2012/04/28

The Hunger Games

Very cool! Our heroine, Katrina Everdeen (Played by Jennifer Lawrence), manages to combine both ninja babe-style fighting competence and solid, down-to-earth humanity and decency. Our dictator looks more and more troubled as the movie progresses because, well, no matter how solid and stable a dictatorship appears to be, the whole carefully-built house of cards can collapse rather quickly. Many of the players who should be brutally and mindlessly playing the roles assigned to them display stubborn flashes of human solidarity, for something better and higher than mere survival-at-any-cost. These flashes are counter to their self-interest of course, which is what's ultimately so inspiring about the film.

2012/04/25

Primary season truly begins

With convincing victories in several large states, Mitt Romney is now firmly cemented as the Republican nominee for President (With the sad exception of Newt Gingrich and no one ever expected Ron Paul to win anyway). Romney's speech on victory night was very good in some respects.


Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less. For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – ...

My question is, of course, how did this sad state of affairs come about? As CEPRs "Scorecard on Development" series shows, these are hardly problems that suddenly began on January 21st, 2009. They are problems that the Republican Party has been actively collaborating in creating for the past 30+ years. Europe has been trying to do things according to Republican blueprints for the past several years and now appears to be undergoing a real change of heart.

The public generally doesn’t know what the technical economic solutions are, and the media keeps telling them, falsely, there are no good alternatives, because the deficit hysterics still control a conversation disconnected from the reality staring them in the face.  But voters now know their elites don’t have a clue and don’t seem to care that the elite solutions fashioned mostly for banks and bond holders are worsening the human suffering without solving any underlying economic problems.

Does the Romney speech contain any ideas for how we solve our economic problems? I certainly didn't hear any new or potentially workable or even interesting ideas and actually, solutions are precisely where Romney's speech really falls short.

Then we get into Romney’s vision….
Romney never makes the turn to how he would achieve this America. Believing in it is apparently enough. The end result isn’t so much a preview of how Romney would govern the country as a game of “I Spy: America the Beautiful” edition.
At least back in 2010, President Obama realized that the solution to an insufficiently stimulated economy was more stimulus and tried to get some through a Congress where the Republican Party could significantly obstruct and delay Democratic programs.

The Democrats have a better way, the Republicans just want more of the same disastrously failed policies that got us into this mess to begin with.

2012/04/14

The Rosen-Romney spat and other campaign issues

Mitt Romney awarded his wife Ann the sorta, kinda official-like position of the representative of America's women to the Romney campaign/future administration. Was Ann qualified to hold such a position? According to CNN contributor Hilary Rosen:


What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.
Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we -- why do we worry about their future?

Is the claim that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life" true? Actually, if you want to get all technical about it, yes, that is true. The Federal Government does not classify being a stay-at-home mother and homemaker as "work." Nevertheless, Romney found defenders everywhere who were outraged that her many years of being a mother of five sons and a homemaker were being contemptuously brushed aside. The First Lady promptly tweeted: "Every mother works hard and every woman deserves to be respected."

Of course, nobody has challenged the sentence after that because it's so clearly and obviously true. Romney was a child of wealth and privilege who married into a family of wealth and privilege. Romney has never suffered any kind of economic insecurity and has never had to choose between, say, health insurance and a third meal for the day for her boys. A mother who came to motherhood late in life explains:

But Romney nevertheless had a huge advantage over mothers with less money: She could hire help. She could engage baby sitters, nannies, cooks and housecleaners.
That doesn't mean she didn't find her days filled with managing schedules, overseeing homework, buying new sneakers and, yes, even wiping snotty noses. With five kids, she probably never had enough help around to avoid that duty.
Still, Romney's experience of motherhood is significantly different from that of moms around the country whose family incomes hover at the median of $50,000 a year.

Romney later said:

"Look, I know what it's like to struggle. Maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have, but I can promise you that I've had struggles in my life. And I would love for people to understand that Mitt and I have compassion for people that are struggling, and that's why we're running."

Which us all very fine and well, but her husband has endorsed the "Path to Prosperity" plan put out by Representative Paul Ryan (R-MI) that would cut deeply and savagely into benefits for those who are less wealthy and privileged that the Romney family is. According to the economist Dean Baker, the Ryan budget plan:

...essentially eliminates [by 2050] all spending on items other than Social Security, health care and defense. By the end of the 10-year budget horizon most of the areas that we think of as the domain of the federal government (e.g. federal highways and airports, federal courts and law enforcement, drug research and safety, the State Department and Justice Department) will be cut by around 50 percent under the Ryan plan.

It's all very fine and well for Ann Romney to "have compassion for people," but how does that "compassion" translate into actual policy proposals? Well...it doesn't.

Bottom line is that Mitt Romney doesn't need to fire his wife as the Romney campaign's liaison to American women, but he needs to find other representatives to tell him what American women are feeling and going through. His wife Ann is a good start, but she knows about the economic struggles of American women essentially second-hand, from people she has spoken with on the campaign trail, blog posts,magazine articles, TV shows and probably books. She can't contribute any wisdom on how non-millionaires are dealing with the economy these days through her own personal experience.


Speaking of the Ryan "Path to Prosperity," Roman Catholic theologians, priests, nuns, social workers and others have condemned the Ryan plan:

If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and healthcare away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder,” said John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life. “This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda."

Allegedly, Ryan wants to liberate the poor from dependency on the government, but the 59 Catholics say that his plan is "anathema to the Catholic social tradition."


Also, Obama has decided to put his full weight behind getting the "Buffett Rule" put into legislation. Is there any chance that any such legislation will pass? Nah, but it's a good campaign issue as it reveals a stark difference between the two parties.  Right-wing media sources have decided on some pushback. The Washington Beacon has charged that "[Obama] has yet to propose a comprehensive plan to reform the byzantine tax code," but the Obama Administration has begun work on exactly that. Problem is, tax simplification is a good deal harder and more complex and much less likely to produce new revenues than simply raising taxes would. Every provision in the tax code was put in there by majorities of Congress. Nothing is there that hasn't been considered and argued over and voted on. If a provision is in there, it's there for a defensible and probably a justifiable reason.

As far as other campaign issues go, Mitt Romney has come down firmly on the anti-abortion side of the abortion issue. And no, there's no reason to think that the Republican "War on Women" has been halted or that the two sides are now equal because of the outrage concerning Ann Romney and Hillary Rosen.

George Zimmerman appeared in court and invoked the "Stand Your Ground" law as a justification for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, that was pressed by ALEC,the American Legislative Exchange Council that writes bills that are later adopted, often wholesale, by right-wing legislatures. The good news is that corporations have been having second thoughts about staying with ALEC and have begun withdrawing their support.