Monday, October 22, 2012

An Ill-Advised And Ill-Informed Endorsement

Over the weekend, the editorial board at the Spokesman Review endorsed Mitt Romney for president. I was busy with cyclocross racing and taking photos of races so I put this on the back burner until today. I really tried to give the board the benefit of the doubt but it looks like they based their decision solely on Romney ads and skipped doing their homework.

"Neither side is up to telling important truths about the economy and the budget. That’s tragic, because all of the other issues won’t matter if we can’t right the fiscal ship." 

What are the important truths that both sides fail to tell? The editors aren't telling us yet.

"President Barack Obama’s slogan is “Forward,” but he hasn’t put forward a detailed plan for the next four years. Staying the course won’t cut it. He inherited a $1 trillion deficit, and the Great Recession. But as the nation’s chief executive, it’s been his job to chart a course toward a balanced budget. He hasn’t, and his dithering has discouraged businesses flush with cash but unwilling to invest until they know what changes he has in store in a second term."

Since when is it only the president's job to balance the budget? It's as if the board is totally unaware of the toxic partisanship that has paralyzed our Congress. Nearly all Republican members of Congress, including our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers, have signed a pledge to never raise taxes. Ever. There is no bargaining room, no area of discussion, and no possible compromise when the firmly entrenched refuse to budge. The unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the Bush tax cuts were the greatest contributors to the deficit. Top that off with the recession and the board expects the president to balance the budget some time soon? 

I particularly enjoy the irony of complaining that Obama hasn't put forward a detailed plan and yet they endorse Romney who says he has a plan but we have to wait until he's elected to see it. In the meantime, he claims he will do something nobody has ever done even in the best of times--create 12 million jobs in four years. Plus, he says six "studies" consisting of online articles, an op-ed, and blog entries lacking any formal quantitative research support his tax plan, which raises taxes on people who make less than $250,000 even though he says it doesn't.

"He seemed on the right path when he assembled the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was a bipartisan effort to devise long-term budget solutions. The panel produced a well-thought-out analysis and action plan. Obama walked away. He didn’t use the bully pulpit to sell the plan, which made it easy for Congress to ignore it. That’s a significant failure in leadership."

The original idea for the fiscal commission that became Simpson-Bowles came from bipartisan legislation that would have required Congress to vote on the commission's recommendations without amending them. That legislation did not pass the Senate when six Republican members who co-sponsored the legislation voted against it. Obama then used an executive order to create the commission. In the end the commission's final vote was 11-7 in favor of adopting the recommendations but it needed 14 votes to formally endorse them. One of the members voting against the plan was Paul Ryan, ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee who became chairman a month later when Republicans took control of the House. The recommendations included tax increases which--as the editorial board neglects to mention--Republican lawmakers have pledged never to do. Using the bully pulpit to sell the plan would have been as futile as a leaf blower in a wind storm.

"His time for solving this crisis – and it is a crisis – has come and gone. He has little leverage with Congress. He hasn’t changed the tone in Washington, and we cannot endure four more years of gridlock. This standoff is not entirely his fault, but he hasn’t figured out how to end it."

This is almost as comical as it is sad. The editorial board conveniently forgets the benefits reaped from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Dodd-Frank bill, the Affordable Care Act, ending the Iraq war, 31 months of private sector job growth, an all time high of domestic oil production, and more. As contentious and obstinate as many members of Congress are, Obama was fortunate to get this much done. As for changing the tone in Washington, he leads by example. You have yet to hear him tar anyone's patriotism, family lineage, or political leanings with innuendo or falsehoods. He is not the cause of gridlock, but he bears its burden. It's the voters who can end the gridlock. What a shame the Spokesman Review not only fails to educate voters, but highlights the fallacy that the problem is Obama failing to fix the problem.

"We believe Mitt Romney could bring a fresh approach unburdened by recriminations. He has extensive management and leadership experience, and worked with the opposite party as Massachusetts governor. The nation needs that Romney, not the one who pandered to the tea party wing of the Republican Party to secure the nomination. If elected, he needs to take on that faction with the same resolve he’s shown challenging Obama."

Recrimination - An accusation in response to one from someone else. 

Mitt Romney, who has a well-documented history of changing positions on issues depending on who he's talking to, is unburdened by recriminations? His work with the opposite party while governor of Massachusetts involved scores of vetoes and 844 line item budget vetoes, most of which were overridden by the legislature. What's really amazing is that the editors think they can choose which Romney should be president, as if the pandering Romney will suddenly discover he's an egalitarian at heart. Why does Romney need to take on the Tea Party? What problems do they cause? Is Obama not resolute enough in taking on that faction?

"By the same token, he’ll need to renounce his anti-tax pledge, and in so doing perhaps embolden others to do the same. Those pledges are killing deals before they can even be discussed."

Wait, wait, wait. Has the editorial board forgotten who signed a pledge to never raise taxes? And yet they endorse our own CongresswomanCathy McMorris Rodgers who plays a key role in the deal-killing position they're complaining about.

"In Massachusetts, Romney was able to work with Democrats to achieve important successes, including health care reform. Despite his threat to repeal Obamacare on Day One, we trust he won’t do so without coming up with an effective alternative that targets cost containment.

We will learn more about his foreign policy and defense positions in Monday’s debate. So far, he has been too ready to rattle his saber, and too willing to open the Treasury to the defense industry."

The editorial board doesn't believe Romney will do what he says he'll do. What better argument for endorsing him than that?

"The truth that neither candidate will tell is that we need a combination of large spending cuts and some tax increases, and not just the kind that punish the wealthy. Businesses do need a break on taxes to be competitive globally. The nation needs to tax carbon to lower greenhouse emissions and expand green industries. Direct capitalization, as evidenced by Solyndra, is the wrong approach."

The editorial board now releases the truth left untold by either candidate. We need to spend less and raise taxes (some?). The two wars and the Bush tax cuts were the largest contributors to the deficit. Defense spending is ridiculously high and our country's revenue is anemic. Any talk about reducing defense spending is quickly renounced by the hawks as a spineless act that threatens to weaken America. Raising taxes is anathema to Republicans who paint all tax increases as unnecessary. Raising taxes on just the weathy is punishment? Portraying it like that makes me wonder if the editorial board thinks that Washington state citizens, enduring the most regressive tax system of any state in the union, will avoid becoming wealthy so they won't be punished by taxes. The editorial board sees a need to tax carbon emissions and expand green industries and yet completely ignores the extremely powerful and vocal climate science deniers in Congress. The board is apparently too lazy to dig into the facts behind the Solyndra case. Only two of the 33 companies that received funding went bankrupt. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration. But if you repeat a lie often enough, even the Spokesman Review editorial board will believe it.

"We need immigration reform."

An ambiguous afterthought that appears to be there to reach the necessary word count. I feel I should answer the board using their own words. "That’s tragic, because all of the other issues won’t matter if we can’t right the fiscal ship."

"President Obama has failed to make sufficient progress on most of those issues. We think voters should give Mitt Romney a chance."

There's an old saying that you don't buy a pig in a poke without seeing it first. If the Review editorial board bothered to look inside, they would let the cat out of the bag. And their recommendation that we give Romney a chance will leave voters holding the bag.


Anonymous said...

"You have yet to hear him [Obama] tar anyone's patriotism"

Oh yes, I have. Obama has not only impugned the patriotism of critics, he has successfully prosecuted patriots who took great risks to reveal torture and other war crimes, while refusing to prosecute torturers who spat on the constitution and the American tradition to human rights.

Of course, Obama is doing some spitting himself, and the world is starting to notice:

Disposition Matrix said...

Obama had Green Party candidate Jill Stein arrested, jailed, bound to a chair and treated like a terrorist rather than debate her. Obama is not above tarring an opponent.

The desparation is starting to show.

Anonymous said...

Obama questions my patriotism every time the TSA violates my person in the airport, and every time the NSA illegally reads and records my email.

Obama questions my patriotism when he declares war in Libya, without the consent of my congressional representatives, in violation of the constitution. He questions my patriotism when he kills children with drones in my name, in violation of the law.

Obama mocks my patriotism when he refuses to prosecute corporate misdeeds or even pass meaningful banking regulation that busts the trusts, but mandates that I give money to private corporations without a public option.

Obama denies my patriotism when he limits my choices at the voting booth, when he sics Homeland Security on peaceful Occupiers, when he claims he can detain me forever--even assassinate me--without due process of law.

John Speare said...

Great analysis Hank.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps true about Romney, but I don't think Washington State progressives need feel an obligation to exaggerate Obama's accomplishments or the distinction with Romney. Washington's electoral votes will go to Obama. The presidential election is over here.

For Progressives who haven't voted yet, it would make sense to cast a vote for a candidate that actually represents progressive values, whether that's Stein's credible policy-based campaign for the Greens or Gary Johnson's attempt to remake a non-Texas, humanistic libertarianism. Or a write-in for a non-corporatist Democrat.

Even if you buy the LOTE hype, there's no downside in a non-swing state like Washington to vote your conscience.

It's time for an adult conversation about Obama's failed, elitist policies. Let's talk climate change and real Wall Street regulation, and a return to a democracy based on civil liberties. That conversation will only happen with electoral pressure.

Anonymous said...

For the first time since I could, I'm not voting for President.

I don't believe we have free and fair elections. We get the same general policy no matter the person.

It's rigged, long before the first primary.

Vote for Sandy said...

The elites decide the issues the election can and can't discuss.

Then they decide the solutions the election can discuss for the issues they chose.

Then they choose a couple of very similar candidates who they will allow to apply those solutions.

Then they crush any popular movements with police state tactics, and throw any third party candidates who complain in jail.

Then they order us to vote.