Here is the latest from the realm of political fantasy during the election season. Enjoy and comment. – Pd Cash
* RNC Ratings Night Three: Romney Results in Ratings Rise, Only FNC Retains Viewership Compared to 2008 – Night three of the Republican National Committee culminated in a speech from GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and the ratings rose accordingly. As was the case during the first two nights of the RNC, Fox News Channel was the most watched TV news outlet, besting the broadcast networks from 10-11PM. Last night, however, the gap between FNC and its competitors was even wider, as it topped the next two networks, NBC and ABC, combined in total viewers. Every outlet except NBC improved on its Tuesday night ratings in both total viewers and the adults, 25-54 demographic. Compared to the final night of the 2008 RNC it was a different story however. Fox News was just about flat compared to 2008, losing around -2% of its viewership, while NBC (-56%), ABC (-26%), CBS (-30%), CNN (-52%) and MSNBC (-25%) were down mid double digits.
– Mainstream is losing its audience.
* Bernanke confirms bias towards easing – Ben Bernanke took another step on the US Federal Reserve’s march towards more monetary easing with a speech that said the economic situation was “far from satisfactory”. Speaking at the Fed’s annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mr. Bernanke offered no direct promise of further easing. But he spelt out the feeble state of the economy, the Fed’s intention to be forceful, and that it has effective policy tools available. “Taking due account of the uncertainties and limits of its policy tools, the Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions,” said the Fed chairman. The clearest hint that Mr. Bernanke is ready to do more came from his disappointment with the economy’s progress. He noted some recovery over the past few years but said that improvement in the labor market had been “painfully slow”.
* Michelle Obama Presents Course: ‘Supermarket Shopping 101’ – As part of her anti-obesity Let’s Move campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama is now presenting a brief online course: “Supermarket Shopping 101.” The course, which now appears on the letsmove.gov website, provides novice shoppers with tips such as “steer clear of the cookie, snack and soda aisle.” “Supermarket Shopping 101: Read This Before You Hit the Grocery Store,” written by Lisa Cericola, was first published among the materials the first lady presented online last week when she was a “guest editor” at iVillage.com. Now, it has been republished on the Let’s Move blog. As CNSNews.com previously reported, iVillage.com, which featured Mrs. Obama as a guest editor, also features graphic sex tips, including from prostitutes. A self-described “cheat sheet” for grocery shopping, “Supermarket Shopping 101” includes tips on when is the best time to shop and how to navigate a grocery store.
* Feds end probe of ‘America’s toughest sheriff’ Joe Arpaio; no charges – The federal government has closed a criminal probe of alleged financial misconduct by Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who styles himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” and no charges will be filed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said on Friday. A separate federal investigation relating to allegations of civil rights abuses by Arpaio’s office is continuing. The announcement on Friday marked the end of an investigation that began in November 2010 at the behest of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to examine alleged financial improprieties by the county sheriff and his deputies. A federal criminal inquiry into several of those matters was concluded last summer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona declining to initiate criminal charges. Maricopa County authorities were informed on Friday that federal prosecutors had likewise declined to bring charges in connection with allegations that the sheriff’s office had misused county credit cards or misspent money from jail facilities excise taxes. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute two former officials of the county attorney’s office who were accused of wrongfully prosecuting a local judge.
* U.S. Scales-Back Military Exercise with Israel, Affecting Potential Iran Strike – Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise. “Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official tells TIME. The reductions are striking. Instead of the approximately 5,000 U.S. troops originally trumpeted for Austere Challenge 12, as the annual exercise is called, the Pentagon will send only 1,500 service members, and perhaps as few as 1,200. Patriot anti-missile systems will arrive in Israel as planned, but the crews to operate them will not. Instead of two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships being dispatched to Israeli waters, the new plan is to send one, though even the remaining vessel is listed as a “maybe,” according to officials in both militaries.
* Rains wash away Mount Obama in Charlotte, N.C. – A torrential downpour that struck Charlotte Saturday afternoon damaged the Mount Rushmore-style sand sculpture bust of President Obama — an ominous beginning to what many fear is a plagued convention. Workers were trying Saturday afternoon to reform the base of the sculpture, built from sand brought in from Myrtle Beach, S.C., pounding and smoothing out the sand that had washed off the facade. Democrats’ choice of Charlotte has drawn criticism from unions who don’t like North Carolina’s labor laws, and the state seems to be tilting away from Democrats politically. The large Rushmore-style sculpture drew comparisons to Mr. Obama’s 2008 convention in Denver, when he accepted his party’s nomination on a stage that looked like a Greek temple.
* O’Malley: We’re Not Better off Now – Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who is considered a possible contender for president in 2016, bucked other Obama surrogates on Sunday, saying that the country was not better off now than it was four years ago. On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked: “Can you honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?” Responded O’Malley: “No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit card.” Quipped Schieffer: “George Bush is not on the ballots.”
* Obama Surrogate Richardson: ‘International Community Wants to See this President Reelected’ – A surrogate for Barack Obama, former governor Bill Richardson, insisted that all around the world “the international community wants to see this president reelected.” Richardson made his remarks this morning on CBS: “The president is not running overseas, but everywhere you go, all around the world– and I travel a lot — the international community wants to see this president re-elected. Obviously, we’ve got to do it here,” said Richardson.
– We will see each party being faithful to their party candidate for president.
* Obama Team Punts Three Times on ‘Better Off Now’ Questions – Speaking on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Senior Obama adviser David Plouffe had few answers for the age-old question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” On three occasions, he declined to answer the question with a definitive yes or no. “It took us a long time to get into that hole, it’s going to take us a long time to get out of it,” Plouffe said after the first time host George Stephanopoulos asked the question. After the second variation of the question, he said, “We were this close to a Great Depression, and because of the leadership of this president we staved that off. We’re beginning to recover.” Stephanopoulos pressed a third time — “You still can’t say ‘yes?’” — and again Plouffe punted: “We’ve clearly improved from the depths of the recession.” He went on to list areas where he said matters had improved: manufacturing, lowering the unemployment rate, and in the auto industry.
* BILL MAHER DEFENDS EASTWOOD: HE ‘KILLED’ – One of our many talented conservative video-geniuses really should put together a pro-Romney ad using the many terrific lines from Eastwood’s RNC performance. The reason the Left is so angry at Eastwood is because America’s last remaining icon brilliantly mocked Their Precious One and they can’t stand that. Though he doesn’t agree with the man’s politics, Maher looks at what Eastwood did strictly from the standpoint of performance and has to admire what he saw.
* WHITE HOUSE RELEASES BEER RECIPE – In response to public pressure, the White House released the recipe for two of its home brew recipes on Saturday. In a blog post on the White House website, executive chef Sam Kass explained how the White House came to brew its own beers. “Inspired by home brewers from across the country, last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen. After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop,” Kass wrote. “We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.”
* HEY MITT! TIME TO DUMP ROVE – As the Democratic Party convention gets under way, the public focus should rightly be on the bankrupt philosophy, the stench of corruption and the atmosphere of failure that pervades the political organization headed by Barack Obama.
But something is blocking a clear view right now – and it’s not a slip of the tongue by Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, who once again leads his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, in the polls. It’s the person who, more than anyone else, tried to demonize and vilify Akin for that slip of the tongue. No, I’m not talking about Rachel Maddow or Arianna Huffington. I’m talking about Republican political consultant Karl Rove, who was so quick out of the box to announce publicly that his super PAC, supported to the tune of more than $100 million by Republican donors seeking to win back the U.S. Senate, would withhold all support to the media-beleaguered Akin. It’s now Rove who is hurting his party, not Akin. While Akin was back home campaigning, Rove was in Tampa shaking down 70 of the party’s top donors boasting of how his super PAC was going to lead the Republicans to victory in crucial swing states. According to a BusinessWeek reporter’s account of that meeting, Rove made the following remark: “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!” Rove later apologized to Akin, who, unlike Rove, quickly accepted his regrets. What Rove said behind closed doors is far more disgraceful than anything Akin, a gentleman, ever thought of saying. But an apology is hardly enough to erase a remark like that. So it’s time for Rove to take his own advice to Akin and get out of the way so he doesn’t become a distraction in this race.
* Wall Street’s War on the Cities – The pace of Wall Street’s war against the 99% is quickening in preparation for the kill. Having demonized public employees for being scheduled to receive pensions on their lifetime employment service, bondholders are insisting on getting the money instead. It is the same austerity philosophy that has been forced on Greece and Spain – and the same that is prompting President Obama and Mitt Romney to urge scaling back Social Security and Medicare. Unlike the U.S. federal government, most states and cities have constitutions that prevent them from running budget deficits. This means that when they cut property taxes, they either must borrow from the wealthy, or cut back employment and public services. For many years they borrowed, paying tax-exempt interest to wealthy bondholders. But carrying charges on these have mounted to a point where they now look risky as the economy sinks into debt deflation. Cities are defaulting from California to Alabama. They cannot reverse course and restore taxes on property owners without causing more mortgage defaults and abandonments. Something has to give – so cities are scaling back public spending, downsizing their school systems and police forces, and selling off their assets to pay bondholders.
* The Secret History of Pussy Riot – Moscow. Universally admired, Pussy Riot (or PR for short) have been promoted as superstars. But what are they? A rock or punk group they are not. A British journalist marveled: they produce no music, no song, no painting, nada, rien, nothing. How can they be described as “artists”? This was a severe test for their supporters, but they passed it with flying honors: that famous lover-of-art, the US State Department, paid for their first ever single being produced by The Guardian out of some images and sounds. We are able to stomach obscenity and blasphemy; I am a great admirer of Notre Dame de Fleurs by Jean Genet, who combined both. However, the PR never wrote, composed or painted anything of value at all. Chris Randolph defended them in Counterpunch by comparing them with “the controversial Yegor Letov”. What a misleading comparison! Letov wrote poetry, full of obscenity but it still was poetry, while the PR have nothing but Public Relations. Hell-bent on publicity, but artistically challenged, three young women from Russia decided – well, it sounds like a limerick. They stole a frozen chicken from a supermarket and used it as dildo; they filmed the act, called it “art” and placed it on the web. (It is still there) Their other artistic achievements were an orgy in a museum and a crude presentation of an erect prick. Even in these dubious pieces of art their role was that of technical staff: the glory went to a Russian-Israeli artist Plucer-Sarno of Mevasseret Zion, who claimed the idea, design and copyright for himself and collected a major Russian prize. The future PR members got nothing and were described by Plucer as “ambitious provincials on the make”, or worse. Lately they have tried to ride on a bandwagon of political struggle. That was another flop. They poured a flood of obscene words on Putin – in Red Square, in subway (underground) stations – with zero effect. They weren’t arrested, they weren’t fined, just chased away as a nuisance. And they did not attract the attention of people. It is important to remember that Putin is an avowed enemy of Russian oligarchs, owners of the major bulk of Russian media and providers of the Moscow literati, so they print on a daily basis so much anti-Putin invective, that it’s lost its shock value. You can’t invent a new diatribe against Putin – it has been already said and published. And Putin practically never interferes with the freedom of the press.
* Barack Obama Promised A New Kind Of Politics, But Played The Same Old Game – In the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson was left to pursue his predecessor’s unfinished legislative agenda. White House insiders considered the task nearly impossible. The civil rights bill was bottled up in the House Rules Committee, where its chairman was intent on running out the clock until the election the next year. A critical tax cut, meanwhile, was bogged down in the Senate, where the Finance Committee chairman was holding it hostage. Johnson surveyed the legislative landscape and knew he had to shake things up. Rather than negotiate with Congress, Johnson turned the goodwill of the nation into a force with which to bludgeon the GOP and expand what was politically possible. He took his case to the American people, reminding them that the GOP was the “Party of Lincoln,” and flooded Washington with religious leaders who lobbied Congress. The result was a tax cut that is largely credited with ushering in an era of high growth and, of course, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Had Johnson stuck to inside baseball, he would have struck out twice. Barack Obama could have learned something from LBJ. As a candidate Obama promised to change the way Washington works and he rode a wave of global support into the White House. His first two years in office have repeatedly been compared to the New Deal under Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Society under Johnson, with historic achievements on health care, Wall Street reform and other domestic priorities. But Obama’s first term has also left many of his supporters wondering whether those accomplishments could have been bigger in size, scope and impact. The health care reform legislation was built largely off a conservative model, with millions of people shuttled into the private market. The financial regulatory reform bill contained carve-outs for the private sector and is widely regarded as not far-reaching enough to curb some of the banking industry’s worst practices. The White House made little effort to push labor priorities like the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have granted workers more avenues to form unions. The Iraq war may have ended, but the war in Afghanistan heated up, with lingering confusion as to why troops remain there. Now, just a few months before the election, Obama is suffering from an engagement gap. According to a late July Gallup poll, only 39 percent of Democrats said they were “more enthusiastic” than usual about voting. That number was 61 percent at a similar time in 2008. Republicans, meanwhile, are more fired up now (51 percent) than they were in 2008 (35 percent). Obama is no longer regarded by the majority of voters as a constructive reformer. An August 21 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that only 37 percent of the respondents thought he would bring the “right kind of change” in his second term.
– What happened to hope?
* STEPHANOPOULOS: NO BIAS IN MEDIA – MRCTV’s Joe Schoffstall ran into “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. When asked if he believes there is a liberal bias in the media, he responds, “I don’t.” When asked again, he walks away.
– Mainstream Media has a serious credibility problem and now we know why. They don’t listen to anyone outside their own circle of friends.
* Group says it found 30,000 dead North Carolinians registered to vote – A Raleigh-based group devoted to reducing the potential for voter fraud presented the N.C. Board of Elections on Friday with a list of nearly 30,000 names of dead people statewide who are still registered to vote. The Voter Integrity Project compiled the list after obtaining death records from the state Department of Public Health from 2002 to March 31 and comparing them to the voter rolls. “Mainly, what we’re concerned about is the potential [for fraud],” said project director Jay DeLancy. “Since there is no voter ID law in North Carolina, anybody can walk in and claim to be anyone else.” Delany said his group has found evidence to suggest voter fraud in these numbers, but will not quantify how much until he is able to do more analysis. Most cases of what look like a dead person voting are likely just administrative errors, such as a son named Junior voting in his father’s name instead of his own. The rolls of registered voters are updated every month when the state Department of Health and Human Services gives a list of all death certificates received that month to the state Board of Elections. Problems arise when the names on the death certificates do not match the names on the voting records, which often happens after women get married, Board of Elections General Counsel Don Wright said Friday. Addresses are also often listed with slight differences, Wright said. An address on West Millbrook Road and Millbrook Road might be the same house, but computers won’t always catch it. “Unless there is an exact match, we do not remove people from the voter rolls,” Wright said.
* Bill Clinton on Obama: ‘A Few Years Ago, This Guy Would Have Been Carrying Our Bags’ – Former President Bill Clinton tried to get former senator Ted Kennedy to endorse Hillary Clinton for president in the 2008 election by describing Barack Obama this way: “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.” This anecdote is revealed in a New Yorker article on the relationship between Bill Clinton and Obama: Tim Russert told me that, according to his sources, Bill Clinton, in an effort to secure an endorsement for Hillary from Ted Kennedy, said to Kennedy, “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.” Clinton is giving a keynote address at the Democratic convention this week in Charlotte, North Carolina.
* Villaraigosa calls GOP a party for 1812 – Self-deportation for illegal immigrants. No rape or incest exception for abortions. With stances such as these, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican Party espouses “a platform from another century, maybe even two.” Added Villaraigosa, who’s also serving as chairman of the Democratic National Convention: “It looks like the platform of 1812.” Regarding the Republicans plans for the economy, “Reagan would be turning in his grave” to hear some of the proposals coming from party leaders, particularly as it pertains to budget cuts.
* Iowans’ Message to Obama: ‘We Did Build This’ – SIOUX CITY, Iowa — President Obama received a less than warm welcome and a warning upon arrival at the airport here on the second stop of his Iowa visit, which was aimed at recapturing some of the magic the state gave his run to the White House in 2008. Greeting Air Force One as it touched down under sunny skies and sultry heat was a hand-painted banner draped across the top of an airplane hangar that reads, “Obama Welcome to SUX – We Did Build This.” “SUX” is the airport code for Sioux City. The message appeared to be a response President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark from a July campaign rally, when he was trying to explain that government — not businesses — constructed public infrastructure on which the economy relies. Republicans have used the four words to attack Obama as out of touch with the realities of owning and operating a small business. The banner is a reminder that this part of the state remains hotly contested turf for both Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, just as the campaign enters the home stretch. Sioux City, which sits on the border with Nebraska in the northwest corner of the state, is territory Obama lost in 2008 to Sen. John McCain, even though he won the state overall. Obama won 49 percent of the vote here to McCain’s 50 percent, a difference of just 500 votes. Obama also won the Iowa caucuses, an early confirmation that his message was resonating with Democrats. This time around, the president’s campaign believes it can turn the Sioux City region blue by appealing to middle class values and highlighting the administration’s record of tax cuts for small businesses and families. “We know the President has strong support in Sioux City so it was important to him to spend time visiting with familiar faces and energizing people at this pivotal time leading up to Election Day,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
– No matter what is said about their campaign the spokesman always has to say something good about the campaign even if it is not true. This is how the term “spin doctors” came to life.
* Reince Priebus: ‘Nowhere Else To Go But Up’ For Mitt Romney – On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus appeared near the event site to argue his party would only go up from here, while President Barack Obama would struggle to remain in the game. “Here in Charlotte, the president is going to be on defense, desperately trying to paper over the dismal record and make struggling Americans forget about their problems,” Priebus said at a press conference. “The thrill and pixie dust of Barack Obama’s presidency is gone,” he added later.
* Democrats ready to showcase Obama at convention – Thousands of Democrats are streaming here ahead of Tuesday’s opening of the Democratic National Convention, an event that promises both a showcase for President Obama’s re-election bid and a counterpoint to the harsh treatment his administration’s policies received at last week’s Republican convention. Obama courted votes in Ohio today, a key swing state, before a planned tour of Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish near New Orleans, hard-hit by flood damage from Hurricane Isaac. Republican nominee Mitt Romney assessed the area Friday.
Obama told Toledo autoworkers that the auto industry had bounced back because of his administration’s bailout. “I bet on you. I’ll make that bet any day of the week and because of that bet, three years later, that bet is paying off for America,” he said.
* Now Obama must build the case for government – Presidential elections can turn on trivia. So the fact that Paul Ryan, the Republicans’ vice-presidential candidate, has lied about having run a marathon in under three hours, could be bizarrely important. At last week’s GOP convention, Mr. Ryan was introduced as a fearless truth-teller. The Democrats argued that, in fact, his speech contained lies about everything from Medicare to the closure of a car plant. But Medicare reform is hard to grasp. By contrast, lopping a full hour off your marathon time is readily understandable. It makes Mr. Ryan look both ridiculous and dishonest. The Democrats will have a field day with the marathon man at their own convention this week.
The gaffe is all the more irritating for the Republicans because they have just had a very successful convention. In Tampa last week, the GOP locked its mad uncles in the attic – with the exception of Clint Eastwood, who was allowed a brief appearance. There was very little talk about religion, abortion, immigration, Barack Obama’s birth certificate or the threat of sharia law being imposed on Michigan. Instead the Republicans hammered away at a single theme. They are the party that embodies the optimism and rugged individualism of the American dream. By contrast, Mr. Obama was portrayed as a nice man who “doesn’t get it”: as somebody who thinks all good things come from government, and denigrates individual effort. If Mr. Obama is to win re-election, he will have to repel this assault by making the case for government. He will have to defend his economic stimulus. He will have to stand up for “Obama Care”. Above all, the president will have to reclaim the most powerful and seductive idea in US politics – the American dream. This is a very delicate task. The potential for mishap is underlined by an ad-libbed speech the president made a couple of months ago in which he seemed to mock the efforts of small-business owners. The fatal phrase Mr. Obama used – “you didn’t build that” – was repeated endlessly at the Republican convention. A succession of small-business owners was brought to the podium to assert, in indignant terms, that they had indeed “built it”.
* GOP launches ‘Obama Isn’t Working’ message at DNC – The official start of the Democratic National Convention isn’t until tomorrow, but the Republicans are starting to bait President Obama anyway. The Republican National Committee debuted a new Web video and launched a website, with the theme of “Obama Isn’t Working.” The website will be updated frequently while Democrats gather here this week to formally nominate Obama to a second White House term. “When Americans look back on the past four years under President Obama and ask themselves whether or not they are better off, unfortunately they will answer ‘no,’ ” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “President Obama has not lived up to his promises he made to turn our economy around and cut the deficit in half in his first term,” Priebus continued. “There are more people out of work today than when Barack Obama took office and 23 million Americans who are out of work or looking for more work.” Expect the GOP to return to the “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” message repeatedly this week. Later today, the RNC will hold its first of several news conferences, as part of its counter-messaging efforts. Priebus and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a frequent surrogate for Mitt Romney, will speak to reporters.
* Dems try to rev up Obama enthusiasm at convention – Democrats open their national convention Tuesday offering President Barack Obama as America’s best chance to revive the ragged U.S. economy and asking voters to be patient with incomplete results so far. Michelle Obama, in her opening-night speech, aims to give people a very personal reminder of “the man that he was before he was president.” “The truth is that he has grown so much, but in terms of his core character and value, that has not been changed at all,” Mrs. Obama said in interview airing on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show.” The three-day convention has drawn thousands of delegates to a state Obama narrowly carried in 2008. And although Obama no longer is the fresh-faced newbie who leveraged a short Senate career into an audacious run for the nation’s highest office, he still can excite partisans, and Democrats were counting on massive numbers to pack a stadium for his speech later in the week. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and a host of Democratic allies worked to rev up delegate enthusiasm, saying Obama has a strong record to defend. They noted the president had helped the economy rebound, presided over an increase in the stock market and brought troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’ve got some truth telling to do,” Warner told Florida delegates at a breakfast meeting. “America is better off today than it was four years ago when this president took over.” Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker told the delegates Democrats need to get fully behind Obama, comparing the differences between a large voter turnout in his home state during the 2008 election and a more modest outpouring one year later, when his home state elected Republican Chris Christie as governor. “Change is never made in a sedentary position,” he said. The Democrats dispatched U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who hopes to unseat Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, to make the case for Obama on morning talk shows, and she acknowledged that “it’s tough out there” for many Americans.
* Labor Brings Its Frustrations To Charlotte – The newly-elected president of the giant public workers’ union AFSCME, Lee Saunders, took a page out of Clint Eastwood’s book at an Ohio delegation Labor Day breakfast on Monday, speaking to an empty chair that he pretended was occupied by Eastwood. At first it was just a lark. “He’s been sitting here listening to all the speakers before me, he’s been listening to me, I want you to give Clint Eastwood a round of applause,” Saunders said. “I brought him with me to learn some things, OK? To teach him, to educate him.” The audience murmured and laughed. Saunders asked the chair questions, then joked, “He doesn’t have anything to say.” “Mitt Romney doesn’t have anything to say,” Saunders continued. “Paul Ryan doesn’t have anything to say.” Suddenly, the tone changed: Saunders, finishing his speech, began to kick the chair, threw it, and yelled “Dirty Harry, make my day! We’re gonna kick ass in November!” The crowd was cheering, and the humor had gained a palpable edge. “We wanted to respond to the nonsense that he did last week,” Saunders said later. “We’re here to have fun but we’re here to work, too, so we thought we were sending a message.”
Saunders isn’t the only frustrated labor leader at the Democratic National Convention this year. American unions, in the throes of a long slide, have had perhaps their worst run ever facing not only the usual declining membership rolls, but also a public repudiation in a Wisconsin recall vote that centered on the place of public sector workers. Adding to that, the Democratic Party’s choice of Charlotte as the convention was a slap in the face: North Carolina has right-to-work laws and virtually no union presence. The fact that unions couldn’t influence the Democrats’ decision on location a testament to their less-than-omnipotent position. And while labor leaders and rank-and-file profess to support Obama as much as ever, but the cracks are showing. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told Politico that federation isn’t bringing a full staff or even getting a skybox at the convention center. Battles in Ohio and Wisconsin have badly sapped union resources, a labor operative said. Other unions are focused down-ballot, labor operatives said, focused on saving the seats of true labor allies than of fighting for the national Democratic Party. At the Ohio breakfast, in a large conference room fifteen minutes outside central Charlotte filled with people in AFSCME shirts and Obama buttons, delegates listened to Ohio Democrats and representatives from the Ironworkers, Steelworkers, and other unions pump them up. “The Democratic Party is the party of labor,” said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO. “The Democratic Party and its goals are aligned with the labor movement — social and economic justice.” Burga exhorted the listeners to do everything they could to re-ensure Obama’s reelection: “We must leave everything out on the field this year to re-elect President Obama and re-elect Senator Sherrod Brown.” “They’re afraid of our power,” Saunders told the crowd in his blistering speech.
* Obama’s Secret Plan to Prop up Housing Prices – Private Equity firms are piling in to the housing market to take advantage of bargain basement prices on distressed inventory. The Obama administration is stealthily selling homes to big investors who are required to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that the public remains in the dark as to the magnitude of the giveaway. Aside from the steep discounts on the homes themselves, the government is also providing “synthetic financing to reduce the up-front capital required if they agree to form a joint venture with Fannie Mae and share proceeds from the rental or sale of properties.” (BusinessWeek) In other words, US-taxpayers are providing extravagant financing for deep-pocket speculators who want to reduce their risk while maximizing their profits via additional leverage. The plan resembles Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s Public-Private Partnership Investment Program, (PPIP) which Columbia University professor Joseph Stieglitz denounced in an op-ed in the New York Times. Here’s what he said: “The Obama administration’s $500 billion or more proposal to deal with America’s ailing banks has been described by some in the financial markets as a win-win-win proposal. Actually, it is a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win — and taxpayers lose.” The same rule applies here. Speculators are getting lavish incentives (Gov. financing, low rates, and severe discounts) in secret deals to buy distressed inventory which should be available to the public at market prices. If that’s not a rip-off, then what is? Now take a look at this clip from an article in Nuwire Investor: “Single-family homes are on the radar with private equity investors for good reason. There is a robust pipeline of distressed properties that is allowing owners to buy property at a steep discount—typically 30 percent to 50 percent of replacement cost. The volume of foreclosure filings in the U.S. totaled more than 2.8 million per year in both 2009 and 2010. Although the volume of home foreclosures dropped to 1.9 million in 2011, there were approximately 1.5 million active home foreclosure filings recorded during the first six months of 2012, according to data from RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based listing service. The current volume is about five times higher than the rate of foreclosures that were occurring prior to the housing bust. In 2005, for example, home foreclosure filings reached just 532,833, according to RealtyTrac. That inventory includes an ample supply of quality middle-class homes in good neighborhoods. Investors are finding that they can buy three-bedroom, two-bath homes, many of which were built in 2005 or later. At the peak of the market, these homes were selling for about $250,000, and now investors are able to buy them at prices averaging between $100,000 and $130,000.” (“Private Equity Funds Prey On Distressed Housing”, NuWire Investor) Read that again. Obama’s preferred customers are getting discounts of up-to 60 percent of the home’s peak value and generous Gov.-backed financing to boot! Where can Mom and Pop get a deal like that? Nowhere. As we have noted in previous articles, housing prices are going up for two reasons. First, because the banks are withholding their distressed inventory (delaying foreclosures) to keep prices artificially high. And, second, because of Private Equity firms are buying up the available stock of distressed homes in special “bulk sales” deals that are pushing up prices on lower-end homes. Housing analyst Michael Olenick sheds a bit of light on these secret transactions in a recent post on Naked Capitalism. Here’s a clip: “Besides lower foreclosure activity, the government is going all out to give away houses to private equity firms. Recently Fannie Mae sold 275 properties across metro Phoenix in one sale to a mystery buyer, according to a report by Catherine Reagor of the Arizona Republic. All Fannie disclosed is the buyer is an LLC, which Fannie apparently helped create, based at 135 N. Los Robles Ave., in Pasadena, CA. Google shows that is the US address of East West Bank, a bank whose tagline is “Your Financial Bridge,” presumably between Asian money and Phoenix real estate. Fannie’s decision to sell Phoenix to Asian investors keeps 275 houses off the local market, which drives up prices for Phoenix homes people intend to actually live in, rather than flip. (Update: Nick Timiraos points out by e-mail that Fannie’s address in Pasadena is the same as East West’s, and Bloomberg has reported that Colony is the buyer. But this still raises the question of why Fannie cooperate with what appears to be an effort to hide the identity of the buyer.) (“Still Looking for a Housing Bottom”, Michael Olenick, naked capitalism) So, why all the cloak and dagger? Why is the public being kept in the dark? And, most importantly, why are taxpayers providing financing for moneybags PE firms on discounted homes that would sell on Day 1 if they offered to the general public? This whole operation stinks to high-heaven. As the article above indicates, there’s no shortage of delinquent homes that will eventually be foreclosed. That means the process is being dragged out so the banks don’t have to fess-up to the losses on their fetid pile of nonperforming loans Here’s a little more background from an article in BusinessWeek: “About 6 million U.S. borrowers will lose their homes in the next five years because of inability to pay their mortgages, creating demand for as many as 4 million new rental households, according to Scott Simon, head of mortgage bonds at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California. Single-family rentals are priced to deliver unlevered total returns in the range of 7.5 percent to 8 percent, or about 0.5 percentage point to 1 percentage point higher than institutional-quality apartments, according to a June 8 report by Ray Huang, senior associate at Green Street Advisors in Newport Beach, California. (“Colony Said to Win Foreclosed Homes Sold by Fannie Mae”, BusinessWeek) If “6 million homeowners” will lose their homes in the next five years, then why are clown shoes media dupes touting a “bottom” in prices and a “market rebound”? It’s all hype. And look at how calculatingly fiendish Obama’s foreclosure-to-rental program really is. The big boys have figured out the nearest penny how much they can make by throwing people out of their homes. (7.5 percent to 8 percent) Talk about heartless. And, of course, this whole process is being orchestrated by President Fairydust and his Wall Street Pranksters to keep prices artificially high and preserve the illusion that the banks are solvent.
* Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan Campaign Launches ‘Mediscare’ Robocall – The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan is running a robo call accusing President Barack Obama of “changing Medicare forever,” according to audio obtained by ThinkProgress. “Some think Obamacare is the same as free health care, but nothing is free,” a voice says in the recorded message. “Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare, changing the program forever — taxing wheel chairs and pacemakers, raising taxes on families making less than $120,000. Free health care comes at a very high price. The Romney-Ryan plan will restore Medicare funding, and protect and strengthen the program for the next generation.” The attack refers to the reduction of $716 billion in Medicare’s rate of growth in the Affordable Care Act. According to Medicare actuaries, the cuts extend the life of the program’s trust fund from 2016 to 2024. The reduction does not target beneficiaries, but rather cuts subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans and payments to hospitals and other providers. Ryan also included those savings in his own budget proposal. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have advocated turning Medicare into a quasi-voucher program, which would be a much more fundamental change to the program than those in the Affordable Care Act.
* S.C. Dem. Chair Compares GOP Gov. to Hitler’s Mistress – South Carolina Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian compared his state’s Republican female governor, Nikki Haley, to Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun this morning at a breakfast in Charlotte, North Carolina. South Carolina’s the State reports: S.C. Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, never a loss for a quick quip, tossed a few stinging one-liners at the Wednesday delegation breakfast. On Gov. Nikki Haley participating in daily news briefings in a basement studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame: “She was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun.” Braun, along with her lover Adolf Hitler, committed suicide in a bunker as World War II was coming to an end. The comparisons of Nazis and Hitler to the Republicans seems to be an emerging theme from this Democratic convention. Yesterday, a top Democratic delegate from Kansas compared Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to Hitler. The day before, a Democratic delegate from California compared Ryan to Nazi Joseph Goebbels.
* Fact check: Opening night of the DNC – We heard a number of dubious or misleading claims on the first night of the Democratic National Convention:
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivers the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Tuesday. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivers the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Tuesday.
•The keynote speaker and others claimed the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, would raise taxes on the “middle class.” He has promised he won’t. Democrats base their claim on a study that doesn’t necessarily lead to that conclusion.
•The keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, also said there have been 4.5 million “new jobs” under Obama. The fact is the economy has regained only 4 million of the 4.3 million jobs lost since Obama took office.
•Castro also insisted Romney and Ryan would “gut” Pell Grants for lower-income college students. Actually, the Ryan budget calls only for “limiting the growth” of spending for the program and Ryan has said the maximum grant of $5,550 would not be decreased.
•A Democratic governor said Romney “left his state 47th out of 50 in job growth.” Actually, Massachusetts went from 50th in job creation during Romney’s first year to 28th in his final year.
•Two advocates of equal-pay legislation said women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn. That’s true on average, but the gap for women doing the same work as men is much less, and not entirely or even mostly the result of job discrimination.
•A union president accused Romney of seeking “a government bailout” for “his company.” Not really. In fact, Romney negotiated a favorable but routine settlement with bank regulators on behalf of a former company, the one he had left to form his own Bain Capital firm. No taxpayer funds were involved.
•Multiple speakers repeated a claim that the Ryan/Romney Medicare plan would cost seniors $6,400 a year. That’s a figure that applied to Ryan’s 2011 budget plan, but his current proposal (the one Romney embraces) is far more generous. The Congressional Budget Office says it “may” lead to higher costs for beneficiaries, but it can’t estimate how much.
•Rep. James Clyburn engaged in partisan myth-making when he said “Democrats created Social Security” while Republicans “cursed the darkness.” History records strong bipartisan support in both House and Senate for the measure President Roosevelt signed in 1935.
* Editorial: Obama’s deficit-attention disorder – In their convention hall last week, Republicans installed a digital clock that displayed the government’s rapidly accumulating debt. This took a certain amount of chutzpah, considering that GOP President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for today’s sky-high deficits by pushing through unaffordable tax cuts and failing to pay for Medicare expansion and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the debt clock also underscored President Obama’s culpability on the issue. Indeed, if there is a single area in which Obama deserves failing grades, it is his failure to demonstrate serious, sustained leadership on long-term fiscal issues. Call it deficit-attention disorder. In each year since Obama took office, the government has borrowed, or is projected to borrow, well over $1 trillion, pushing the government’s total debt to $16 trillion, or about $121,000 per household. The math behind these shortfalls is plain to see. On Obama’s watch, the federal government has been spending at a rate equal to 24.4% of the economy (the highest rate among presidents since World War II) and taxing a rate of 15.4% of economy (the lowest of any post-war president). Some of this gap is the result of higher safety-net spending and lower revenue, attributable to the recession, and moving too rapidly to close the gap could push the economy into another recession. But failing to deal with it will have dire consequences, too. Government simply can’t go on borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, year after year. As Baby Boomers retire and draw on Medicare and Social Security, the problem will only get worse. Mounting debt will leave young people and future generations with massive bills for today’s profligacy. Recognizing the threat, Obama created a bipartisan panel, known as the Simpson-Bowles commission, which released a sensible, balanced plan to reduce deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years. But Obama initially treated its recommendations like some sort of sexually transmitted disease. He has ducked entitlement reform, signed payroll tax cuts that widened deficits, and left the misleading impression that simply raising taxes on the rich will take care of much of the problem. To be fair, Obama only gets half the blame.
* Avoiding DNC, Hillary Clinton gets snubbed in China – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in China this week rather than at the Democratic National Convention, and she’s not getting nearly as warm a welcome as the party faithful might have given. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, regarded as the nation’s next leader, did not show up for a press conference with Clinton this morning. “Clinton’s scheduled talk this morning with Vice President Xi Jinping had been called off by the Chinese side,” Time’s Hannah Beech explains, so Clinton had another press conference with the Chinese foreign minister in which she “sidestepped a question about whether Xi’s cancellation might reflect tensions between the world’s two biggest economies at a time when competing territorial claims in waters off China have marred the People’s Republic’s relations with its maritime neighbors.” Clinton decided not to attend the DNC because she did not think it would be appropriate for a sitting Secretary of State to participate in such a political event. In February, though, she predicted that Obama “will be reelected President.”
* CNN Fact Check: About those 4.5 million jobs … Anyone watching the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night heard the number 4.5 million several times. “Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the party’s keynote speaker, said. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who followed Obama’s November rival Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, both cited the same number. It’s a big-sounding number, given the still-sputtering job market. So we’re giving it a close eyeballing. The facts: The number Castro cites is an accurate description of the growth of private-sector jobs since January 2010, when the long, steep slide in employment finally hit bottom. But while a total of 4.5 million jobs sound great, it’s not the whole picture. Nonfarm private payrolls hit a post-recession low of 106.8 million that month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure currently stands at 111.3 million as of July. While that is indeed a gain of 4.5 million, it’s only a net gain of 300,000 over the course of the Obama administration to date. The private jobs figure stood at 111 million in January 2009, the month Obama took office. And total nonfarm payrolls, including government workers, are down from 133.6 million workers at the beginning of 2009 to 133.2 million in July 2012. There’s been a net loss of nearly 1 million public-sector jobs since Obama took office, despite a surge in temporary hiring for the 2010 census. Meanwhile, the jobs that have come back aren’t the same ones that were lost. Are you better off? According to a study released last week by the liberal-leaning National Employment Law Project, low-wage fields such as retail sales and food service are adding jobs nearly three times as fast as higher-paid occupations.
Conclusion: The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession.
– We have conflicting “Fact Checkers” in this posting. Who to believe is up to you. Perhaps it is best that you consider the source and what is said. CNN is known as a liberal leaning network. USA Today does not have that leaning. They give more detail into their discussion as well. While CNN does not completely say that the 4.5 Million number is exactly accurate.
* EU Says Greeks Should Work Six-Day Week: Report – Greeks should operate a six-day working week for all sectors, international creditors said in a letter to the Greek government, a measure which forms part of a wider set of demands in return for aid to the country. In the leaked letter, reported in The Guardian newspaper, the European Commission, European Central Bank (learn more), and International Monetary Fund (learn more) call for Athens to implement the measure as part of the bailout agreement with lenders. According to the paper, the letter states that more flexibility must be implemented to work schedules, including working into the weekend by increasing the number of maximum working days to six. The paper printed the following extract from the letter: “Increase the number of maximum workdays to six days per week for all sectors. Increase flexibility of work schedules; set the minimum daily rest to 11 hours; delink the working hours of employees from the opening hours of the establishment; eliminate restrictions on minimum/maximum time between morning and afternoon shifts; allow the consecutive two-week leave to be taken anytime during the year in seasonal sectors.” Greece has had to agree to an austerity package and stringent labor market reforms in order to continue receiving payments from its creditors.
* Key Solyndra scandal figure dodges cameras at DNC – Steven J. Spinner, a former Department of Energy official at the center of the Solyndra scandal that cost taxpayers $535 million, ran for the exits when he saw ABC News cameras at the Democratic National Convention. Emails surfaced last October that, while in the DOE, Spinner had pushed for the Obama administration to give the failed solar company Solyndra government-backed loan guarantees. ABC News attempted to interview Spinner, but was blocked from doing so by a DNC employee as Spinner broke into a run for the exit. “You can’t follow people,” the employee told ABC News, as he prevented the camera crew from filming Spinner. Neither the Obama campaign nor the White House responded to ABC’s requests for comment about Spinner. After his appointment to the DOE, Spinner signed a waiver saying he would not be involved in Solyndra receiving a loan guarantee due to the fact his wife’s law firm represented the company. However, internal White House emails showed that he was heavily involved in efforts to promote the loan politically, even pushing for a “big event” with “golden shovels, bulldozers, hardhats, etc.,” when the loan was set to be announced. According to ABC News, Spinner has been attending events organized for Obama’s top campaign donors, members of the National Finance Committee. Spinner also may be a top donor to the convention’s host committee, which accepts up to $100,000 from individuals. He was also wearing a “Finance Guest” badge. Spinner has been a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign in the past, raking in more than $500,000 for Obama in 2008. He was subsequently given a high-ranking position within the Department of Energy. Solyndra received a $535 million government-backed loan guarantee from the Obama administration in 2009. The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2011, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars and 1,100 workers unemployed.
* Jerusalem and God Vote Gets Booed At Dem Convention – Delegates and members of the Democratic party booed after former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) discussed God and moved to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, had to ask for the Yea and Nay vote several times before declaring the motion passed. C-SPAN cameras captured the dissatisfaction among members after the motion passed. More information from the Associated Press: Democrats have changed their convention platform to add a mention of God and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The move came after criticism from Republicans. Many in the audience booed after the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, ruled that the amendments had been approved despite the fact that a large group of delegates objected. He called for a vote three times before ruling. The party reinstated language from the 2008 platform that said “we need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” The platform also now includes what advisers said was Obama’s personal views on Jerusalem.
* Romney Claims Clinton in Latest Ad – Here’s the transcript:
VOICEOVER: “As the economy gets worse, Barack Obama calls on Bill Clinton to help his failing campaign.
VIDEO TEXT: “Obama Economy Even Worse”
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: “It’s about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment.”
VIDEO TEXT: “Obama TV Ad”
VOICEOVER: “He’s a good soldier—helping his party’s president. But what did Bill Clinton say about Barack Obama in 2008?”
VIDEO TEXT: “What Did Clinton Say About Obama In 2008?”
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”
VIDEO TEXT: “23 Million Americans Struggling For Work”
VOICEOVER: “23 million Americans struggling for work.”
VIDEO TEXT: “‘The Middle Class Falls Further Behind’”
VOICEOVER: “A middle class falling further behind.”
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: “Give me a break.”
MITT ROMNEY: “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.”
* Bob Woodward Book: Debt Deal Collapse Led to ‘Pure Fury’ From President Obama – An explosive mix of dysfunction, miscommunication, and misunderstandings inside and outside the White House led to the collapse of a historic spending and debt deal that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were on the verge of reaching last summer, according to revelations in author Bob Woodward’s latest book. The book, “The Price of Politics,” on sale Sept. 11, 2012, shows how close the president and the House speaker were to defying Washington odds and establishing a spending framework that included both new revenues and major changes to long-sacred entitlement programs. But at a critical juncture, with an agreement tantalizingly close, Obama pressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal — a miscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he’d already gone. The president called three times to speak with Boehner about his latest offer, according to Woodward. But the speaker didn’t return the president’s phone call for most of an agonizing day, in what Woodward calls a “monumental communications lapse” between two of the most powerful men in the country. When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obama lost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a “flash of pure fury” coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obama gripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it. “He was spewing coals,” Boehner told Woodward, in what is described as a borderline “presidential tirade.” “He was pissed. He wasn’t going to get a damn dime more out of me. He knew how far out on a limb I was. But he was hot. It was clear to me that coming to an agreement with him was not going to happen, and that I had to go to Plan B.” Nobody in the Obama orbit could even find the soon-to-be-speaker’s phone number, Woodward reports. A Democratic Party aide finally secured it through a friend so the president could offer congratulations. While questions persist about whether any grand bargain reached by the principals could have actually passed in the Tea Party-dominated Congress, Woodward issues a harsh judgment on White House and congressional leaders for failing to act boldly at a moment of crisis. Particular blame falls on the president. “It was increasingly clear that no one was running Washington. That was trouble for everyone, but especially for Obama,” Woodward writes.
* Fact check: Bill Clinton at the DNC – Former president Bill Clinton’s stem-winding nomination speech was a fact-checker’s nightmare: lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about. Republicans will find plenty of Clinton’s scorching opinions objectionable. But with few exceptions, we found his stats checked out.
The worst we could fault him for was a suggestion that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was responsible for bringing down the rate of increase in health care spending, when the fact is that the law’s main provisions have yet to take effect. Clinton said that “for the last two years, health care costs have been under 4% in both years for the first time in 50 years.” That’s true, as reported by the journal Health Affairs in January of this year. But Clinton went too far when he added: “So let me ask you something. Are we better off because President Obama fought for health care reform? You bet we are.” Actually, the major provisions of the 2010 law — the individual mandate, federal subsidies to help Americans buy insurance, and big reductions in the growth of Medicare spending — haven’t yet taken effect. Experts mainly blame the lousy economy for the slowdown in health care spending. As a report by economists and statisticians at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported last year, for example (as quoted in the Washington Post): “Job losses caused many people to lose employer-sponsored health insurance and, in some cases, to forgo health-care services they could not afford.”
And this year, the New York Times also reported:
New York Times, April 28, 2012: The growth rate mostly slowed as millions of Americans lost insurance coverage along with their jobs. Worried about job security, others may have feared taking time off work for doctor’s visits or surgical procedures, or skipped non-urgent care when money was tight.
The Times also quoted experts who said consumers’ and physicians’ behavior may be changing, and the “anticipation of the health care overhaul” could be a reason. Said the Times: “Many health care experts said they believed that the shift toward publicizing medical error rates and encouraging accountable care seemed to be paying dividends — and that providers were making changes in anticipation of the health care overhaul, which further emphasize accountable care.” But that would explain only part of the slowdown, if it’s truly a factor at all.
Other exaggerations and missteps were minor by comparison.
Clinton claimed Medicare will “go broke in 2016” if Romney is elected and repeals the federal health care law. Medicare will not “go broke,” but a part of it — the hospital insurance trust fund — would not be able to pay full benefits for hospital services. Physician and prescription drug benefits, financed separately out of general tax revenues and premiums, wouldn’t be affected.
As we explained in our Aug. 22 article, “A Campaign Full of Mediscare,” the Medicare hospital trust fund is on pace to be exhausted by 2024 — or by 2016 if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. But Medicare would still collect payroll taxes sufficient to pay most hospital bills that would come due. Medicare trustees estimate the fund could pay 87% of its costs. The funding gap would continue to grow, and by 2050 the fund could cover only 67% of its bills. That’s a serious situation to be sure, but it’s not as though Medicare itself would suddenly halt all payments.
Clinton also exaggerated when he said Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill “cut taxes for 95% of the American people.” That’s too high. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit cut taxes temporarily for about 95% of workers — those with “earned income.” But it didn’t benefit pensioners or the unemployed, for example. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated in 2010 that it benefited 76% of all families and single individuals.
Clinton was substantially correct when he said oil imports were at “a near 20-year low.” He referred to a recent prediction that U.S. dependence on imported oil would fall this year to 42%, which Bloomberg News reported would be “the lowest level in two decades.”
But Clinton’s point was that the president’s energy policies were “helping” to bring that about. Bloomberg, however, gave credit to “a boom in oil production from the shale formations of North Dakota and Texas,” made possible by a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
And plenty of other Clinton statistics checked out as accurate. For example, he said that since 1961, when John F. Kennedy took office, 42 million private-sector jobs had been added while Democrats held the White House, compared with 24 million while Republicans were in office. And that’s exactly what Bloomberg News reported in a May 8 story.
He also accused Republicans of blocking 1 million potential new jobs, but that checked out, too:
Clinton: Last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs.
Two independent economists — Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics and Joel Prakken of Macroeconomics Advisers — had estimated that Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would add more than 1 million jobs. Zandi claimed it would add 1.9 million jobs; Prakken 1.3 million. Senate Republicans blocked the $447 billion measure, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell denounced it as “a charade that’s meant to give Democrats a political edge” in 2012.
Oh yes — technically, Clinton’s speech was to nominate Obama. When he finished, convention delegates made it official: President Obama is the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2012.
* Steelworker Featured at DNC Didn’t Work for Bain – The Democratic National Convention on Wednesday featured three speakers billed as “former employees of companies controlled by Bain Capital.” They each told compelling stories about jobs lost, allegedly because of the actions of Bain under Romney’s leadership. But it turns out one of those employees never actually worked for a company controlled by Bain Capital. David Foster was supposedly one of those former employees on the convention schedule. He told the story about 750 steelworkers who lost their jobs when the Bain-controlled company GST steel filed for bankruptcy in the early 1990s. “In 2001, with GST bankrupt and Romney still CEO of Bain, I stood in front of hundreds of steelworkers in their 50s and 60s, and retirees in their 70s and 80s, and told them Romney and Bain had broken their promises. Jobs, vacation pay, severance, health insurance and pension benefits that were promised — they were all gone,” he said. But Foster, according to a former spokesman for GST Steel, never actually worked for the company. “David Foster was never an employee of GST Steel’s Kansas City plant. He was employed by the United Steelworkers of America as their regional union director to represent GST Steel, but was not employed at our facility,” according to BC Huselton, who was head of HR at GST. Instead, Foster was a union organizer, who negotiated for workers that did work for the company. Foster explained in his remarks that he was an organizer during his dealings with GST Steel. But it is not clear from the remarks that he never worked for a company controlled by Bain. Foster was prominently featured in an Obama campaign video, “Romney economics,” where he is identified as lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel. In the video he explains that Bain executives took bonuses even as the company flailed.
* Verdict is in: Obama levels more personal attacks – A crabby, negative campaign that has been more about misleading and marginal controversies than the major challenges facing the country? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can both claim parenthood of this ugly child. But there is a particular category of the 2012 race to the low road in which the two sides are not competing on equal terms: Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign. With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign. Obama, who first sprang to national attention with an appeal to civility, has made these kind of attacks central to his strategy. The argument, by implication from Obama and directly from his surrogates, is not merely that Romney is the wrong choice for president but that there is something fundamentally wrong with him. To make the case, Obama and his aides have used an arsenal of techniques — personal ridicule, suggestions of ethical misdeeds and aspersions against Romney’s patriotism — that many voters and commentators claim to abhor, even as the tactics have regularly proved effective. The unequal distribution of personal putdowns — Obama and his team indulging in them far more frequently than Romney — has been largely obscured by two factors. One is the general negativity of the campaign, buffeted by charge and countercharge on an hourly basis, in which both sides have participated with abandon. The other is the fact that Obama, over four years, has been subjected to so many personal assaults from the right, on issues such as whether he is lying about his place of birth or the content of his college transcripts. Lost in the smoke is the fact that few of the personal assaults — as opposed to political or policy criticisms — have come from Romney or his official representatives. The Romney campaign has leveled charges — on welfare reform, for instance — that take liberties with the truth, but few attacks on Obama as a person. The imbalance is notable in the context of recent history. For more than a generation — since Michael Dukakis got savaged in 1988 and Bill Clinton decried the “politics of personal destruction” in the 1990s — it has been woven into the self-image of many Democrats that they are victims rather than victimizers when it comes to personal attacks.
* Intelligence Committee Chair Describes Explosive Confrontation Between Netanyahu and American Ambassador – Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says that his much-discussed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem late last month did, in fact, devolve into an sharp confrontation between Netanyahu and the American ambassador to Israel, the former National Security Council official (and former Obama campaign Jewish liaison), Dan Shapiro. Rogers told a Michigan radio interviewer earlier this week that he had not previously witnessed such a high-level confrontation, and he described Israeli leaders as being at “wits’ end” over what they see as President Obama’s unwillingness to provide them with his “red lines” in the effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program. He also said that neither the Israelis nor the Iranians believe that Obama would use force to stop the nuclear program. (UPDATE: Rogers said as well he believes the Israelis will “probably” bomb Iran if they don’t get clearer red lines from the U.S.) Rogers description of the meeting directly contradicts repeated Administration assertions that there is “no daylight” on the Iran issue with the Israeli government. Shortly after the meeting took place, Israeli press reports appeared suggesting that Netanyahu and Shapiro had engaged in an argument, but Shapiro soon dismissed those reports, calling them “silly” and saying, “The published account of that meeting did not reflect what actually occurred in the meeting. The conversations were entirely friendly and professional.” Rogers, speaking to WJR radio host Frank Beckmann, painted a very different picture. He said the meeting, originally scheduled to be a discussion of intelligence and technical issues between himself and the prime minister, spun out of control when Netanyahu began lambasting Shapiro over the Administration’s Iran policy. When Beckmann asked Rogers to describe the tenor of the meeting, he said: “Very tense. Some very sharp… exchanges and it was very, very clear the Israelis had lost their patience with the (Obama) Administration.” He went on, “There was no doubt. You could not walk out of that meeting and think that they had not lost their patience with this Administration.”
* Fact check: Obama and Biden at the DNC – In a rousing double-header, Democratic delegates heard Barack Obama and Joe Biden both accept re-nomination on their convention’s final night. And we heard some facts being spun. •President Obama boasted that his plan would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, citing “independent experts.” But one such analyst called a key element of the plan a “gimmick.”
•Vice President Biden quoted GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as saying “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth” to catch Osama bin Laden. Actually, Romney said he’d target more than just “one person.”
•The president said U.S. automakers are “back on top of the world.” Nope. GM has slipped back to No. 2 and is headed for third place in global sales this year, behind Toyota and Volkswagen.
•Biden said “the experts” concluded Romney’s corporate tax plan would create 800,000 jobs in other countries. One expert said that. She also said the number depends on the details, and foreign jobs could grow without costing U.S. jobs.
•Obama quoted Romney as saying it was “tragic” to “end the war in Iraq.” What Romney was criticizing was the pace of Obama’s troop withdrawal, not ending a war.
•Biden claimed Romney “believes it’s OK to raise taxes on middle classes by $2,000.” Romney actually promises to lower middle-class taxes.
•Biden said Romney and running mate Paul Ryan “are not for preserving Medicare at all.” Actually, the plan they endorse would offer traditional Medicare as one option among many.
•Obama said his tax plan would restore “the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president” for upper-income taxpayers. Not quite. New taxes to finance the health care law also kick in next year, further burdening those same taxpayers.
$4 trillion deficit reduction?
Obama exaggerated when he claimed “independent experts” say his deficit-reduction plan would reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Actually, one independent analysis criticized a central part of the president’s plan as a “gimmick.”
In September of last year, Obama released “The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.” The plan purports to generate $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years — including “more than $1 trillion in savings over the next 10 years from our drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
In February, when Obama released his fiscal year 2013 budget, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget criticized the president’s plan for relying on savings from winding down the two wars. Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan group, called it a “gimmick.”
“There are a number of good policies in this budget, but the use of this war gimmick is quite troubling,” said MacGuineas. “Drawing down spending on wars that were already set to wind down and that were deficit financed in the first place should not be considered savings. When you finish college, you don’t suddenly have thousands of dollars a year to spend elsewhere — in fact, you have to find a way to pay back your loans.”
In addition, the president’s plan includes another $1 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act that had been agreed to as part of the deal with Congress to raise the debt ceiling. That’s not new savings, but accounts for already agreed-upon savings.
Biden’s bin Laden baloney
Biden repeated the Obama campaign’s claim — previously made in a Web ad— that Romney said that “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars” to catch Osama bin Laden.
The claim, which Republicans disputed, fails to include the rest of Romney’s quote from an Associated Press story. Romney said the country’s focus should not be on one person, but it should be a “broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement.”
Biden: Folks, Governor Romney didn’t see things that way. When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, here’s what he said. He said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just to catch one person.”
Romney’s quote comes from an interview with the AP in April 2007 — when bin Laden was still alive.
AP: [Romney] said the country would be safer by only “a small percentage” and would see “a very insignificant increase in safety” if al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was caught because another terrorist would rise to power. “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person,” Romney said. Instead, he said he supports a broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement.
* Eastwood: Obama is ‘greatest hoax’ in history – Clint Eastwood isn’t apologizing for his “empty chair” performance last week, and he is stepping up his criticism of President Obama. “President Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” Eastwood told his hometown paper, the Carmel, Calif., Pine Cone this week. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan “would do a much better job running the country, and that’s what everybody needs to know,” Eastwood said. As for his performance at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Eastwood said: “I may have irritated a lot of the lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle.” More from the Eastwood interview: For five days after he thrilled or horrified the nation by talking to an empty chair representing Obama on the night Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president, Eastwood remained silent while pundits and critics debated whether his remarks, and the rambling way he made them, had helped or hurt Romney’s chances of winning in November. But in a wide-ranging interview with The Pine Cone Tuesday from his home in Pebble Beach, he said he had conveyed the messages he wanted to convey, and that the spontaneous nature of his presentation was intentional, too. “I had three points I wanted to make,” Eastwood said. “That not everybody in Hollywood is on the left, that Obama has broken a lot of the promises he made when he took office, and that the people should feel free to get rid of any politician who’s not doing a good job. But I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it.”
* Biden tells DNC: Recovery isn’t complete, but ‘we are on our way’ – In a speech that alternated between a fierce defense of President Barack Obama and strong attacks on the Republican ticket, Vice President Joe Biden accepted the nomination to run for a second term at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night. Biden focused on two of Obama’s biggest decisions — to order to green-light the raid to kill Osama bin Laden and the approval of the taxpayer bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. “Because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made, because of the determination of American workers, and the unparalled bravery of our special forces, we can now proudly say what you’ve heard me say for the last six months — Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive,” he declared. Alluding to the still sluggish economy, he said, “Yes, the work of recovery is not yet complete, but we are on our way. The journey of hope is not yet finished, but we are on our way. The cause of change is not fully accomplished, but we are on our way.
* The big flop! ‘Banal…dull…flat…warmed-over rehash’: Critics savage Obama’s speech as new poll shows NO convention bounce – President Barack Obama is a near-legendary speaker who has been hailed the world over for the beauty of his words, the exquisiteness of his rhetoric and the historical significance of his oratory. But his speech in Charlotte, one of the most crucial junctures of his political career, has been almost universally branded a gigantic flop. Although no polling has been taken since Obama’s speech, it seems that voters have been underwhelmed by the Democratic convention. A new survey indicates that Obama has received no ‘bounce’ from the party gathering. The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll found that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, was still narrowly leading Obama by 45 per cent to 44 per cent among likely voters. Although the poll was taken before former President Bill Clinton’s well-received convention speech, respondents had had the chance to see Michelle Obama’s address, which also attracted much praise. Even on the Left, the response to Obama’s speech has been withering. James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign chief in 1992, said that it was ‘probably not the best speech of the convention’ – echoing the consensus that the addresses by Clinton and Michelle Obama were much better. President Obama’s speech on Thursday night night has been panned by critics on both sides of the aisle Michael Tomasky, a Left-leaning commentator and fierce critic of Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, wrote: ‘Let’s be blunt. Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase.’ Dana Milbank, the Washington Post’s sketch writer and another journalist who could hardly be described as a fan of Republicans, opined: ‘The demigod turned out to be entirely human, and his results were disappointing. ‘On Thursday night, as Obama admitted to “failings”, Democrats who dreamed of the biggest and the best in 2008 were learning to accept good enough.’ Molly Ball of The Atlantic, was mystified by the poor quality of Obama’s speech: ‘The speech was so befuddlingly flat as to make you wonder whether its lameness was intentional. ‘The president, that legendary orator, vaunted crowd-mover, well-known sweeper-away of audiences in general and political conventions in particular, gave a warmed-over rehash of his stump speech.’
* Draghi helps out Obama campaign – Barack Obama’s chances of re-election as US president rose on Thursday and the words that did it were not his but Mario Draghi’s.
Long before Mr. Obama stood up to accept the Democratic nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina, the head of the European Central Bank had sketched out a new plan to buy the bonds of troubled Eurozone countries. That will not move the polls; it will not move a single vote. But Mr. Draghi has lowered the gravest of risks to Mr. Obama: a pre-election meltdown in the Eurozone that would have blown up banks, pulverized Wall Street, and routed a fragile US economy back into recession. If that happened, it would not be Mr. Obama’s fault, but he would get the blame. Just as the failure of Lehman Brothers doomed his rival John McCain in 2008, a Eurozone implosion would create economic odds too great for Mr. Obama to surmount. The Eurozone has barely been mentioned in the US election campaign – swing voters in Ohio care little for Spanish bond yields – but economic advisers to Mr. Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney know its wild card potential.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Obama’s economic team has spent much of the past year fretting about the Eurozone, and working every diplomatic angle to push the Europeans towards a credible solution.
The ECB’s latest action is not the whole solution, but it is a forward step, and one that the central bank hesitated over before taking. Markets rallied strongly when it did.
Dangers remain, not least from Greece, the world’s slipperiest economic banana skin. But if Mr. Obama does win in November, he should thank not just his own elegant words, but the less-than-soaring rhetoric of an Italian central banker.