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Wagers and Wages

12/12/2011

If you follow politics to any degree, I’m sure you’ve heard all about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s infamous $10,000 bet during a televised debate this past weekend. As illustrated in the video above, many if not most reporters and pundits agree that this was a pretty unfortunate move by the normally uber-disciplined Romney. But why? The Washington Monthly‘s Steve Benen pretty much sums up the conventional take on the issue:

As a political story, Mitt Romney’s offer of a $10,000 bet on Saturday night has a lot going for it. The story reinforces allegations that Romney is out of touch and unable to relate to middle-class anxieties; it comes at an awful time for Romney as Newt Gingrich surges; and perhaps best of all for the media, “Willard’s Wager” is amusing and easy to understand.

This follows in line with what’s said in the video above. The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent goes further:

While the $10,000 moment is politically problematic and revealing in some ways, it doesn’t really deserve to rise to the level of national narrative. What’s more deserving of a national storyline about Romney is his serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win. […]

More broadly, political reporters and commentators are always tempted to seize on such moments as the $10,000 bet as defining of a candidate’s character. But this moment is ultimately almost as trivial as was John Edwards’ $400 haircut…. This broader pattern [of dishonesty] is what deserves the status of national narrative about Romney’s character, not some throwaway line about a bet.

While both make valid points, I feel there’s more to this story. More specifically, this incident could be put towards better use besides merely being a passing jab at Romney. The defining issue of the presidential election will ultimately be the economy and whether Americans support Obama’s continued push for infrastructure stimulus and consumer protection or the Republican candidate’s push for deregulation and austerity measures. “Willard’s Wager” highlights this choice.

Romney’s $10,000 bet illustrates why our fiscal policy shouldn’t be centered around fickle millionaires and billionaires like him. A future of deregulation that leaves the economy and consumers vulnerable and measures that cut programs targeted for the middle class would only further the gap between the have and have nots, and that is much more relevant to what’s at stake in next year’s election than how out of touch Romney is. It’s also a winning argument politically and at the heart of why Romney’s bet should be an eye-opener for Progressives.

The Republican ticket wants to put the fate of the economy in the hands of those who can afford to make five-figure wagers like Romney. And as long as our economy’s success is primarily dependent upon a rich person’s capricious discretion, like whether to invest in jobs or make silly bets on national television, inequality will remain and the middle class will continue to rot away.

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What Must Herman Tell Jesus Now?

7/11/2011

Herman Cain's Sunday Morning

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In case you haven’t heard, yet another woman has come forward today detailing inappropriate, sexual advances from Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain. What makes this particular allegation more significant is it came with a public appearance from the victim[1] and the fact that the allegation itself sounds more like sexual assault than mere harassment.

I admit when Cain first announced he was running for the Republican nomination, I assumed he’d be a no-name candidate vying for a fraction of a percentage point. His lack of command of the facts and outrageous, often nonexistent policy stances made him appear as someone looking for a regular seat on Fox News than legitimately attempting to be President one day. Six months later, he’s matching presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney in the polls. Unfortunately for him, the new accusations have an opportunity to not only derail his Presidential hopes (which isn’t hard to do), they could also damage his public image enough to repel Fox and other conservative outlets, hurting potentially lucrative post-election opportunities.

Earlier this year, Cain’s unreleased gospel album entitled Sunday Morning[2] leaked online. It was recorded in the 1990s, which is ironically in the same time period as the allegations are said to have taken place. This wouldn’t be the first time a politician’s put forth such a public display of personal spirituality and morality only to couple it with inappropriate, contradicting actions behind the scenes (especially in the ’90s). Included on it is “I Must Tell Jesus” (above, mp3) which features a swaying piano and baseline carrying a baritone Cain singing about being over-burdened and seeking compassion.

I wonder what Cain’s telling Jesus these days. So far, he’s told everyone else conflicting accounts of the alleged events masked in baseless cries of racism. So far, he’s shown no compassion for the burdened victims (or women in general, considering his stances on women’s reproductive rights). Better yet, what did Cain tell Jesus when confronted with an urge to approach the alleged victims? Ironically, Cain left off a verse from the century old song which contained a few lines addressing that very issue:

…What must I do when worldliness calls me? What must I do when tempted to sin?…

If the answer was to put those events behind him and run for President anyway, he should seek better advice.

  1. Lots of the victim-blaming thus far stupidly revolves around the anonymity of other accusers. []
  2. Album cover designed by me. I was bored. []
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Paging Dr. Romney

13/05/2011

Mittromneycartoon

Ann Arbor, Michigan has been known as a hub of liberal politics and activism since the 1960s. Its residents have voted for laws that sought to decriminalize marijuana and protect abortion rights. The city’s home to the University of Michigan and its history of student activism and anti-war demonstration. And as of right now, all of its city-wide elected positions are held by Democrats. This liberal tradition was preserved today when presumed Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney spoke in Ann Arbor this afternoon and defended An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care, otherwise known as Massachusetts health care reform.

Of course, he demonized President Obama and characterized ‘Obamacare’ as a “power grab.” He pledged that if elected President, his first action would be to issue an executive order stoping the health care law. However when it came to explaining his own healthcare law in Massachusetts, which is very similar to our current health care law, he ran a victory lap. He went so far as to state: “Overall, am I proud of the fact that we did our best for our people and we got people insured? Absolutely.”

This is where Romney’s credibility problem begins. He paints Obama as villain for enacting a law that resembles his own plan as Governor. Is what’s good for the goose also good for the gander? There are arguments to be had that say applying a state-based model of health care reform to a national program is misguided and won’t work. This is essentially Romney’s position. However, added is the questioning of Obama’s intent. He touts his act as Governor as noble and necessary, yet Obama is deceptive and his bill was sinister plot. Conservatives are well aware of this and other discrepancies, and many have been publicly loathing the possibility of a Mitt nomination.

To Romney’s defense, health care reform wasn’t always a partisan issue. Republicans have championed health care reform in the past. In 1974, then President Nixon addressed Congress and called for comprehensive health care legislation that included an employer mandate. The Heritage Foundation, one of the loudest groups opposed to the Affordable Care Act, even helped craft Romney’s health care bill.

The Heritage Foundation in 1996:

News reports and most commentary have focused on two small but controversial provisions in the final bill: requirements that Massachusetts residents purchase health insurance and that businesses with more than 10 workers who don’t offer their employees health insurance pay a per-worker contribution to the state’s uncompensated care pool. But in focusing on those items, most reporters and commentators have missed the truly significant and transformative health system changes that the legislation would set in motion. Some commentators, by getting wrong even the most basic facts of what the legislation actually does, have offered wildly inaccurate interpretations of the bill and its likely effects. (link)

Heritage went on to specifically call the employer mandate provision ‘negligible.’

The Heritage Foundation in March of this year:

State policymakers should begin by assessing their own health insurance challenges related to insurance markets and their Medicaid programs. State lawmakers should look for ways to scale back costly regulations and mandates that drive up premiums and discourage healthy consumers from entering the market. (link)

Romney’s credibility problem is also the Republican party’s credibility problem. They’ve used his flip-flops to hide their own shift on healthcare policy. Ultimately, Romney’s predicament is a testament to insufficient political skill. Frankly, the guy isn’t good at politics. He’s reversed himself on a number of policies, while not always acknowledging his change in views. He’s changed positions on energy policy, campaign finance reform, even a woman’s right to choose (note that Romney’s health care law covers abortion, while the ‘evil’ Obamacare doesn’t).

So how did today’s speech uphold Ann Arbor’s liberal tradition? It symbolizes progress towards making comprehensive health care policy an accepted pillar of American government (if Romney remains the frontrunner). At least at the state level, Mitt Romney believed (and as of today, still believes) government has a responsibility to provide means to health care for all of its citizens. A Republican party that accepts this and nominates Mitt Romney accepts this notion by default. President Obama can beat Romney, but perhaps after such a nomination, we can finally move forward the debate to improving care and lowering costs instead of repeal.

“A lot of the pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, was a boneheaded idea, and I should just admit it was a mistake and walk away from it, and I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that that it would be good for me politically.” Romney refused that advice (indeed his flaky image is a bigger liability for him than his health care support). And while Romney will go on from here and distance himself as much as possible without denouncing his decade old decision, Romney did the right thing in ’96. I’m just glad he realizes it.

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Why Gingrich is Running

9/05/2011

Gingrich Cartoon 050911

Well, this happened today:

The former House Speaker will announce his presidential candidacy Wednesday on Facebook and Twitter, according to his spokesman. Rick Tyler wrote on Twitter Monday morning that Gingrich will make it official, give his first interview as a White House candidate on Fox News, and then speak to Georgia Republicans at their annual convention on Friday.

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