Romney, the Republican Party, and the 47%

Now we know what Mitt Romney thinks of nearly half of the American people. Thanks to a surreptitious recording made at a Romney fundraiser that was released Monday we get to hear it in Mitt’s own words: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

First of all, he is simply factually wrong in the assumption that the supposed 47% of the populace who pay no income tax is the same 47% who may support President Obama for reelection. The truth is, a significant portion of Romney’s support comes from people who pay no income tax. The top ten states in the number of their citizens who pay no income taxes are strongly Republican states, such as Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, and others mostly in the Republican solid south.

Next, it should be pointed out that just because people don’t pay income taxes doesn’t mean they’re getting a free ride or looking for handouts. Most of them don’t pay income taxes because they are living in poverty or at least don’t make enough to qualify as having taxes due on their income. Some are unemployed, and so are earning no income to tax. Many don’t pay income taxes because they qualify for income tax credits related to having minor children in their homes. Others don’t pay income taxes because of other legal deductions, such as, writing off mortgage interest and large medical expenses, or even because they pay into IRA accounts or 401K programs to help subsidize their future retirements.

The other big block of people who don’t pay income taxes are those who are retired living on Social Security and private pensions who no longer generate earned income. Mr. Romney even belongs to a select group of people who pay little or no income tax. Those whose income is derived from capital gains rather than earned income.

Also, just because someone may not pay income taxes, it doesn’t relieve them of the burden of paying payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, and sundry other taxes, fees, and assessments to the various governmental taxing entities that are a part of our daily lives. It’s not that they don’t pay any taxes, it’s just that they don’t pay income taxes, so the charges of getting a free ride certainly don’t apply to the majority of those people.

This whole business of denigrating those who pay no income tax is a dangerous and complicated one, politically, and Mr. Romney’s broad-brush inclusion of all of them into the same demographic as those he calls “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, etc.” is a particularly dangerous one for his campaign. To automatically place the waitress who is working eight or ten or more hours a day for tips in the same box as the lay-about who doesn’t want to work no matter what, is not likely to get Mr. Romney a vote from the industrious working poor in this country.

Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey. And of all the industrialized nations on Earth, the average work week of the American working class is the highest in number of hours worked. Americans also get the least vacation and leisure time of any industrialized nation.

When he describes people who “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing,” paid for out of what he calls “entitlement programs,” he is putting retirees who worked hard and paid into Social Security and Medicare so that those programs would be there for them into the same corner as those who have never worked and want those things from their government. Speaking as a retiree who worked for 45 years to have a few years of leisure, a privilege for which I paid what was asked of me, I can’t believe that many thinking, informed retirees would vote for a man who holds them in such disdain.

Romney shows his true feelings for those who really do the work that makes this country great and makes it run, when he says in the recording, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

His job is not to worry about those people? He’s right, of course, right now it isn’t his job. Besides deciding where to hide his money for the lowest tax rate, his only other job is running for President of the United States. If, perish the thought, he was to be elected to that office and still didn’t feel it was his job to look out for the well-being of all of the American people, then he wouldn’t deserve to be President. You see, you can’t just be the president of part of the people and ignore the rest. You are president of all the people, or you shouldn’t be president of any of the people. Mr. Romney says that’s not his job and maybe that’s a pretty major reason not to vote him into that position.

Romney and the Republican party have lost their vision of the social contract between government and the people. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

Yes, today’s Republican is not your father’s Republican, and Mr. Romney isn’t his father’s image of what a Republican is or should be. The question is, will there be any pieces left to pick up after November and rebuild a viable, forward-looking, operative Republican party of the future?

Yes We Are Better Off

Are we better off since President Obama took office? That’s been the question most often asked across the country lately, it seems. Republicans would have us think that we’re not, but in my opinion they are completely, and factually, wrong. One accomplishment after another goes unrecognized and/or forgotten, so maybe it’s time to refresh our memories. Here’s a partial list of accomplishments of the Obama Administration:

• Auto Industry saved
• Got North Korea to stop enriching uranium
• Iraq war ended
• Bin Laden dead
• Nuclear weapons reduced by 1/3 in US & Russia
• Stock market more than doubled
• Turned around the plummeting job loss number of the Bush Administration
• U.S Gross Domestic product went from steady decline to increasing every ¼ of the Obama Presidency
• Ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
• Settled Libya problem in 60 days with no American casualties or use of ground troops
• Got more Taliban leaders in 30 days than Bush/Cheney did in 6 years
• Insurance companies must cover pre-existing conditions
• Kids stay on their parent’s insurance until 26 under certain conditions
• Requires health plans to disclose how much of premium goes to patient care
• Prevents children from being denied health insurance coverage
• Cut prescription drug cost for Medicare recipients by 50%
• Requires large employers to contribute to a national healthcare plan
• Spending growth under Obama lower than that of both Bushes, Nixon, Carter & Reagan
• Temporary suspension of taxes on Unemployment benefits
• Jail population decline for first time in decades
• Wind power growth up 39%
• Instituted the toughest Wall Street reform since Great Depression
• Passed health reform: Others tried & failed over the last 60 years
• Insurance companies can no longer drop you when you get sick
• Stimulus Plan which brought us out of the brink of financial collapse
• Amped budgets at NASA & National Science Foundation
• Expanded state run health insurance to cover additional four million kids
• Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – Equal pay for equal work
• Global initiative keeping nuclear material out of hands of terrorists
• Hate crimes prevention act (Matthew Shepard Act)
• FDA for first time allowed to regulate tobacco
• Eliminated scandal plagued Mineral Management Services
• Overhauled the astonishing stupidity of the student loan system
• Cancelled bloated weapons program including useless F-22
• Stopped Russia supplying $1 billion of high-tech missiles to Iran promised by Bush
• $14 billion in federally funded loans to stimulate job creation
• Taxes cut for 95% of working families
• Passed 16 different tax cuts for American small business owners
• Fought GOP for Health benefits for 9/11 responders
• Consumer spending increase
• Orders for durable goods increase
• Ryan White AIDS Treatment Act
• Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president
• Expanded loan program for small businesses
• Increased funding for National Parks and Forests
• Led effort to phase out whaling
• Funding for high speed broadband internet access to students K-12
• $26 billion to states saving 160,000 teacher jobs among other things
• Helped rebuild schools in New Orleans
• Doubled research funds for cleaner fuel
• $2 billion to solar power
• Raised fuel economy standards
• Cash for clunkers
• Limited mercury emissions
• Eliminated oil company liability caps for oil spills
• Ordered BP to provide $20 billion liability fund for damages from spill
• Mandated new safety rules for offshore drilling
• World opinion of US improves significantly since Obama takes office
• Return rights of Americans to  visit and assist their families in Cuba
• Renewed loan guarantees to Israel
• Pressured Israel to end Gaza blockade
• Nuclear arms agreement with India
• Agreement with Switzerland to bolster tax information exchange
• Cut salaries of senior White House officials
• Prevented congress from receiving cost of living pay raise
• Established a Patient’s Bill of Rights
• Expanded vaccinations program
• Same-sex partners assured visitation & healthcare decision rights
• $8 billion to establish smart power grid
• $13 billion for high-speed rail in 13 major US corridors
• Major expansion of AmeriCorps
• Committed US to almost 5 million charging station by 2015
• Expanding broadband internet
• Improved benefits for veterans
• New and improved hiring policy for veterans
• Ended media blackout on war casualties
• Increased access to PTSD treatment for soldiers and veterans
• Reconstruction of military to reflect modern-day threats & technology
• Ended torture
• Recommitted the U.S. to  full compliance to the Geneva Conventions
• Cut missile defense system by $1.4 billion
• Increased pay benefits to military personnel
• Began draw-down of war in Afghanistan
• Ordered Seal operation to free of US captain held by pirates
• Negotiated nuclear arms agreement with Australia, India, & Russia
• Increased Navy patrol of Somali coast
• Provided $210 Million for building and upgrading fire stations
• Ordered extensive review of hurricane & natural disaster preparedness
• Edward Kennedy Serve America Act: Expands national volunteer program
• Removed restrictions and provided support of embryonic stem cell research
• Worked with international allies on International Space Station
• Used private sector to improve space flight
• Used Space Station for fundamental biological and physical research
• Established consumer tax credit for plug-in hybrid cars
• $60 billion in spending & tax incentives for renewable & clean energy
• For first time in 13 years America’s dependence on foreign oil below 50%
• Tax breaks to promote public transit
• Income floor for medical expense deductions for individuals 65 & older
• Health insurance tax credits & subsidies for incomes to 4x poverty level
• Tax increase for corporations with assets of at least $1 billion
• Closed offshore tax safe havens, tax credit loopholes
• Tax bills hit lowest level since 1950
• Tax refunds up 10 percent due to stimulus
• Imposed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House
• Limits White House aides working for lobbyists after tenure in office
• Closed lobbyist loopholes with respect to the Recovery Act
• Banned lobbyist gifts to executive employees
• DOD will film all interrogations
• Created more jobs in 2009 than Bush in his entire presidency
• Gets 47 nations to agree to 4 years non-proliferation efforts
• Forced airlines to disclose prices upfront
• Helped clean out weapons-usable uranium from 6 countries
• Number of oil rigs in US oil fields has quadrupled in past three years
• US now has more rigs at work than the rest of the world put together
• First time since 1949 we now export more gas than we import
• Rescued hostages held by Somalia Pirates with precision mission
• Makes health insurance available to seasonal firefighters
• No deportations for young illegals born in country

We DIDN’T Build It By Ourselves

One of the speakers scheduled for the Republican National Convention is Cheryl Valenzuala. Now most people wouldn’t have heard of her, and if a storm-shortened convention knocks her from the roster due to time constraints, she will probably remain largely anonymous.

Her claim to fame and the reason she’s scheduled to speak at the even is that she’s the owner of a business that her husband Eli and she started in their garage. The company they founded was an upholstery company, and they started it in order to make some extra income in order to help pay for their child’s autism treatments. The business has grown into a company that now makes vests for baseball umpires, and anti-ballistic vests for the Israeli military. The Valenzualas currently employ about forty workers and the company makes about 4.5 million dollars in revenue every year.

The story of their achievement is a warm and fuzzy, heartfelt one. And it appears to go along with the Republican mantra attacking President Obama’s campaign statement that business owners didn’t build their businesses entirely on their own. Of course, what he meant by his statement is true. If for no other reason, the use of normal tax benefits and loopholes, the use of public roads to move goods and supplies, tax-funded education that supplies competent and skilled workers, etc., all add to the ability of business owners to succeed without them having to do all of those things alone.

But there’s often more than those general amenities and advantages available to, and used, by all. There is a myriad of government aid out there to help businesses succeed, and even though an entrepreneur may work long hours and take many risks to do what they do, almost all of them use these services of local, state, and federal government agencies. As seen in an article in National Small Business Week, the Valenzuala’s success was not made entirely on their own either:

For First State Manufacturing, Inc., the dream began in 1998 with a man, a woman, and a sewing machine in yes, you guessed it, a garage in Milford, Del. Today, that dream has become First State Manufacturing (FSM), a thriving business employing more than 40 technicians working in a new 66,000 square-foot facility funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Small Business Administration 504 loan.

Eli Valenzuela learned the upholstery trade from a correspondence course he took in the Army; he applied what he learned while working at Dover Air Force Base upholstering enormous C-5 Galaxy airlifters. With help from SCORE and the Delaware Small Business Development Center, Eli and his wife Cheryl composed a business plan, and opened FSM in their garage. With an initial $20,000 SBA-guaranteed loan they secured larger contracts and also became certified in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program.

In 2001 FSM was ready to grow again, with a $96,500 SBA-guaranteed loan to modernize and expand inventory. After the 9/11 tragedy and its economic fallout, FSM obtained a $65,800 SBA disaster loan to maintain their business and employees until revenues returned. FSM revenue doubled from 2007 to 2010, increasing from $2.2 million annual revenue to $4.5 million.

There are other cases where entrepreneurs tapped by the Romney campaign to repeat its “We Built It” message has relied on the government for help with their business.

Dennis Sollmann, the owner of Sollmann Electric Company, appeared in a Romney web ad criticizing the president for his “you didn’t build that” line. It turns out that Mr. Sollmann did millions of dollars worth of work for the government. Also, and probably most famously, Jack Gilchrist, the owner of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating, who starred in another Romney ad, received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds, as well as sub-contracts in 2008 from the U.S. Navy that helped his business to not only stay afloat, but to grow.

The Valenzuala’s business was built by using millions of dollars of government–public–loan money. What this does, of course, is to prove President Obama’s July comments to be totally correct, even when disingenuously taken out of context in order to manufacture faux controversy. Few, if any, entrepreneurs have built their businesses completely on their own in this country for decades, if ever.

If Cheryl Valenzuala wants to stand in front of the nation and claim that she succeeded entirely on her own, and that the rest of us didn’t contribute to that success in any way, then she has that right. But she will be lying if she does say those things. To tell the real story of how her success was financed and supported by public funds will prove the President’s point. So let’s be honest, Republicans, and take the President’s statement in the context in which it was meant. We all need each other, we all work together, and we have to stop letting politics and political lies diminish those facts. And we don’t need Cheryl Valenzuala or any other entrepreneur to lie about their achievements in order support erroneous campaign rhetoric.

So-Called Medicare Cuts Explained to Paul Ryan by the President

This is from one of the 2010 televised “Question Time” debates between the president and congressional Republican leadership. Here the president explains why Medicare Advantage needs to be reformed and where the savings should go.

Now I’m a participant in Medicare Advantage and have the private part of my plan subsidized by my private retirement provider, and must say that I love the affordability, flexibility, and overall care and access to care that it provides. I certainly don’t want to see it turned into the mutation that Romney/Ryan are proposing and envisioning, and I don’t think very many Medicare or Medicare Advantage participants would disagree with my viewpoint.

Nothing has been cut. Everyone is getting a better deal and paying less for it. According to HHS, Medicare Advantage premiums are down and enrollment is up. Hardly indicative of something that’s suffering and despised.

Now Ryan is on the campaign trail as presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney’s running mate, and he is echoing the mantra that the President is stealing $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act. We see him sitting in the video, apparently listening, and presumably comprehending what the President is explaining, and yet he’s now out there spewing the blatant lie about the gutting of Medicare, which is a total lie. Now he either knows he’s lying, or he didn’t understand what the President articulated in this meeting. One explanation calls into question his integrity, the other his intelligence. Either way you see it, should disqualify someone like this from holding public office, let alone the second highest one in the land.

The Truth About the Obama Stimulus

Republicans would have you believe that President Obama’s stimulus package failed, even as economic consensus and actual fact prove the oft-repeated statement that “the stimulus didn’t work” is actually false. Nevertheless, Republicans and conservative commentators continue to recycle this myth.

A recent example comes from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who blasted the stimulus as a failed policy in a column. Krauthammer’s evidence for that failure is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as the stimulus is properly known, didn’t generate a project as big as the Hoover Dam:
“First, the $831 billion stimulus that was going to “reinvest” in America and bring unemployment below 6 percent. We know about the unemployment. And the investment? Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama’s Niagara of borrowed money. A modernized electric grid? Ports dredged to receive the larger ships soon to traverse a widened Panama Canal? Nothing of the sort. Solyndra, anyone?”

Krauthammer is correct in his claim that Obama’s stimulus bill didn’t create a Hoover Dam. In actuality, it created the equivalent of a dozen Hoover Dams.

The maximum output of the Hoover Dam is about 2 gigawatts of electricity. The increase in U.S. wind-power output under the Obama administration so far has been 25 gigawatts — 12 times as much as produced by the dam. Under normal wind conditions, that’s enough to power over 6 million more homes with renewable, environmentally-friendly energy.

That explosion in wind-power didn’t happen by chance: as Michael Grunwald points out in a Time column, it was “the Obama stimulus bill that revived the wind industry and the rest of the clean-tech sector from a near-death experience.”

Under Obama, the United States has doubled its annual wind power output to 50 gigawatts, thanks in large part to the stimulus bill, enabling us to keep pace with China, the world’s wind power leader.

Krauthammer only asked for “one thing of note,” but Grunwald supplies us with more, just on the clean energy tip, which has only been a fraction of the overall stimulus effort: “The stimulus has financed the world’s largest wind farm, a half dozen of the world’s largest solar farms, the nation’s first refineries for advanced biofuels, a new battery industry for electric vehicles, unprecedented investments in cleaner coal and a smarter electric grid, and over 15,000 additional clean-energy projects.”

As far as the right’s repeated insistence that the stimulus didn’t work, that’s false too, as you can see by watching the short video explanation, below: