When a Tax Cut isn’t a Tax Cut and other Presidential Race Related Meanderings
So I was in the midwest vacationing and visiting family. I don’t have cable at home, so I wash myself in the cable news when I’m spending any kind of time in a hotel (or rented home with cable). I don’t know why I do it. I’m usually fuming by the time I switch it off. It’s not just Fox News that pisses me off. CNN is actually worse in a way, because you expect them to be journalists along the lines of Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather. The only real news anymore is McNeil-Lehrer, which is deemed “heady” for market standards, but really isn’t much different from the CBS World News Tonight in the Cronkite era. Our standards have just lowered.
Yes, there’s a meme out there about the “liberal media establishment,” which basically consists of all media not owned by Murdoch or the Moonies. And the ascent of Fox ratings, along with the push for entertainment format, clearly has the mainstream media grovelling to avoid even the impression of liberal bias. As FAIR has pointed out, right wingers are interviewed on the talking head shows much more frequently than liberals – even on McNeil-Lehrer. So when they are compelled to report that the Swift Boaters are slandering a liberal candidate like John Kerry, they feel obliged to point out the Kerry played with some statistics to make some obscure argument about the economy and report the two occurrences in some equivalent fashion. Or when President Bush, after having referred to his Social Security “reform” package as privatization, then freaked out when his focus groups didn’t like the term, declared that any reporter using the term “privatization” to describe his plan was foregoing objectivity and showing political bias. And the “liberal media” more often than not, caves – the conservatives having played the ref effectively.
So it was that last week I was watching a daytime CNN show hosted by a woman named Soledad O’Brien. I think I have the name right anyway. She was reporting on the conflict over the potential sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts. As before, Obama is pushing a bill which will preserve the cuts for 99 percent of the public, and calling for a separate vote on the other two percent. The Republicans are well on message, claiming that Obama is exhibiting political gamesmanship (truth to tell, he is, but that’s really beside the point), and intending to filibuster (if necessary) any bill which does not incorporate the top one percent as well (who would still get the lion’s share of the cuts under Obama’s plan as well).
Anyway, the point is that the Republicans are willing to hold the 99 percent hostage in order to preserve the massive cuts for the top. But not only was O’Brien careful to avoid that point, she would not even refer to Obama’s plan as a tax cut plan. She talked about Republicans trying to sell their tax cut plan and Obama trying to sell his “economic message.” That Republicans in voting to kill Obama’s plan are actually essentially voting for a tax increase for the middle class didn’t even come up in explicit terms (I did switch over to Chuck Todd on MSNBC, and he did ask the question, though avoided the “hostage” terminology the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is using – the response from the Republican Governor of New Hampshire was that the Republicans wouldn’t be voting for a tax increase (and thus they wouldn’t be violating their lame oath to Grover Norquist, who will probably give special dispensation as he did with the payroll tax vote) because a few Democrats in the Senate (McCaskill, Tester, and others in tough reelection races) opposed “Obama’s economic plan” as well. But O’Brian wouldn’t touch it. It was Republicans for tax cuts and Democrats opposed, with Obama trying to be cute. She asked some Republican whose name I don’t remember if they would be willing to hold two separate votes, he didn’t give her a straight answer, and she didn’t press.
So here’s the graph that tells the story. I think it gets bigger if you double click on it.
The mantra is that Obama’s plan impacts small businesses. It does. about three percent of them.
Democrats are pressing Romney on the hostage issue, but they should be pressing Republicans in the Senate and House, and their own conservatives. It appears, with regard to the latter, that Reid did just that. The Republicans were calling his bluff and a vote, so they wouldn’t have to filibuster. But it looks like Reid won over a few of the scared conservative Democrats, and now the Republicans are scrambling for a strategy. Looks like they’ll have to filibuster the extension of middle class tax cuts.
By the way, the more people learn about “Obamacare,” the more they like it, myself included. So says the recent polling.
Purely as a strategy, it appears that Obama’s attacks on the Bain issue are drawing blood, partly due to Romney’s lame response, which is reminiscent of Kerry in response to the Swift Boat libelers. Between the SCOTUS decision and the weak jobs report, you would think Romney would have Obama on the ropes right now. Obama has him cornered for the moment, and Romney and his surrogates are just digging a deeper hole. The polling in key states has Obama with a big electoral vote advantage, and Nate Silver has his chances of reelection at 66 percent.
The gist of the controversy, for those of you who never watch cable news, is that Romney had previously bragged about his performance at the company. Then it turned out that much of their profitability came at the expense of American workers as they made an art out of increasing productivity with outsourcing. All of the sudden Romney claimed that he wasn’t so involved with Bain, and in fact he wasn’t involved at all from 1999 to 2002 when he was managing the Olympics in Utah. The problem is that the SEC filings for the company list him in various positions, such as “Managing Member” in 2002, which he says were essentially in title only. Obama’s team came out aggressively, claiming that either Romney is lying now, or committed a felony in misrepresenting his involvement to the SEC back then. This has Romney’s team whining loudly, demanding apologies, etc. – but it doesn’t have Romney showing everyone his tax returns so we can know whether he was paid a salary for doing nothing. Even some of his Republican buddies are asking him to do just that.
Previously reported evidence shows that Romney was listed as the CEO, chairman and president of the company after 1999 in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission; took a six-figure salary; signed corporate documents related to major and minor deals and attended board meetings for at least two Bain-affiliated companies. The state document was filed two and a half years after Romney now says he retired from the company, demonstrating his deep and ongoing connection to the firm.
The mountain of evidence that Romney had a connection to the firm after 1999 leaves him with two possible explanations, neither of them political appealing: Either Romney was officially in charge of the company but took no actual responsibility for it, or he was involved then and is either lying or shading the truth now.
The Sunday talking head shows this morning were all about Bain Capital and the SEC, with Romney’s surrogates on the defense. Karl Rove, famous for “taking his opponent’s strengths and turning them into weaknesses” was practically begging Obama to ease up. But Obama and other Democrats taste blood. And then there’s this ad, on par with Reagan’s “out of gas” commercial in 1980.
It’ll probably die down soon, but Josh Marshal explains why this last week may have been crucial to the campaign. Whether Romney did anything wrong, it has him running from his own record. Bain was supposed to be a political boon – an example of his private sector savvy and leadership. It’s probably gone, and I wonder if he’ll even mention Bain come the convention.
For the record, Factcheck.org maintains its prior analysis that Romney was not in charge of Bain when it did all that outsourcing. They consulted a law professor who told them that SEC filings routinely contain names of people holding positions in title only, rather than reporting the people doing the actual work. If they’re correct, it certainly suggests that the SEC and the laws they are supposed to be enforcing are a farce. What’s the point of requiring the reports if they don’t name the person to be held accountable?
Jill E. Fisch, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and co-director of the Institute for Law and Economics, said Romney would not have committed a felony by listing himself as managing director — even if he now claims he had no role in running the company after February 1999. There is no legal obligation to describe how active one is in the day-to-day management of the company, she said. And just because he held title of managing director doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s responsible for decisions like layoffs or outsourcing.
“If that really mattered to investors, they might consider that a civil liability, but we wouldn’t be talking about a felony,” she said.
We would reassess our judgment should somebody come up with evidence that Romney took part in specific management decisions or had any active role (not just a title) at Bain after he left to head the Olympics. But nothing we’ve seen directly contradicts Romney’s statements — which he has certified as true under pain of federal prosecution — that he “has not had any active role” with Bain or “been involved in the operations” of Bain since then.
I don’t know. I normally have great respect for Factcheck.org, but there seems to be a profound lack of questioning on their part as to why he would be named “managing member” when he has no involvement? They just seem to accept that as factual and sensible, as if it’s self-evident. Maybe there’s a legit reason to do that, but they certainly haven’t provided one.
One of the big concerns for Democrats are the nullification laws being passed by Republican-held legislatures in key states, such as Pennsylvania. Nate Silver analyzes the potential effect.
Sarah Palin has not been invited to the GOP convention. I think it’s safe to rule her out as a VP candidate.
Lastly, lest you think I’m overjoyed about Obama’s reelection, another reason to demand that he boot Tim Geitner right out of his cabinet – knowing full well that it won’t happen.