Only way to save health care, country is to elect Romney The single most important issue in this election is ending the national nightmare of Obamacare. If it’s not stopped, it will permanently change the political culture of this country. There will be no going back. America will become a less productive, less wealthy nation. What wealth remains will have to be plowed into Obamacare — to the delight only of the tens of thousands of government bureaucrats administering it.
There won’t be one moment marking the end of America. Everything will just gradually get worse, like trains and the tax code, until a bustling, prosperous nation is as distant a memory as pleasurable train travel and one-page tax returns.
The reason we have Obamacare is not because the public was clamoring for the federal government to take over health care. It’s because Democrats had 60 senators. In the frozen ideology of the left, it doesn’t matter if anyone wants government health care. Democrats had been waiting around for 50 years to win huge majorities in the House and Senate and the presidency so they could check off this box on “FDR’s Unfinished Business.”
Not a single Republican in either the House or Senate voted for it. Nationalizing one-sixth of the economy is not the kind of thing that should be passed by one party sneering, “Ha, ha — we have 60 votes!” As soon as all Americans have been thrown off their employer-provided insurance plans and are forced to start depending on the government for health care, Republicans will never be able to repeal it.
The private insurance market will be gone. Most Americans won’t be able to conceive of getting health care that doesn’t come from the government — just as people in the Soviet Union couldn’t imagine how they’d get bread if the government didn’t provide it. (Also similar to Communist systems, you’ll have to know someone in power to get decent medical care.)
A powerful health care Leviathan will arise, composed of self-paced, well pensioned, unionized government workers who will manage our health care from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except federal holidays, sick days, mental health days and bad weather. This new phalanx of government workers will spend the bulk of their time campaigning to ensure the election of more Democrats who promise to lessen their workload and increase their benefits. Even Republicans will have to run for office promising only to enlarge Obamacare.
Democrats’ idea for funding their endless government programs is always the same: Tax the rich, and just keep taxing them, no matter how high taxes have to be raised. One thing all such people have in common is that they’ve never had a real job, meaning a job from which you can be fired. Not Bernie Sanders, not Barack Obama, not Joe Biden. Such people simply cannot grasp that doubling tax rates will not double government revenues because people won’t work as hard for half the money. Their ideas about tax policy will put America on a high-speed train to government deficits rivaling Greece. We’ll be a country with no military, no wealth and no hope. Even before the train wreck of Obamacare, health care was half a disaster because that’s the percentage of medical care in this country that was already provided by the government — via Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans hospitals and other public hospitals. In 2008, a single county in Florida — Miami-Dade — received more money in Medicare home health care payments than the entire rest of the country combined. This continued throughout the entire year and was finally noticed by our Department of Health and Human Services in 2009.
Do you think it would take a private insurer two years to catch onto the fact that health care claims coming from a single county in Florida were larger than the rest of the country combined? Lifelong politicians haven’t the first idea what an efficient, operating system would even look like. If only we had a presidential candidate who had spent his life working in the private sector ...
The way to fix health care is to take as much as possible away from the government and give it to the private sector. It is a universal law of nature that everything run by the government gets worse and more expensive over time — the postal service, airport security and Amtrak. Everything run by the private sector gets better and cheaper over time — cellphones, computers, hair products, dishwashers, etc.
You know who specializes in rescuing failing enterprises and making things work? Mitt Romney.
Contrary to ignorant slanders about Romney’s private sector work, his specialty was not buying thriving companies and stripping them for parts. Rather, the Bain Capital model was to take companies that were on the verge of collapse — about to cut all jobs, pensions and health care for their workers — and save the business. Yes, there were layoffs, but also lots and lots of jobs, profit, success, efficiency, saved businesses and saved lives. The only way to rid ourselves of this national poison pill, set to destroy both health care and the nation at large, is to elect Mitt Romney our next president
Let's take what this woman says step by step.
1. From the Washington Post:
Myths and facts about 'Obamacare'
By Glenn Kessler
House Republicans on Wednesday plan to press forward with their repeal of the health care bill passed last year. They have the votes, so passage is not in doubt. But the Democrats who control the Senate have no interest in following suit, and President Obama had pledged a veto. So this is mostly a symbolic act. But it does provide an opportunity to look back at some of the persistent myths about the legislation.
Some of the public confusion about what is in the bill is understandable. The long battle in Congress was often mind numbing except to a handful of policy experts, and key features were dropped or added along the way. Opponents often seized on small elements and exaggerated the impact, even if those provisions were no longer in the bill. Since the bill was passed ten months ago, polls indicate that Americans have a greater understanding of what ended up in the final version--and support for the overall law has slowly grown. During last year's midterm elections, both Factcheck.org and PolitiFact.com did yeoman work trying to pick apart the various claims made about the bill; The Washington Post also joined forces with Kaiser Health News to produce an excellent examination of myths and facts about the law.
Even so, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll as recently as September found that a sizeable group of seniors believed that the health-care overhaul contained provisions that are simply not in the bill. Here then is a review of some of the most persistent myths of the health care bill.
"This is a 'government takeover' of the health care system"
This snappy talking point is used by Republicans repeatedly to bash Obama's crowing legislative achievement, but it is simply not true. In fact, PolitiFact.com labeled this claim the 2010 "lie of the year," but that has not stopped lawmakers from making this claim. It will surely be heard again on the House floor during the repeal debate.
In many ways, the health care law resembles the Massachusetts reform enacted in 2006 under then Gov. Mitt Romney (a potential Republican rival of Obama in 2012). It builds on the existing private insurance system but adds requirements and incentives to ensure that most people have some form of health insurance.
Under the new law, there is no government alternative to the private system--this was a potential provision that was dropped during the congressional tussle--but the number of people who qualify for the existing federal-state Medicaid program for the poor will be expanded. States (or the federal government) will run "exchanges" -- essentially marketplaces -- in which private insurers will sell insurance to individuals and small businesses, but this should mean more people will get private insurance, not fewer. Tax credits will also be offered to people who have trouble buying private insurance.
Certainly, the law bolsters government regulation of the health care system, such as forcing insurance companies to no longer deny coverage to people who have existing medical conditions. People who currently do not have health insurance will be required to buy it. But the core of the health system in the United States will remain the existing private insurance market. So it in no way resembles the government-run health systems used in most industralized countries in the world.
"Medicare benefits will be cut--and payments will be cut to Medicare doctors".
This was another GOP attack line during the campaign, though in many ways this was payback for the Democrats' very effective use of the same charge against Republicans after the GOP took control of Congress in 1994 and attempted to pass a balanced-budget plan that sought to restrain growth in Medicare spending.
The politically radioactive word "cut" is a misnomer. Under the health care law, Medicare spending will continue to increase year after year, but at a slower than anticipated pace. Both parties, in theory, agree this would be a good thing. Medicare is the venerable government-run health care plan for Americans over 65, and one of the fastest-growing parts of the federal budget.
The health bill will reduce projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over ten years, primarily by reducing projected fees to hospitals and other providers and by reducing payments to private Medicare Advantage insurance plans. Benefits have also been added, eating into the overall projected savings, but the impact on the Medicare Advantage plans is unclear. Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary of the Medicare and Medicaid, has estimated that seniors may need to pay more in out of pocket costs for such plans. He has also cast serious doubt on whether the Medicare savings claimed in the second decade could be achieved without significant pain for many hospitals, nursing facilities and other providers.
In fact, since 1997, Congress all but once has waived a planned cut in Medicare payments to doctors, mostly recently in December. So depending on the political pressure, some of these projected "cuts" may never materialize in any case.
"A secretive government committee ('death panels') will be created to make end-of-life decisions about people on Medicare"
This claim, first made by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, has been thoroughly debunked and was labeled "lie of the year" in 2009 by PolitiFact.com. Yet it persists in the popular imagination. The September Kaiser poll found that 30 percent of seniors still believed this to be the case--and 22 percent were not sure, meaning fewer than half knew the claim was false.
The charge stemmed from a proposed amendment to the bill that would have covered the cost of end-of-the-life planning discussions. Democrats quickly dropped the provision after the firestorm created by Palin's assertion, even after it was proven to be factually incorrect.
But the issue remains politically sensitive. In late December, The New York Times reported that under new Medicare regulations for annual physical examination, "the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment." The White House reversed course days later, ordering the Medicare agency to delete references to end-of-life planning in its new regulations.
"Repealing the bill will increase the deficit"
This is technically true--it comes from a Congressional Budget Office estimate--but we've documented before the problems with both this statement and the estimate. Democrats are sure to make this claim as they fight back against repeal, so here is a link to our previous post on this topic. Bottom line: This is a pretty shaky claim for Democrats to make, especially since the health care law was not really intended to reduce the deficit, but to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.
2. From FactCheck.org:
GOP’s ‘Job-Killing’ Whopper, AgainRepublican attack ads peddle a shopworn, overblown claim about the health care law's effects.
The exaggerated Republican claim that the new health care law “kills jobs” was high on our list of the “Whoppers of 2011.” But the facts haven’t stopped Republicans and their allies from making the “job-killing” claim a major theme of their campaign 2012 TV ads:
- Five ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attack Democrats by repeating the “Obamacare will kill jobs” refrain.
- Seven other Chamber spots praise Republicans, using the same theme.
- An ad from the group Freedom Path, supporting Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, says the law is “devastating to small business.”
- Republican Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama features a large stack of papers he claims are “job-killing regulations and taxes” in one of his spots.
As we’ve said before (a few times), experts project that the law will cause a small loss of low-wage jobs — and also some gains in better-paid jobs in the health care and insurance industries.
It’s also expected that more workers will decide to retire earlier, or work fewer hours, when they no longer need employer-sponsored insurance and can obtain it on their own with help from federal subsidies. But that just means fewer people willing to work — and it will free up jobs for those who want them. If anything, that could reduce the jobless rate.
Claims about the alleged devastation of small business are also off base. The fact is, businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt from the requirement to provide coverage, or pay a penalty to the government. Furthermore, some small businesses with fewer than 25 employees are already getting tax credits under the new law to help defray the cost of providing worker coverage.
The GOP ads tend to combine the mostly bogus “job-killing” claim with their well-worn slogan calling the law a “government takeover” of health care, which isn’t true. The law expands the government’s Medicaid system to cover some who are not currently insured, but it also greatly expands private insurance. After the law takes effect, the government’s share of all spending on health care will still remain well under half, rising less than 4 percentage points, according to official projections.
Read on to our Analysis for more on the law’s projected impact on jobs.
AnalysisConservatives have been pushing their job-killing mantra since at least January 2011, when they tried to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with legislation titled “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” At the time, House Speaker John Boehner used the phrase “job-killing” an average of once every 2 minutes in a 14-minute press conference. At the end of last year we listed this overblown claim as one of the “Whoppers of 2011,” right up there with the Democratic counter-claim that Republicans were out to “end” Medicare. Now Republicans and their allies are still repeating their assertion in election-year ads.
A: Still FactCheck:
Dear FactCheck: Can you verify this statement in the article at US News and World Report that the IRS "will need an battalion of 1,054 new auditors and staffers and new facilities at a cost to taxpayers of more than $359 million in fiscal 2012 just to watch over the initial implementation of President Obama’s healthcare reforms."
The IRS is actually asking for more new workers than reported in an article by U.S. News and World Report — a story that has generated a lot of Internet buzz after being picked up by news outlets, such as Fox News and The Daily Caller. The IRS budget request for fiscal year 2012 shows that the agency is seeking at least 1,269 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) at a cost of $473 million to help implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But many of them are needed to deliver new tax credits, not to dun taxpayers. The agency is seeking to add 291 "revenue agents" — most of them (193) to "ensure accurate delivery of tax credits." The agency’s technology staff would see the biggest increase with the addition of 537 IT program analysts and specialists.
Still, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming mischaracterized the IRS budget request in an interview on Fox News, falsely suggesting that all of the new hires will be auditing taxpayers.
Barrasso, Feb. 16: We don’t need a thousand new IRS agents who are now going to audit Obamacare.That’s ridiculous. Yes, the IRS budget request lists 1,054 FTEs under the category of "enforcement initiatives" — which is the number cited by U.S. News. And, yes, the IRS wants 58 agents to enforce the new tanning salon tax, which took effect in 2010. But the 1,054 figure also includes 504 new hires to "ensure accurate delivery of tax credits." The law, among other things, provides tax credits for small businesses to offer coverage to their employees, beginning in April 2010.
Here are the areas, as defined by the IRS, where the new 1,269 FTEs will be needed (see pages 21 through 66):
- Improve Taxpayer Service, 150
- Increase Coverage to Address Tax Law Changes and Other Compliance Issues, 363
- Ensure Accurate Delivery of Tax Credits, 504
- Administer New Statutory Reporting Requirements, 187
- Implement Individual Coverage Requirement and Employer Responsibility Payments, 65
Salstrom, Feb. 23: I can’t say for certain that NONE of the 1,653 FTEs under "adjustments to reach FY2011 President’s Policy Level" will be needed to implement the ACA [Affordable Care Act], but our budget experts said these are not for implementing the ACA and are instead just in general to get IRS to the staffing levels they need from 2010 to 2012.Also, it is worth noting that the IRS isn’t the only federal agency that needs to hire new workers as a result of the health care law. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration requested 29 new workers to carry out its responsibility to oversee the IRS implementation of the health care law. That will cost another $5.6 million.
On the other hand, it is likely that the IRS won’t need the 82 employees it requested to carry out a provision of the law that requires businesses to report the purchase of any goods worth more than $600. President Obama called it "a flaw in the legislation," and the Republican-controlled House appears poised to eliminate it.
As we have seen before, the increased staffing needed at the IRS to administer the many tax changes in the health care law has generated a lot of misinformation. In March 2010, we debunked Rep. Ron Paul’s false claim that the IRS would hire "16,500 armed bureaucrats" to enforce the law. We called his statement "wildly inaccurate." Now we know exactly how wild and inaccurate it is.
B. Still FactCheck:
Republicans are twisting the facts on taxes in the Affordable Care Act, grossly overstating the impact on families or lower-income earners.
In what has become a Republican talking point, several GOP lawmakers have wrongly claimed that a Congressional Budget Office report said that 75 percent of the federal health care law’s taxes would be paid by those earning less than $120,000 a year. That’s not what the CBO said. It found that 76 percent of those who would pay the penalty for not having insurance in 2016 would earn under $120,000. The average annual penalty — which the Supreme Court labeled a tax — is $667 for those individuals. Most of the total tax revenue from the penalty would be paid by those earning more than $120,000 a year.
In addition, Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico went beyond the language used by the high court in calling the cost of an insurance policy a “tax” when he said: “[T]he average American family will pay roughly $4,700 a year in new taxes.” His office told us that was a reference to what an employee might pay for family insurance premiums. For starters, the “average American family” already has insurance. Plus, paying a premium to an insurance company isn’t paying a tax, by the standard definition, and most of those who stand to gain insurance under the law would receive subsidies to do so.
A Growing, False Talking PointLet’s start with the idea that most of the taxes in the law are paid by those earning less than $120,000 a year.
- Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi made the claim in a July 18 column published by The Memphis Commercial Appeal, saying: “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that 75 percent of the cost of Obamacare will be paid by people making less than $125,000 per year.”
- Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas made a similar statement in a press release on the House Judiciary Committee website on July 11: “After the Supreme Court’s decision, we now know that Obamacare is a massive tax hike on the middle class. According to the Wall Street Journal, 75 percent of the laws [sic] new taxes will be paid for by families who make under $120,000 per year,” he said. Smith’s statement twisted the words of WSJ editorial board member Stephen Moore, who referred to who would pay the individual mandate penalty.
- Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire included a version of the claim in a press release, also on July 11: “This law will hit most Granite State families hard. That’s because it contains 21 new or higher taxes, with 75% of them falling on the middle-class.”
The claim is based on a 2010 Congressional Budget Office report that shows the projected revenue in 2016 from the law’s penalty on those who choose not to have health insurance. In a 5-4 decision in late June, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, saying that the penalty was a “tax” that Congress could levy. Republicans have criticized the law for this new “tax,” but several are misconstruing the CBO report in the process.
According to the report, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that 76 percent of taxpayers who will pay the mandate penalties in 2016 will have incomes at or below 500 percent of the poverty level (see the chart on page 3). The 2016 poverty level is expected to be $24,000 for a family of four, so families at 500 percent of the poverty level would have an income of $120,000 annually. However, these 76 percent of penalty payers account for only 46 percent of the mandate penalty revenue, as shown in the same table, because the penalty amount increases proportionally with income.
So, the CBO report comes nowhere close to backing up the claim that those earning under $120,000 incur “75 percent of the cost of Obamacare,” as Nunnelee put it. In fact, the report shows that those income earners won’t even pay the majority of the taxes for not having insurance.
According to the report, 3.9 million taxpayers will pay the mandate penalty/tax in 2016. Of these, 3 million will earn less than $120,000, and pay a total of $2 billion, averaging $667 per penalty-payer. The remaining 900,000 penalty-payers (those with incomes above 500 percent of the poverty level) will foot $2.3 billion, an average of $2,556 per payer.
The law sets the tax at a minimum of $695 per person in 2016. (The lower average payment according to the CBO and JCT table is likely due to rounding.) But the tax would increase with income. It would be 2.5 percent of household income beyond the threshold for filing a tax return (which was $9,500 for an individual in 2011). The penalty will be capped at the national average of the lowest cost plan offered through state-based exchanges. We don’t yet know what that will be.
Rep. Smith attributes the figure to the Wall Street Journal, but that, too, misconstrues what Stephen Moore, a member of the Journal‘s editorial board, said in a June 30 interview on Fox News. Moore was speaking about the penalty for not having insurance when he said: “We found that about three-quarters of whatever you want to call them … taxes, fines, penalties … about three-quarters of those costs will fall on the backs of families that make less than $120,000.” We understand that Moore’s phrasing, “three-quarters of those costs,” may have given the impression that 75 percent of the revenue collected from the mandate penalty would come from those earning under $120,000 — rather than 75 percent of those paying the tax would make under that amount. But, even so, he didn’t say that “75 percent of the laws new taxes will be paid for by families who make under $120,000 per year,” as Smith does.
Not everyone has twisted the CBO report. Sen. Jim DeMint got it right on his website earlier this month: “The Congressional Budget Office analyzed this issue back in April 2010. It found that more than three-quarters of individuals paying the mandate tax will have income of under five times the poverty level – or less than $120,000 for a family of four.”
Before politicians started twisting the numbers, the CBO report was widely misconstrued on Facebook, as our colleagues at PolitiFact previously noted.
The CBO has updated its estimates since that 2010 report. The most recent estimate, released in March of this year, says the mandate penalty would bring in $6 billion in 2016, and $45 billion over 10 years. There was no breakdown on who would pay the tax. The CBO is expected to release another report on the mandate this week.
Who Pays Most of the Law’s Taxes?The total mandate penalty revenue is only a small part of the total tax increases under the ACA, which are estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation to be $49.9 billion in 2016 alone, and to total $675.3 billion over the next 10 years (excluding mandate penalties). And the biggest revenue-generating taxes by far fall on those earning more than $200,000 a year, or $250,000 a year for couples.
Those upper-income earners will pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on income above those thresholds, and they’ll pay a 3.8 percent tax on investment income. Those two taxes in the law account for $317.7 billion over 10 years, according to JCT estimates. That’s 47 percent of the total tax revenue from the law — again, excluding the mandate penalty.
The next largest tax is the excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans, which is expected to bring in $111 billion over 10 years. As we’ve explained in the past, that revenue doesn’t come from the excise tax itself. Rather, the CBO and JCT expect employers and employees to sign up for plans that stay below the excise tax threshold. Employers would then increase workers’ salaries in lieu of giving more expensive benefits. And the government would make money on the increased payroll tax revenue on those increased salaries.
Redefining TaxesAt least one lawmaker has taken to calling the cost of insurance premiums “taxes,” and making the greatly exaggerated claim that the “average American family” would get hit with thousands of dollars in “taxes” by buying health insurance. In a July 17 op-ed for the Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce said that under the health care law: “All told, the average American family will pay roughly $4,700 a year in new taxes.”
When we asked Pearce’s office for support for the claim, a spokesman told us the $4,700 figure was a calculation of 7 percent of an average family’s income, and that 7 percent of income is what an employee might pay for employer-based insurance. (The column, however, suggested that this is the amount of the mandate tax.) We find several problems with this logic.
First, the “average American family,” as Pearce says, already has insurance. They won’t pay any of Pearce’s loosely calculated “new taxes.” The CBO estimated that 82 percent of nonelderly Americans have health insurance in 2012 (excluding undocumented immigrants). Second, paying an insurance company a premium for a health care plan is not equivalent to paying a tax to the government, and Pearce didn’t explain in his op-ed that he was redefining what a tax is.
Third, many of those who do decide to buy an insurance policy under the law won’t pay full price. Of the 33 million previously uninsured who would gain coverage by 2022, according to the CBO, 17 million would join Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Twenty-two million would buy coverage through the state-based exchanges, and only 5 million of those would do so without receiving any government subsidy. (Also, the CBO projects a net 3 million dropping employer coverage and another 3 million dropping individual coverage, which is how it gets a total net of 33 million gaining insurance.) Those earning under 400 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for subsidies, and the average subsidy per exchange enrollee would be $7,270 in 2022, the CBO estimates. That’s an average, so the subsidy each individual receives could vary substantially.
It’s true that a health insurance policy purchased by a family on the state-based exchanges, or now on the individual market, could cost about $4,700 for the year, or substantially more. And the CBO estimated in a May 2011 report that some families would pay that much and more even with the help of federal subsidies. Under the CBO’s hypothetical example for the first year of the subsidies (2014), a family at 150 percent of the poverty level would pay $1,200 for an insurance policy and a family at 350 percent of the poverty level would pay $6,700, with subsidies that exceed that amount.
CBO, May 2011: In the first year of the illustration, premiums for the reference plan for a family of four are assumed to be $15,000, and the federal poverty level is assumed to be $20,000. In this hypothetical example, a family with income equal to 150 percent of the FPL (or $30,000) will be required by the law to pay up to 4.0 percent of its income ($1,200) to enroll in the reference plan and thus will be entitled to a subsidy of $13,800 ($15,000 minus $1,200). Families with higher income will be required to pay a larger percentage of their income to enroll in the reference plan. Specifically, a family with income equal to 250 percent of the FPL will pay 8.1 percent of its income to enroll in the reference plan (about $4,000) and will receive a subsidy of about $11,000, and a family with income equal to 350 percent of the FPL will pay 9.5 percent of its income (about $6,700) and will receive a subsidy of about $8,400.But the premiums those families would pay are not “taxes” by the normal definition, and the federal subsidies they would receive in most cases are even larger than their premium payments.
There are plenty of taxes in the Affordable Care Act, but Republicans are manipulating the facts to overstate the impact on lower-income earners.
3: Bain Capital:
While it is true that Bain stripped companies, laid off workers, and sold off assets of several companies, they also own Staples and Sports Authority, both thriving companies. However, the argument is not that that they did or did not close down companies and kick employes to the curb, but that the company has a tendency to be consumed with the "Bottom Line." As well they should be. That's what companies do. They make profits and that's their whole agenda. If they don't, they go under and everyone loses.
Okay, that being said, do you want your government to be the same way a company is run? Do you want the commander in chief to be able to cut programs that aren't making a profit and kick the employees to the curb...sell off assets, etc.? Do you want your government to be 'profit driven' instead of 'people driven'? If you say yes, vote for ol Willard...he'll get this messy ol country back on it's profitable feet even if he has to break some eggs to do it...that's what companies do...break eggs, although those eggs are people who have families.
If you think this country is in a recession right now, believe me, if Romney becomes president...let's talk depression.
And now a breath of sanity from my side of the aisle.
Mitt’s candidacy being exposed as Trojan horse
Up until he won the Republican nomination, the Obama campaign appeared set to characterize Mitt Romney, in the immortal words of GOP rival Jon Huntsman Jr., as a “well-oiled weathervane” — a political opportunist who would pretend to believe anything in order to win.
If there’s a “hot button” issue on which Romney hasn’t done a complete 180 since his days as a Massachusetts pol, it’s hard to think what it is: abortion, gay rights, immigration reform, and most of all, health care. You name it, and Mitt’s been on both sides of it. It’s a wonder his campaign posters don’t depict him like the Roman god Janus, with two faces looking in opposite directions.
Clinton supposedly argued otherwise. Bai writes: “The best way to go after Mr. Romney, the former president said, was to publicly grant that he was the ‘severe conservative’ he claimed to be, and then hang that unpopular ideology around his neck.” The thinking was that independent voters might forgive the candidate for sounding like a Republican during Republican debates, “but they would be far more reluctant to vote for him if they thought they were getting the third term of George W. Bush.”
Actually, I quite doubt that Bill Clinton gave such simplistic advice. Regardless, this strategy must have looked particularly wise after Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Polled separately, the individual elements of the so-called “Ryan budget” passed last spring by the House Republican majority are terribly unpopular: more tax cuts for the rich, converting Medicare to a voucher program, along with sharp cuts to social safety-net programs like Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants, etc.
“In recent weeks,” however, Bai continues, “starting with the first debate, the challenger has made a brazen and frantic dash to the center, and Mr. Obama has often seemed off-balance, as if stunned that Mr. Romney thinks he can get away with such an obvious change of course so late in the race. Which, apparently, he can.”
Possibly the president was overconfident, disdainful of Romney’s high-pressure salesman like approach, perhaps also disdainful of the TV game show aspect of the debates.
Whatever the reasons, Obama’s phlegmatic, disinterested performance ended up making him appear older, less energetic, and — always important in an American political context, less optimistic than Romney — who at age 65, is actually 14 years his senior.
Awakening to the danger, Obama dominated the next two debates. On the defensive, Romney spent the Long Island town hall debate arguing that his promised 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts won’t really cut taxes, which begs the question: then why bother? He devoted the foreign policy debate to endorsing Obama administration policies on Syria, Iran and Afghanistan that he’d previously condemned. No warmonger, Mitt.
Nevertheless, although state-by-state polls have shown President Obama rebounding and very likely to score an Electoral College win, nervous Democrats fear that permanent damage was done. Hence the return of what Obama calls “Romnesia” as a theme, with the president having a big time on the campaign trail mocking his opponent’s multiple positions to laughing audiences of loyal supporters.
“Romnesia’s” definitely funny, but it misses the mark. Mitt’s less a flip-flopper than a particularly shameless opportunist. Writing in The New Republic, Alec MacGillis argues that the whole business of “framing” political opponents can be overdone anyway. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, the line of attack that works best is the one that really rings true.”
But the real point is that it hardly matters what Romney really thinks. His is a Trojan horse candidacy. Obama needs to make that clear in the campaign’s closing days. Make no mistake: Elect Moderate Mitt and you get the whole right-wing GOP agenda, Ryan budget and all. Anybody who thinks a President Romney would restrain the Tea Party and stand up to the Bush era neoconservatives on his foreign policy team can’t have been paying attention.
However, there may be good news for Obama in all the bad news. Amid the catastrophic destruction of Hurricane Sandy, Romney’s pronouncement that it’d be a good idea to turn the responsibilities of the Federal Emergency Management Administration to private enterprise makes him look like a crank — and a heartless one at that.
This time, I doubt Mitt has enough time to talk his way out of it. n Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Times.