what he did throughout the film by ignoring the numerous other nuclear reduction treaties the US has entered.  But half truths are what this film is constructed from.”

“The budget deficits are a major tong in the trident D’Souza tries to stick Obama with (besides anti-colonial redistribution of wealth and the weakening of the American military).  D’Souza ignores the recession and the Bush tax cuts which are major reasons the deficit exploded.”

“Most people will have more important things to do than see this film.  It is as advertised.  An Obama attack piece which trots out every negative trope short of birther-ism.  It will confirm for Republicans that Obama is an evil anti-American intent on undoing American from the bastion of American power.  Democrats will confirm that Dinesh D’Souza is a conservative.”

(Source: Daily Kos, Aug. 24th, 2012)

 

See also: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/dinesh_dsouza_digs_himself_in.php?nomobile=1&page=1

 

Additional Critique:

OBAMA’S SUPPORT OF ISRAEL

“Mitt Romney claims Mr. Obama has ‘thrown allies like Israel under the bus,’ but in fact the president has taken concrete steps to make Israel more secure — a commitment he has described as ‘not negotiable.’” (Source)

 

D’Souza’s film paints Obama as being against Israel and pro-Islam. In reality, Obama is pro–Middle Eastern peace, while at the same time he recognizes the historic and strategic importance of our alliance with Israel. Here is some of the evidence of Obama’s support for Israel.

  • Mr. Obama has assured Mr. Netanyahu that he will “always have Israel’s back.”
  • As president, he responded by providing full financing and technical assistance for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range anti-rocket defense system, which is now protecting those villagers. In July, he provided an additional $70 million to extend the Iron Dome system across southern Israel. That’s in addition to the $3 billion in annual military assistance to Israel that the president requests and that Congress routinely approves, assistance for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed deep personal appreciation.
  • He has increased aid to Israel and given it access to the most advanced military equipment, including the latest fighter aircraft.
  • Ask any senior Israeli official involved in national security, and he will tell you that the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than under President Obama. “I can hardly remember a better period of American support and backing, and Israeli cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us,” the defense minister, Ehud Barak, said last year, “than what we have right now.” That cooperation has included close coordination by intelligence agencies — including the deployment of cyberweapons, as recent news reports have revealed — to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
  • Mr. Obama secured European support for what even Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called “the most severe and strictest sanctions ever imposed on a country.” He has also taken the option of merely “containing” a nuclear-armed Iran off the table. He has directed the military to prepare options for confronting Iran and has positioned forces in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate his resolve.
  • Mr. Obama has been steadfast against efforts to delegitimize Israel in international forums. He has blocked Palestinian attempts to bypass negotiations and achieve United Nations recognition as a member state, a move that would have opened the way to efforts by Israel’s foes to sanction and criminalize its policies. As a sign of its support, the Obama administration even vetoed a Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, a resolution that mirrored the president’s position and that of every American administration since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

(Source)

 

NATIONAL DEBT UNDER OBAMA VERSES OTHER RECENT PRESIDENTS

The film makes the allegation that Obama is trying to bankrupt the United States by increasing its deficit spending and national debt. This is a ludicrous claim, given that most of his deficit spending was from spending that Bush budgeted for, or put in place with TARP, or was part of the 2009 stimulus plan to revive the worst economy since the Depression. The 2009 stimulus package was a similar approach to what both Democrats and  Republicans doing during severe recessions (when consumers stop spending, the government spends to get the economy going again).

Here is a historical comparison of spending by recent presidents, who of course create a budget which is approved by Congress.

 

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Federal_Debt_as_Percent_of_GDP_by_President.jpg

 

 

IS OBAMA TRYING TO WEAKEN THE U.S.?

D’Souza alleges that Obama has an agenda to weaken America by decreasing military spending. This allegation is absolutely wrong. Here is some data on this (notice that Romney wants to increase military spending to unprecedented levels, especially in a time a relative peace).

 

 

According to the ultraconservative news outlet, Newsmax, Obama is not reducing military spending: http://www.newsmax.com/DickArmey/Obama-Military-Budget-cut/2012/01/11/id/423870

Obama has made efforts to try to reduce nuclear arms in the world, including the new START Treaty. His position on nuclear weapons reduction is exactly the same as Pres. Ronald Reagan.

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Reagan “was an ardent proponent of the abolition of nuclear weapons”; and “he never abandoned his hatred of nuclear weapons and his desire to eliminate them. Reagan’s ‘dream,’ as he himself described it, was ‘a world free of nuclear weapons.’ He pursued that dream as a personal mission.” Moreover, “he and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, which eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons for the first time, and he laid the foundation for President George H.W. Bush to complete the first Strategic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty.” (Source: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/president-reagans-legacy-and-us-nuclear-weapons-policy). This is a perfect example of how many Conservatives will praise Reagan in for a position while criticizing Obama for holding the exact same position. It is both evidence that Conservatives are moving further and further to the right, and that their followers care little about facts, and many simply follow along sheepishly with whatever rhetoric they are fed from their propaganda sources.

 

Conclusion

Look, D’Souza is an ideologue; that is, someone who  is extremely dogmatic and has a strident point of view and will ignore facts that contradict their view. This film is a classic propaganda piece—one that many conservatives have even condemned.

The reality is that Obama is a good family man with excellent values, including unquestionable support for business. He is patriotic and his positions are squarely in the center of the political spectrum. The GOP has moved further and further to the right of the last 15 years, which makes a centrist like Obama seem more liberal. Yet many of his positions are not unlike Ronald Reagan. He does not  support extreme redistribution, he is not a socialist, and he is not an anti-colonialists in sense that D’Souza uses that term.

I would invite you go watch a couple of Michael Moore movies. I think this experience would allow you to see what this kind of one-sided propaganda film looks like on the other side. For example, watch Fahrenheit 911. It basically does the same thing to Bush as you see 1916 doing to Obama (and D’Souza admits that Michael Moore was an influence in how he made this movie). It carefully leads the viewer to see Bush as having close ties to the Saudis, and by extension, the Bin Laden family. It also makes connections between his personal wealth and military contractor profits from the wars he started (business who donated to him). Though Michael Moore’s film are entertaining, they, like D’Souza’s film, mislead people and manipulate facts while stirring up people’s emotions against their political adversaries. And this is exactly the kind of manipulation that is polarizing Americans and causing disunity.

Round 1: Romney v. Obama

October 7th, 2012 by Whitey 1 comment »

President Obama met Mitt Romney for their first presidential debate on Oct. 3rd, 2012. Here we include some highlight and fact-checking from the debate.

Fact checking of the debate:
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/oct/03/fact-checking-denver-presidential-debate/
http://news.yahoo.com/fact-check-presidential-debate-missteps-015421565.html
http://factcheck.org/2012/10/fact-checking-the-presidential-debate/
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82002.html

 

HIGHLIGHTS (from the complete debate transcript)

What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?

 

Obama:

Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations that we’ll be better off.

I’ve got a different view. I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.

Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess, or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says, America does best when the middle class does best? And I’m looking forward to having that debate.

Romney:

. . . we can help [people who are in need as a result of the poor economy], but it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.

My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about four million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America; crack down on China if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We’re far away from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget. Number five, champion small business.

It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last four years small-business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

Now, I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more — if you will, trickle-down government would work. That’s not the right answer for America. I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.

Obama:

Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high. So I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States.

On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energy production.

And oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy source of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.

So, all of this is possible. Now, in order for us to do it, we do have to close our deficit, and one of the things I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonight is, how do we deal with our tax code, and how do we make sure that we are reducing spending in a responsible way, but also how do we have enough revenue to make those investments? And this is where there’s a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, so that’s another trillion dollars, and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make without dumping those costs on the middle-class Americans I think is one of the central questions of this campaign.

Romney:

My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high- income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy. They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.

We agree; we ought to bring the tax rates down, and I do, both for corporations and for individuals. But in order for us not to lose revenue, have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions so that we keep taking in the same money when you also account for growth.

I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the — the revenues going to the government. My — my number one principle is there’ll be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.

I want to underline that — no tax cut that adds to the deficit. But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I — and to do that that also means that I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans. So any — any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.

Obama:

Now, four years ago when I stood on this stage I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that’s exactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle-class families by about $3,600. And the reason is because I believe we do best when the middle class is doing well.

And by giving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in their pocket and so maybe they can buy a new car. They are certainly in a better position to weather the extraordinary recession that we went through. They can buy a computer for their kid who’s going off to college, which means they’re spending more money, businesses have more customers, businesses make more profits and then hire more workers.

Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked a — over a hundred times how you would close those deductions and loopholes and he hasn’t been able to identify them.

Romney:

I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I — I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it’s a popular things to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it — (scattered laughter) — but that — that is not the case, all right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.

I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families.

I want to bring down the rates down, at the same time lower deductions and exemptions and credits and so forth so we keep getting the revenue we need.

And you think, well, then why lower the rates? And the reason is because small business pays that individual rate. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people.

Obama:

Well, for 18 months he’s been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he’s saying that his big, bold idea is “never mind.” And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s — it’s math. It’s arithmetic.

Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth. So at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates — the tax cuts that we put into place for small businesses and families.

But I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year that we should go back to the rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.

And the reason this is important is because by doing that, we can not only reduce the deficit, we can not only encourage job growth through small businesses, but we’re also able to make the investments that are necessary in education or in energy.

And we do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of small business. Now, under — under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, well, those top 3 percent, they’re the job creators. They’d be burdened.

But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. And I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income. And that kind of approach, I believe, will not grow our economy because the only way to pay for it without either burdening the middle class or blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in things like education, making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, all the things that are helping America grow. And I think that would be a mistake.

Paul Ryan: Hero of the One-percent

August 12th, 2012 by Whitey No comments »

With Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, it is a good time to review just how extreme Representative Ryan and his fellow Republicans have become in recent years, and how a Romney/Ryan administration would govern if elected. In a previous post, we looked at the Republican agenda, explaining:

The problem with giving Republicans another chance at fixing the problems that they created is that they don’t have a different plan from what they have done in the past. That is, their plan  is to do what they have always done over thee past several decades.

Since the 1980s, the Republicans have basically used their “Starve the Beast” strategy. This strategy is basically to cut taxes (i.e., revenues) so that we can’t afford government programs. The ultra-rich are given special tax cuts, breaks, credits, loopholes, etc. Military spending is increased to suck up most of the federal budget. With less tax revenues they drive up the deficit, blame the Democrats, and scare the public about the mounting deficit. Once voters throw them out of office, Republicans happily leave behind a huge mess for the Democrats to clean up. Democrats now have to make the tough choices about spending and reviving the economy. While out of power, Republicans sit on the sideline and criticize anything the Democrats do to fix the mess, and even try to block anything that might help people, such as extending unemployment benefits. Republicans do everything they can to cut social programs that actually help people and create a middle class, and to cut taxes that would actually help us pay down our debt. They turn the public against Democrats with their rhetoric about “tax-and-spend-liberals,” and throw in a few words about abortion and gay marriage to please the religious right (but do nothing on these issues while in office). And then they bet on public amnesia to try to regain power in subsequent elections. This strategy has worked for them over the past several decades, but it has harmed our country.

In Paul Ryan’s opening speech as Romney’s running mate, he acknowledged that Obama inherited a mess, but did not mention what policies let to the mess in the first place. After acknowledging Obama inherited a mess, he went went onto say, “in his first 2 years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn’t make things better…This is a record of failure.” This is an interesting charge because Senate Republicans had a record-breaking number of filibusters (by a long shot) to block anything Obama and the Democrats tried to pass, including legislation to hasten economic recovery; and when the Bush Administration had control of both houses of congress they actually did pass many of their agenda items—and we know the economic outcome of those policies (if they had passed all of their policies, such as privatizing Social Security, it would be been even more devastating to the economy).

The Romney/Ryan ticket represents a return to the disastrous past; not only a return to the failed policies of the Bush years, but also a return to the militarism and inequality that characterize the Reagan years. Like most Republicans, Ryan reveres Ronald Reagan as a quasi-deity, theIncomes under Reagan from MotherJones Magazine 10.14.2011 ultimate leader of the free world. As we can see in this chart, the policies of the Reagan era were very good to those in the top 1%, but harmed everyone else.

A Romney/Ryan administration would be far more extreme in its approach to propping up the rich at the expense of the middle-class and low income families.

Romney’s choice to add Paul Ryan to the ticket sends a clear signal to all of us that he supports congressman Ryan’s extreme approach to fiscal policy, as outlined in his budget plan: “A Roadmap for American’s Future.” The Roadmap continues the conservative fear-mongering about deficit spending, which we have also addressed in a previous column, and offer the same old solutions that conservatives have espoused for decades: tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for big business, and slashing the safety net—while pandering to the religious right by talking about traditional morals.

Ryan’s Roadmap is highly problematic. Dean Baker found 20 inaccuracies and 4 references to raiding Medicare in the Road Map. See this Critique of Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap by economist Dean Baker; and this report. See also Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s critique of the Roadmap. He points out that Ryan’s plan would reduce federal government revenues by $4 trillion over the next decade, which would add significantly to the current deficit (something Republicans seem to worry about on the surface). Krugman goes on to state that, “the Road Map wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich…even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.” This is exactly the opposite of the Obama plan to cut taxes for everyone except the ultra-rich, whose tax rate would return to what it was during the prosperous Clinton years, and would allow us to close the deficit.

Representative Ryan’s proposal, if implemented, would be a disaster for the economy and for working families, and would essentially redistribute wealth upward. Again, Ryan is really proposing the same destructive policies that have been pushed by Republicans for the past thirty years, usually with painful result for low-income and middle-class families. The bottom line is that Paul Ryan is the most extreme vice presidential candidate in a century (the guy requires his staff to read Ayn Rand!), as illustrated in the chart below.

Source.

In 2012, voters will have a choice about whether they want to live in a society of massive inequality and increased vulnerability for the majority of hard working Americans, or whether they will support the more-centrist approach that Obama and the Democrats are pushing, which, if Republican obstruction can be overcome in congress, can return us to prosperity.

See this fact check on the Romney/Ryan’s VP-announcement speeches.

DN Report on Paul Ryan

See also this report.

 

 

Atlas Shrugged: The GOP Blueprint

June 22nd, 2012 by Whitey 1 comment »

Of the Modern Library Reader’s List of 100 Best Novels, Ayn (pronounced eye-n) Rand’s titles hold four of the top eight positions, with Atlas Shrugged at #1 and The Fountain Head at #2. In a survey done by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, respondents ranked Atlas Shrugged second only to the Bible when asked what book made the biggest impact on their lives. The New York Times called Atlas Shrugged “one of the most influential books ever written.”

I recently read Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s magnum opus, having attempted it several times previously. I trudged through all 1,168-pages of this philosophically-dense novel. The book has a fascinating premise and an intriguing plot. And there are aspects of its message that will appeal to many who want to see their hard work and abilities rewarded. However, I found the book’s overall message to be highly anti-democratic, elitist, and at times, amoral (if not immoral). The book expresses distain for welfare services, for serving others without payment, and condemns the concept of the “public good.”

The basic story is about a woman named Dagny Taggart, who runs a successful railroad line, that eventually fails as a result of over-regulation and market interferance from the government, and Dagny chooses to step down as its leader. She eventually joins up with a man named John Galt, who has removed himself from society and started a libertarian utopia in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He slowly implements a plan to convince all the men of ability, the productive class, to remove themselves from society as well, to go on strike, and join his secret group in the wilderness. Galt’s objective is to “stop the engine of the world.” Each member of the group takes on an oath not to serve others, only themselves. Eventually the outside world falls into chaos without this superior group of men (and one woman, Dagny). Finally, John Galt communicates his intentions with the public in a climactic radio broadcast, spelling out why he and the other ideal men have left them to fend for themselves. His message is essentially this: It is theft when you take what we have earned, when you regulate our activities to the point where we can’t be successful—in spite of our superior abilities—therefore, unless you do it our way, we won’t come back and save you from your own incompetence. In the end, the world welcomes the return of their rulers.

(NOTE: If you want to save yourself a lot of time, and still get the main ideas from the book, simply read John Galt’s philosophically-dense radio speech, from pages 1,009-1,069.)

Prominent conservatives such as Alan Greenspan, Milton Friedman, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Paul Ryan all count themselves among Ayn Rand’s devotees. In fact, Congressman Paul Ryan has made Atlas Shrugged required reading for his staff. Rand’s ideas have been incredibly influential, and have helped shaped the platform of today’s GOP.

In a sense, it is odd that today’s conservatives would accept Ayn Rand’s ideas (Ayn Rand, 1905-1982). Rand was an militant atheist who opposed Ronald Reagan on his antiabortion stance (she was emphatically prochoice). In 1975, she wrote, “I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan.” She was also an early opponent of the Vietnam War (hardly a position of that today’s Republican hawks would take), and said “I am an enemy of racism.” Such positions would be seen as heresy by Republicans today, who are anti-choice, frequently use religious rhetoric about their belief in God, are more hawkish than ever, prevent racism does not exist, and worship a mythical version of Ronald Reagan (while taking positions far to the right of the real Reagan).

Today’s Republican Party has skillfully aligned itself to court both the evangelical movement and big business. Yet, in many ways, the ideas of Ayn Rand draw a stark contrast between these two groups. Atlas Shrugged has great appeal for the corporate executive/business owner who is conservative but not religious. It leaves those who live solely for making money feeling like their values are the only values that matter, and that they are meant to rule. These readers will be fed with the message—over and over—that they alone should lead the world, and the the “looters” (i.e., everyone else of lesser ability) should simply serve them, the more-worthy and noble men of ability. In essence, the book glorifies “The Virtue of Selfishness” (the name of a non-fiction summary of Rand’s philosophy). Rand condemns helping anyone who has not earned it, an idea that is contrary to what a Christian—or moral—person would believe about grace, service, compassion, and honoring and protecting human life. The oath that is taken by the superior people of Rand’s story goes like this: “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

This message does not strike me as a Christian message; it stand in stark contrast to ideas like, “love your neighbor,” “love your enemies,” “sell all you have and give to the poor,” etc. So which is it Republicans, are we meant to be a “Christian nation” or a libertarian utopia that discards the vulnerable and is ruled by the fittest, with superior power-grabbing traits (“abilities”)? These two visions do not line up. Which interest group do you want to appeal to, big business libertarians or Christian-nation evangelicals? You can’t have your cake and eat it.

Where Atlas Shrugged has valid and important arguments is when Rand alludes to: maximizing freedom, the importance of rational thinking, the idea that man should not subordinate his mind to authority, the idea that government should minimize the tyranny of the majority by protecting minority rights, the value of voluntary associations of people who are hard working and responsible, and the importance of property rights. Although Rand takes many of these ideas to extremes, these are all very important ideas, and at times, she illustrates them well.

She also makes an important point when discussing irrational government regulations that get in the way of productive endeavors and self-actualization (e.g., innovative ideas, small businesses, a woman’s right to choose, etc.). Yet, Rand goes beyond the widely-accepted point that markets have great benefits and bad regulation is inefficiency and harmful. She argues for a radical libertarian approach to markets and government. This is a dangerous approach because we have been there before. We have had a world with no labor laws, no food regulations, no labor protection, limited public safety, no social security, etc. This is a horrific world where feudalism rules, and where the common man has no voice or power. This is the land of limited freedom and opportunity. And this is where Ayn Rand and today’s Republicans want to return. I suggest, that instead of going backward, let’s go Forward.

 

Quotes by the heroes of Atlas Shrugged:

  • “We haven’t any spiritual goals or qualities. All we’re after is material things. That’s all we care for…Whatever we are, it’s we who move the world.” (pg. 87-88)
  • “I want to be prepared to claim the greatest virtue of all—that I was a man who made money.” (pg. 96)
  • “There’s nothing of importance in life—except how well you do you work. Nothing. Only that…It’s the only measure of human value…Why are you and I the only ones who seem to know it?” (pg.100)
  • “If you didn’t want to make money, what possible motive could you have had?” (pg.120)
  • “Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue…Money is the root of all good.” (pg. 413; 415)
  • “All I want is the freedom to make money…I am rich and I am proud of every penny that I own. I have made money by my own effort…I refuse to apologize for my money.” (pg. 480)
  • “If I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own—I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil.” (pg. 481)
  • “I will remain faithful to the one commandment of my code which I have never broken: to be a man who pays his own way.” (pg. 566)
  • “There are only two modes of living left to us today: to be a looter who robs disarmed victims or to be a victim who works for the benefit of his own despoilers.” (pg. 575)
  • “I’m after a man I want to destroy…Robin Hood…He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich—or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.” (pg. 576)
  • “There is one word which is forbidden in this valley [i.e., Galt’s wilderness utopia]: the word ‘give’.” (pg. 714)
  • “We are on strike against those who believe that one man must exist for the sake of another.” (pg. 740)
  • “You have no duty to anyone but yourself.” (pg. 802)
  • “Give up and get out of the way and let those of us who can, start from scratch out of the ruins.” (pg. 916)
  • “‘Public welfare’ is the welfare of those who did not earn it.” (pg. 1,050)
  • “No value is higher than self-esteem.” (pg. 1,056)

 

Further Study:

Jesus or Ayn Rand

NPR Story on Atlas Shrugged

Critique of Rand

Critique of Rand #2

Rand: Back from the Dead

 

 

 

Top 10 (Goofy) Romney Quotes

March 30th, 2012 by Whitey No comments »

  1. “I’m convinced that unless America changes course, we could become the France of the 21st century.” (Source)
  2. “Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror: They would retreat, declare defeat…Now, if I fight on, in my campaign, all the way to the convention…I want you to know, I’ve given this a lot of thought — I’d forestall the launch of a national campaign and, frankly, I’d make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. This isn’t an easy decision. I hate to lose…One of the things we believe in is that we cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism.” (Romney’s concession speech in 2008) (Source)
  3. “Well, the question is kind of a non sequitur, if you will. And what I mean by that — or a null set.”  (After being asked during a Republican debate whether is was a mistake to invade Iraq)
  4. “My sons are all adults and they’ve made decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.” (Source)
  5. “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals” –Mitt Romney, recalling his reaction when he learned that there were illegal aliens working the ground on his property, employed by a firm that he subsequently fired (October 2011)
  6. “I purchased a gun when I was a young man. I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.” (Romney’s campaign later said he’d been hunting twice, once when he was 15, and once in 2006 at a Republican fundraiser
  7. “We should double Guantanamo!”
  8. “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.”
  9. “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.” (Romney’s campaign later admitted that they didn’t march on the same day, or in the same city)
  10. “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” –Mitt Romney (January 2012)

 

Romneycare = Obamacare (Both Good)

March 16th, 2012 by Whitey No comments »

Romney passed a successful healthcare program in Massachusetts. He has said that this program was an asset to him in the 2008 presidential race. But now that the Affordable Care Act (AKA, “Obamacare”) has passed, with the Republican Party having successfully demonized this groundbreaking legislation, Romney’s successful healthcare program has become a liability to his campaign. So Romney’s was bragging about his successful healthcare plan during the 2008 race, and even wrote an op-ed in USA Today urging Obama to follow his lead, but now is making “repeal of Obamacare” a major part of his campaign message.

Check out this very interesting clip from the Rachel Maddow Show from last night. I had no idea that some of the same people who crafted Romney’s plan helped create Obama’s plan (see the clip below). Bottom line: Both plans can be successful, and people need to give the Affordable Care Act a chance.

 

Grover Nordquist: Anti-Tax Crusader

March 13th, 2012 by Whitey 1 comment »

Few political activists have had a bigger impact on the direction of public opinion than Grover Nordquist. Over the past 30 years, he has successfully shifted public opinion—at least conservative perspectives—on two major topics. First, tax cuts. He has made tax cuts the sole conservative solution to the economy in whatever condition it may be in. If the economy is good, we need tax cuts; if the economy is bad, we need tax cuts. He joins others radical conservatives, such as Arthur Laffer, in promoting the idea that tax cut increase government revenue. Nordquist has famously convinced the majority of congress to sign his tax pledge not to raise taxes, which has made it very difficult to manage the deficit, especially during a tough economy.

The second idea that Nordquist has had a major influence is in deifying Ronald Reagan. He has successfully convinced dozens of cities across the country to put the former president’s name on street signs and other monuments to this conservative icon. He has promoted revisionist history of the former president. He has even attempted to have Reagan’s face on the ten dollar bill and added to Mount Rushmore. Strangely, Nordquist gives Reagan a free pass on his own tax record—Reagan raised taxes between 8-11 times (depending on how you define a tax increase). In the clip below, you will find Nordquist expressing his view that Reagan should get a pass on his tax record, because he did not sign his tax pledge.

Nordquist has undoubtedly contributed to the crippling environment that we now have in Washington, and the radicalization of the Republican Party.

Enjoy all three parts of the recent Jon Stewart interview with Nordquist.