Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Romney's" change": eat our seed corn; Obama's "forward" fertilizes the future

“CHANGE”, Mitt Romney's newest theme, is butting heads with Pres. Obama's “FORWARD”. Obama is making investments in our future a priority. Romney wants to return to the past policies. It is a profound choice ultimately decided by voters who are looking for a candidate whom they can trust to govern in their self interests.

Romney's vision has been a moving target. Which Romney, the pre or post debates version, could we trust to govern? It is most likely he will keep promises to those who brought him to power through the primaries and whose continued support he will need for re-election to a second term. To win the primaries, Romney embraced some extreme positions on women's health held by the religious right, the tax protesting Tea Partiers, and the interventionist neo cons who steered Bush and our country to invade Iraq .

In Debate #1 Romney moved to the center, or so it appeared. He threw a 20 percent tax reduction bone to the middle class, and spoke little about tax cuts to wealthy job creators that he still supported. He professed to feel the pain of the 47 percent he had so disdained in private yet he has never disavowed plans with embracing proposed cuts to the poor's safety net (called immoral by Catholic leaders) and to unspecified programs the middle class treasures. Throughout 2012, he confused leadership of the world with militaristic bluster until he became a verbal peacenik in Debate #3.

Fact checkers and non partisan analysts call Romney's revised tax plans impossible to achieve because there are not enough upper income loopholes to cover the losses of tax income to the treasury. He is making promises which he could never keep without blowing a hole in the deficit or raising middle class taxes and eliminating their deductions. Facts count? Not necessarily. Pledging lower taxes is an ancient, winning political strategy.

Will Romney's riff that Obama's next four years be like the last? No. The International Monetary Fund predicts US growth over the next four years will be 3 percent a year. Respected analysts such as Moody's noted 12 million jobs would be created anyway by just staying the course laid out by Obama. Romney's promise to create 12 million jobs in four years is one pledge he could keep since it will happen even if he is not elected.

On some issues Romney does not need Congress to cooperate. These are promises he can keep. He has pledged to repeal Obamacare, with results that would return the 27 million uninsured to expensive emergency rooms, with no reduction in future health care costs. He has promised executive orders to exempt states from implementing Obamacare and he can choose not to spend money Congress authorized.

We can trust him to overturn Roe v Wade through his Supreme Court nominations that would end 50 years of women's control over their health decisions. The Court needs just one more conservative vote and the Senate approval rarely hinges on a nominees position on a future specific case.

Obama's FORWARD is straight forward. He positions are known and consistent. His plans for the second term are to complete what a stonewalling Congress stopped in 2010, to continue to implement Obamacare and Wall Street reform, and to seek solutions to the deficit similar his own Grand Bargain proposal.

Priorities count. Romney's is “ eat our seed corn” with large cuts in federal budgets: aid to education, investment in research and development, and infrastructure, meaning that the next generations will be stuck in the past for years to come while the rest of the world moves ahead. Obama promises to fertilize the future as he proposes the exact opposite.

Obama's course on balance leads to a better future. Romney can keep his change.

This is the column that appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News on line edition today:
For more, visit and

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why small government is sometimes penny-wise, pound foolish

The New York Times editorial today says it better than I could ever attempt. Plan particular attention to lower part outlining the GOP record over the years regarding FEMA and why Pres. Obama's beefing up FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was the right course and Pres. Bush's weakening FEMA came back to haunt him in Katrina. 

For the video of Romney proposing to privatize, hand it to the states, and ranting against federal emergency management, go to the attached link:

Monday, October 29, 2012

CNN Coverage: Richard Quest's stop in Grand County

Here is the CNN International broadcast schedule of Richard Quest's stop in Grand County in which Felicia Muftic appears:
 You probably can find it on the CNN International site beginning Nov. 3.  This information was found on the CNN USA site.
Plus special programme at the following times:
Saturday 3 November at 0530 GMT / 0630 CET, 1330 GMT / 1430 CET and 2200 GMT / 2300 CET
Sunday 4 November at 0730 GMT / 0830 CET and 2230 GMT / 2330 CET
Tuesday 6 November at 1030 GMT / 1130 CET
Duration: 30 minutes
In the run up to November's Presidential Elections, CNN anchor Richard Quest has embarked on a train journey across America in a series of election reports, American Quest’.
On a ‘whistle-stop tour’ of the Midwest and western states, Quest gauged the pulse of the American voters on a journey as diverse as the United States itself. Starting in Chicago, the adult hometown of President Barack Obama, Quest talked to voters about their concerns this election year.
Taking Amtrak’s California Zephyr line, which stretches from Chicago to near San Francisco, Quest and team made stops in the “swing states” of Iowa and Colorado. The Zephyr also snakes through Utah, home to many of the country’s Mormon voters – and would-be supporters of Mitt Romney. The trail ends in California near San Francisco, one of the most picturesque cities in the United States.
Since the 2004 presidential election, Quest has provided viewers with a unique perspective on American presidential politics from a British journalist’s point-of-view.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Will the next four years be like Obama's last 4 if he's re-elected?

 Highly  recommended Fareed Zakaria's op ed in the Washington Post  who reports the IMF(International Monetary Fund)  projects a 3% growth rate for the US economy over the next four years, thanks to government action taken by Obama and the Federal Reserve....far out performing Europe's.
With Moody's projecting the creation of 12 million new jobs even if Obama is re-elected, Romney's favorite line that if Obama is re-elected, the next four years will be like the last four is just more malarkey.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lessons from Europe are not just about Greece.  The GOP is so fond of scaring the American public about the size of the debt and warning us we will go Greece's way.  In the long term there is no doubt we must clean up the debt. About 40% of the debt is due to the reduction in income to the Treasury that can be cured by economic growth.
There are three  routes on the table: 1) The Paul Ryan plan as embraced by Mitt Romney except for his Debate #1  revisions of additional 20% tax cuts offset by closing loopholes and deductions which every non ideological think tank said would be inadequate to plug the revenue loss.2) the Simpson-Bowles Commission Recommendations to make two dollars of cuts to one dollar of increased revenue, 3) and the Grand Bargain proposed by Pres. Obama, with even more cuts in ratio to  tax increases. Obama's plan is  based on a  more detailed, revised version of Simpson Bowles. However, it  was immediately rejected by the Tea Party controlled House of Representatives because it violated their member's pledge to Grover Norquist never to raise one penny  of taxes.

 The GOP's belief is that one solves the deficit problem in two ways: cut everything  in the budget   and lower taxes on the upper income brackets so that the wealthy invest and the largess trickles down to the middle class and the poor. To achieve a balanced budget would require a 30% cut in government expenditures, either across the board or taking a meat cleaver to specific programs. That approach is called austerity.
Neither Obama nor the GOP have been purists either way because even the 2009 stimulus contained tax cuts and large cuts to government expenditures are also part of the President's Grand Bargain.  Mitt Romney has proposed increasing the Pentagon budget by $2 trillion over 10 years, reducing taxes 20% across the board, keeping the Bush tax rates for the wealthy.  Just increasing Pentagon expenditures alone would  result as  financier Steve Rattner calculated in the need to cut everything else 40%.  

The lesson to learn from Europe is not that debt is bad; it is the wrong way to solve the debt problem.
Nicholaus Kristoff, writing in the New York Times today made the point that Europe tried the austerity approach while Pres. Obama tried low taxes and  government stimulus programs.  While neither  were robust, the stimulus approach has had better results. "The International Monetary Fund this month downgraded its estimates for global economic growth, with only one major bright spot in the West. That would be the United States, expected to grow a bit more than 2 percent this year and next.
In contrast, Europe’s economy is expected to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. The I.M.F. projects that Germany will grow less than 1 percent this year and next, while Britain’s economy is contracting this year."

A  couple of  months ago , my husband and I  spent our vacation  in Europe. . I had   only spotty access to the internet and the international version of CNN and England’s Sky News as my English language contact with the world. I expected it would be just a relaxing, leisurely  getaway  . It was,  but it was also  a learning experience  .
Coverage of English  domestic news  was dominated by the the shake up of the Conservative Government of Prime Minister David Cameron, as he sought to change course.  When he assumed office two years ago, his answer to the world financial crisis was  to slash  many  government funded services   with an unabashed program of austerity.  .  The result in the UK was a double dip recession and  continued high  unemployment numbers , a  contrast  with continued, but slow  US growth and decrease in unemployment  from a high of over 12% to  just over 8%. .  Compared to Europe’s stagnant growth, the US has done much better..  We may think of Obama’s recovery  as either tepid or a failure, but  we have come through the economic crash of 2008 in better shape than Europe.
 Cameron’s change of course  could be taken as  a tacit admission that austerity had failed.. Cameron’s   direction  now differs from the US brand  of  conservatism of  small government, reduced taxes paid for by cuts in social programs . In fact, what Cameron  proposes is  to increase government  investment in infrastructure and education  in order to help business create jobs.  Cameron was attempting to stimulate the economy with more active government participation.  Sound familiar? It should. It resembles the Obama approach in his jobs plan rejected by the GOP dominated House.
 To say that the 2012 presidential  election is not about choice   assumes that any other approach would be better than Obama’s.. While we may be unhappy with the Obama recovery . just firing him  does not mean replacing him with GOP trickle down austerity is  better.  It is possible it could be worse.. .  We need to be aware  the GOP approach has a  track record of failures to recover from a financial  sector meltdown, such as we experienced in  the 2008 Crash, similar to the UK’s recent  experience.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Romney's bad deal for women

Ladies, still conflicted? If you like Mitt Romney's economic plan but also like President Obama's position on women's health, check the fact-checkers.

Mitt Romney is offering you more than a sketchy deal; you are being presented with a bad one. The GOP wants women to trade 40 years of struggle of women to control their own health decisions in return for economic plans that are impossible.

Romney's “clear vision” for the economy is a mirage. Romney's newest proposal promises lowered taxes by 20 percent for all. There has not been a financial analyst, even the six partisan ones Romney cites, who says cutting the wealthy's loopholes will offset the loss in tax revenue of $5 trillion over 10 years.

Both Tampa Bay and Annenberg Foundation agreed with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center's conclusion that what Romney proposes is “mathematically impossible.” The middle class will then be stuck with either $2,000 per-year per-family in higher taxes or elimination of deductions for mortgages, education, and charity, or the deficit will explode. ( called Romney's claim that Obama would raise middle class taxes by $4,000 “nonsense.”)

Romney proposes another $3 trillion to continue Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and pump up the Pentagon. Financier Steve Rattner (New York Times, 10/14) concluded that to pay for these, 40 percent would have to be cut from a list which includes education, child care, child health coverage, school lunches, Head Start, military pensions, and more.

Washingtonpost/blogs/fact-checker on Oct. 16 gave Romney's five-point plan to add 12 million jobs four “Pinocchios,” called it bait and switch, and said it did not add up. Moody's Analytics predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. Macroeconomic Advisors also predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs. Obama will reach the 12 million goal just staying his course.

Romney moans that women have lost more than hundreds of thousands jobs under Obama, but women's unemployment rate was a full percentage below men. concluded “Romney's figure was six times too high … with the large majority (of jobs) lost before Obama was sworn in.”

The GOP deal? They want to make it harder and more expensive for women to work. If there is one single factor that has enabled women to work, it is control over their reproduction schedule. Romney and the GOP want to repeal Obamacare. Doing so would reinstate high co-pays for mammograms and pap smears and would allow insurance companies to charge women more for health insurance than for men.

Romney supports allowing all employers to refuse insurance to cover birth control.

Mitt Romney is pledged to appointing members to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal. Romney is committed to defunding Planned Parenthood, the low income service that provides women health services from birth control to cancer screenings. (Federal money is already forbidden by law to fund abortions). Romney endorsed a Mississippi personhood initiative giving fertilized eggs full legal protection, which would have effectively banned some forms of birth control and all abortions.

Women's pay is around 80 cents on the dollar to a man's pay for the same job. The Republicans opposed the Lilly Ledbetter act signed by President Obama to help women sue for such discrimination. In Debate No. 2, Romney avoided supporting it with his infamous “binder full of women” attempt to connect with women, leaving the impression he had never met competent women in his prior career.

I have no desire to see my two daughters and two granddaughters return to the 1950s, but that is what women are being asked to trade off. It is a deal women should refuse.

Also published in the Sky Hi Daily News today

Who do you trust is the right question

In (Romney, Obama) we trust?  Pick one and ask ourselves whom we can trust to do what. Here is a case for trusting Pres. Obama over Gov. Romney .  Obama is on to something when he couches Romney’s last minute  90 degree turn to the center on both domestic and foreign policy issues  as “Romnesia” . Making  “who do you trust?” is  the logical follow up question Obama is now asking .
 The question we should be asking ourselves  is  which Romney  can we trust to  show up in the White House if he is elected?  Whose interests will he represent  in negotiating the profound budget reduction issues and in making the judgment calls on foreign policy in a very dangerous world?
We can trust Obama to carry on, to support legislation that even Congress stopped in his first term.  His newest “pamphlet” on his plans for the next term is simply a compilation of these.    Staying the course will also  12 million jobs in four years anyway, according to two of our most respected business analysts. 
The GOP’s favorite  line is that Obama  did not live up to   promises so  he has failed  to earn your trust by his own measure .  That has a hollow ring since so many of those promises  Obama  made were uttered  before he  was sworn in and the depth of the recession was  known.  Otherwise, the stimulus did create 3 million jobs as promised; the auto industry bailout worked, and the health care law was passed. The economy did not fall into the Great Depression 2, as it was headed in 2008,  and the current  trend lines show recovery in every sector, including jobs. . On foreign policy, Obama’s  pledge to get Bin Laden, to keep us safe from attack , and to get us out of our long wars have been or are being kept.
When Congress flipped into  Tea Party control in 2010, the GOP in Congress was able to block any of  Obama’s remaining agenda, from short term job creation to a Grand Bargain on deficit reduction.
Do we believe Romney’s true moderate self has emerged and we should take  his last most current position  as the real deal, even though it contradicts the position he held the prior  month?  Or do we look at it as a candidate willing to do what  it takes to be elected,  realizing the track he was on for the past year of campaigning was not winning?  Or do we consider to  whom he is beholden?
 Romney has shown no consistent allegiance to ideological values or even economic realities , abandoning them and supporting them when it advances his political fortunes or caters to his political backers. He even proposes an  age old political ploy of proposing a tax reduction to the middle class, even though there is no mathematically plausible possibility  to pay for it.
  If he dreams of a second term,  Romney will have to  live up to his obligations to the advisers and  supporters who are  responsible for his success to date.. They  are Tea Party people, big corporations and the wealthy, and neo cons   who have  supported intervention in  middle east conflicts  in the Bush administration. By his friends shall you know him.
What we can trust Romney to do is  to carry   through on commitments he made through the primaries and  the general election campaign  that have not changed:   overturn Roe v Wade, repeal of Obamacare, keeping 27 million in the ER for health care  ,  restoration of high costs for women's health and senior’s medication, and  elimination of  the guarantee  that Medicare will cover future health care costs .We can trust Romney to favor the “job creators”, the code word for the already wealthy,  in any tax reform , budget proposals and regulatory policy negotiations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate #3, Obama wins, but will it make a difference?

Mitt Romney, disguised as Little Sir Echo,    flew into the presidential debate   on the wings of a dove. Mitt  Romney etched a sketch as only wanting peace as he  tried to avoid being branded  Mr. Bluster and Blundering Interventionist War Monger ("bellicose" was the Democrat's  operative code word pre debate).   Obama was ready for him and pinned him on his  frequent metamorphoses and initial wrong headed  judgment calls that he changed later to agree with the President.  We are asked to trust Romney?  We should wonder which Romney will show up if he makes it to the White House?  Will he bring his neo-con advisers with him, the same ones that talked us into invading Iraq? With no firm commitment to any policy, unless it benefits him at the moment, how can we be sure he would not flip back to the neo con position later?

 The President presented the voters with  the choice between more military spending or more domestic spending and investment and he presented himself as a dependable, steady hand on the wheel that has been consistent since day one.

It will take a few days for us to see how the polls play out and whether it will make any difference. Common wisdom is that voters do not care about foreign policy this year (it is indeed the economy) and that challengers have an advantage because they can make wilder accusations since they are not bound by being knowledgeable about state secrets or  responsible for  official policy.  However, Obama did succeed in tying foreign policy to  domestic economic issues of prime interest to voters and in that regard he  may have pulled off a coup.

If Obama can stress these points,(cannot trust him; need nation building at home )  in ads and every opportunity he can in the next two weeks, it might make a difference.  The time clock is running and the two minute drill is needed,
Pres. Obama dominated the debate by using every opportunity to anticipate well publicized  GOP criticisms  and to make  pre emptive strikes, bringing up the topic first , making his case, and forcing Romney to respond. Romney was left either agreeing or splitting some hairs, and sometimes just repeating the talking points for which he had prepared in advance.

Obama's strategy was most evident in his personalized  riff on Israel , showing  empathy and  reaffirming the US would defend Israel if Iran attacked.. Obama's  unkindest dig at Romney occurred when he  recalled his trip  to Israel as a candidate almost as if it were a pilgrimage while he contrasted his visit with Romney  who had treated his recent trip  like a campaign fund raiser. For those not following the preceding campaign back and forth on Israel, they may have wondered why the attention. It had much to do with the Florida east coast vote and Jewish support elsewhere.

 If Obama accomplished anything with his strong performance, it was to make GOP attack lines ring hollow  that he was leading by behind.  He made a strong case for his accomplishments,  made it clear he knew where he was going and what he intended to do.  By being an echo, Romney looked like he was the one leading from behind Obama..

 Some lines of the debates were more about Ohio and women than they were about foreign policy.  The issue of interest to the Midwest is indeed saving the auto industry. The question raised  is whether or not Romney had asked for government  underwriting of bankruptcy, If he had, it was a startling fact never before disclosed to the public or even mentioned by Romney before this debate  or  in his infamous op ed in the New York Times headlined with “let them go bankrupt” .  
 What fact checkers and investment bankers said at the time was that the capital markets were frozen and there was no private sector money  to keep the doors open while the auto industry  reorganized.  The ripple effect would have been huge as the suppliers and even more  dealers went under, unbailed out and too dead  to be revived.  The government had to provide the capital because no private capital was available so Obama stepped in with the bailout.  Romney as an investment guy should have known that, or if he did, he was making a political point and a dishonest one. Those auto workers know that and so do the suppliers. Why is this critical? Ohio, heavily dependent on auto manufacturing,  is probably the most important state that will determine the outcome of the election. Without it, neither candidate can win.

So far as women were concerned, the CNN instant tracking focus group of undecided showed the approval register rose every time the President mentioned that the US needs to invest more into education (instead of $2 trillion for the military Romney proposed  which the Pentagon never asked for).  That is the tradeoff.  More money for the military or for education and domestic programs that build our nation ?  As Obama put  it so clearly : we should not be nation building abroad; we should be nation building at home. That may be the best line of the night for a war weary electorate nervous about their economic future.

CNN instant polls of debate viewers, weighted toward Republicans, still awarded the President the win  by about 8 points.

Here is Romney’s reference to a bailout check in the New York Times op ed and note there was no reference to a federal guarantee of a bailout, just refinancing and establishing a new auto maker after the doors were closed.  Of course, there was no private capital available to be guaranteed by government and that is the fatal flaw of his position.  He wrote:  The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.
In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.”


How Obama can link Romney's foreign policy with the economy

In a prior blog, I linked Romney’s proposal to increase spending on the Pentagon by $2 trillion over ten years, an increase that was never requested by the Pentagon needed to meet the threats in the world.  The $2 trillion was also never in the controversial Ryan budget that even then did not reduce the deficit per the Congressional Budget Office.   How to pay for that over the top expense is where the rub is, and the cuts to all discretionary and even non-discretionary spending, would be 40%. 
There is another point:  If Romney is painted by Obama tonight as more bellicose and willing to intervene in Middle East conflicts, what will that cost us in terms of treasure, not to mention blood? Tied to that is how to pay for it.  One of the reasons George W Bush left Obama a $10 trillion deficit is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not paid for. Instead, huge tax cuts were given that failed to stimulate the economy after 9/11.   In short, unless taxes are raised or draconian cuts in the social safety net and education, infrastructure development, and everything else not military, the economy will be in a more desperate position than it is now.  What improvements we have seen, a booming Wall Street, recovering housing market, consumer confidence, significant reduction in unemployment, creation of more private sector jobs, will be halted if not reversing our recovery.