GOP Hypocrites

Boehner, the Hypocrite

What Speaker John Boehner said in reference to the president’s remarks on the Wisconsin protests: "Rather than shouting down those in office who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the president and his advisers should lead."

Now let’s see, how long ago was it when conservative protesters showed up while “those in office” who were trying to speak honestly and were shouted down?

’A Breach of Trust’

The Pentagon has proposed a $5 a month increase in the health insurance premium payment for working age military retirees. A modest increase, indeed, and when you consider what they pay now–$515 A YEAR—it seems in these tough times, Republicans would think this not even worthy of discussion.

No, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was before a congressional committee yesterday defending it.

Rep. E. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) told Gates that based on his conversations with retirees, who had enlisted with the expectation that they would get free health care for life, the proposed increase was "a breach of trust to change the deal."

Not only does this Republican think that working age retirees, who are already getting a handsome pension in addition to whatever salary they’ve been able to get as a Beltway Bandit, should not pay about $43 a month for health insurance for their entire family, he calls it a “breach of trust.”

Wonder what he would say about the breach of trust going on all around the country, including Virginia, where Republican governors are asking state workers to pay into their retirement plan and, as in Wisconsin, are taking away their bargaining rights.

Isn’t that a breach of trust?

GOP on Egypt: Call Us Monday

This article about why the GOP is not criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of the Egyptian crisis goes through all the reasons except for the real one: They want to wait to see how it turns out and then Monday morning quarterback.

Dems Again Beef Up Messaging Strategies

Democrats are forever telling us they will get better at messaging. But it’s like telling your kids to clean up their mess and when they don’t, you pick it up for them. There’s no consequence. Banish the free talkers to obscure committees and you might get more discipline. But maybe it’s that Democrats think they all are the smartest people in the room, and that they can sell ice to Eskimos. Or maybe they think that if only voters knew all the details of their policies and procedures, they’d all vote Democratic. So I’m not optimistic that Sen Chuck Schumer’s latest effort will be more successful.  But let’s hope he starts by scrapping the Democratic National Committee’s talking points on repeal of healthcare reform. Here’s how they start:

Instead of working to find bipartisan solutions to create jobs, grow the economy, and make America more competitive, Republicans in Congress are spending all of their time re-fighting the political wars of the last two years by trying to repeal health reform and give control over your health care back to insurance companies.

The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with more freedom and control in their health care choices.

o It gives families the freedom from worrying about losing their insurance, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick.

o It frees Americans from the fear of insurance companies raising premiums by double digits with no recourse or accountability.

o It frees Americans from discrimination when insurance companies deny women health insurance because they are pregnant, or refuse to provide coverage to children who are born with disabilities.

The bullet points go on…and on. Unless they plan to buy a five-minute infomercial, no spokesperson will ever get to the end of the list. The problem with a long list is that it gives every Democrat a choice of what he or she wants to highlight. In other words, no message discipline.  Without discipline, it’s difficult for the media to pick up on key points to include in stories. And in fact, some of the points at the bottom of the list should be near the top. For example:

o Republicans will allow insurance companies to once again DENY coverage to children with existing conditions, CANCEL coverage when people get sick, and LIMIT the amount of care you can get − even if you need it.

o When the insurance companies are free to pursue their profits without any accountability, people have fewer choices, fewer options, and little recourse.

· And, by rolling back the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are adding a TRILLION dollars to the deficit.

o They would give back to insurance companies subsidies of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. And they would cut back on efforts in the law to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending. We can NOT afford to add another trillion dollars in debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay – especially when it goes to wasteful spending and outrageous subsides for insurance companies.

They need editing, but you can’t lose by attacking insurance companies. Put them near the top of the list.

But the bigger problem with the list is that…it’s a list. Democrats continue to believe that voters consider policy minutiae when making decisions. Sure, when polled, people say they like individual parts of the reform bill, and there’s no reason Dems shouldn’t mention some of them. But they need to lead with the overall framing.

The DNC statement actually starts out good: let voters know that Republicans aren’t addressing the jobs issue, but then pivot to the Dems positive framing:

Instead of working on creating jobs, Republicans in Congress are working for insurance companies. Democrats believe that children and their parents should not be turned away when they are sick. They should be able to afford to see a doctor. That’s what the healthcare reform bill does. To Republicans, if you get sick, you’re on your own.

We believe, as did the founding fathers, that we should “promote the general welfare.” That’s the first sentence in the Constitution. Developing a healthcare system that is efficient, affordable and available to everyone is what we accomplished. We won’t let Republicans and insurance companies take it away.

That’s a little over 30 seconds. If that’s all you get to say in a cable show interview, that’s good enough. If a print reporter takes just one of the paragraphs, Dems have made their point. (Note: There’s much more ground to gain than many Democrats think by appealing to a responsible social norm. I’ll have more on that in a few days after finishing a book on behavioral economics that has some lessons for politicians.)

As far as the list goes, it needs to be condescend:

Our health reform bill means you can’t lose your insurance if you become sick, pregnant or your child has disabilities…or you change jobs. Your children can be on your policy until they are 26. It lowers drug costs for seniors and protects Medicare. And it prevents insurance companies from jacking up prices to pay their CEOs huge salaries. And bottom line: It lowers the deficit.

Those three short paragraphs have all the points Dems need to push back—and most important—to resell their healthcare reform. They can expand any point, hopefully with some anecdotes, which tend to personalize the problem and allow people to see themselves in similar circumstances. They can point out the hypocrisies in the GOP actions, who won’t give up their own extravagant healthcare insurance they get with their jobs and how repeal increases the deficit. Maybe with the elections now behind them, they will take some pride in what they accomplished.

Are Giuliani, Ridge, Mukasey & Townsend Terrorists?

Glenn Greenwald makes the case that they are.

Imagine if a group of leading American liberals met on foreign soil with — and expressed vocal support for — supporters of a terrorist group that had (a) a long history of hateful anti-American rhetoric, (b) an active role in both the takeover of a U.S. embassy and Saddam Hussein’s brutal 1991 repression of Iraqi Shiites, (c) extensive financial and military support from Saddam, (d) multiple acts of violence aimed at civilians, and (e) years of being designated a "Terrorist organization" by the U.S. under Presidents of both parties, a designation which is ongoing? The ensuing uproar and orgies of denunciation would be deafening.

But on December 23, a group of leading conservatives — including Rudy Giuliani and former Bush officials Michael Mukasey, Tom Ridge, and Fran Townsend — did exactly that. In Paris, of all places, they appeared at a forum organized by supporters of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) — a group declared by the U.S. since 1997 to be "terrorist organization" — and expressed wholesale support for that group. Worse — on foreign soil — they vehemently criticized their own country’s opposition to these Terrorists and specifically "demanded that Obama instead take the [] group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran." In other words, they are calling on the U.S. to embrace this Saddam-supported, U.S.-hating Terrorist group and recruit them to help overthrow the government of Iran. To a foreign audience, Mukasey denounced his own country’s opposition to these Terrorists as "nothing less than an embarrassment."

Obama Tax Hikes?

Here’s a pretty good example, even if it doesn’t seem to be working as yet, of how the right tries to drive the framing of issues. The Dingbat of the the North tweets:

Pls refer to Jan.1 tax changes appropriately: they’re OBAMA TAX HIKES & they’ll slam every American’s savings, investments & job opportunity

Politifact debunks this, of course.

Palin and other Republicans often suggest that Obama and the Democrats want to see tax rates go up for all incomes. But that’s not what they’ve been advocating for more than two years. President Barack Obama campaigned on maintaining the tax cuts for couples earning less than $250,000 while allowing the expiration of the tax cuts for families above that line. In fact, in a Dec. 2, 2010, vote, the vast majority of House Democrats supported a bill to do precisely that, with almost all Republicans voting against the bill. (House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio, went so far as to call the bill "chicken crap.")

But Politifact misses the point. Blame should have been assessed relentlessly by Democrats over the last year on Republicans. The argument goes something like this:

Republicans had a chance to make the tax cuts permanent when they made them.  But they couldn’t get it passed because Democrats were filibustering the cuts. So they used budget reconciliation and made them just 10 years to avoid the “Byrd rule” forbidding using reconciliation if it impacts the budget beyond 10 years. In other words, the GOP used the same tactic they accused Democrats of using to pass the health care bill. So not only are they hypocrites, they were financially reckless and pushed the budget reckoning down the road. But then, following the elephant to clean up the mess is well-known and thankless job.

Meek Democrats

Doesn’t this say it all about the Democrats, who can’t hit a slow pitch softball?  They give Congressman “Abstinence” Souder a free pass.

House Democratic leaders, after taking a beating from the GOP for their handling of a sexual harassment scandal involving then-Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), stayed relatively quiet about the Souder controversy.

Do the Dems return the beating?  Not a chance.

GOP Bait and Switch

Just a brief addendum to my post the other day about the disingenuous lie that 47% pay no income tax.  As Derek Thompson of The Atlantic points out, poor people owe taxes, but they are offset by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

When Republicans rail against the 47% figure, they’re railing against features like the EITC. What is the EITC? It’s a refundable tax credit that rewards work and offsets the burden of payroll taxes for low-income payers by returning a fixed percent of income up to a maximum credit based on factors like number of children. But the EITC is a Republican creation. It was enacted in 1975 under President Ford (a Republican), and expanded numerous times over the last 35 years by Republicans. President Reagan (Republican) expanded it in 1984 and 1986. President Bush (Republican) expanded it against in 1990 and added supplemental credit for families with more than one child. President Clinton expanded it for childless claimants in 1993. President Bush (Republican) expanded it again in 2001.

So what we have is a program developed by Republicans to encourage welfare recipients to work instead.  When it succeeds, the GOP then pivots in its arguments and claims these very same people are cheating the government and are prime examples of “socialism.”  If it weren’t so cynical, it would be brilliant.

Obama and the Stock Market: A Year Later

Actually it’s more than  a year, but let’s look back.  You’ll recall that, after the inauguration ball balloons deflated, the Republicans started to blame the stock market collapse on Obama, or at the very least, they pointed to the stock market as proof that American business did not believe in Obama’s politics.  They pointed to the Dow, as of March 3 of last year, being down 30% since Obama’s election and 15% since Obama’s inauguration.

So where are we today, 17 months after the president’s election and not quite 15 months after his inauguration:

Since his election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 14%.

Since his inauguration, the DJIA is up 38%.

So why isn’t the GOP giving him credit now?

(Thanks to the “Ed Show” on MSNBC for reminding me of this.)

Taxes & Reconciliation

The headline on an AP story yesterday blares:  Obama budget would impose host of tax increases.  The stories initial paragraphs outline the scenario:

The budget proposal released Monday would extend Obama’s signature Making Work Pay tax credit — $400 for individuals, $800 for a couple filing jointly — through 2011. But it would also impose nearly $1 trillion in higher taxes on couples making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000 by not renewing tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush. Obama would extend Bush-era tax cuts for families and individuals making less.

…In all, Obama would increase taxes on some businesses and wealthy individuals by a total of about $1.4 trillion over the next decade, while cutting taxes for middle-class workers and other businesses by about $330 billion. The bottom line: Tax receipts would increase by about $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

I wonder if the Dems are smart enough to repeat this mantra:

We are following the intent of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which were designed by George Bush and the Republican majority in Congress to expire next year.  We are simply following their wishes, except that we are extending the tax cuts for middle income Americans.

Oh, and by the way, these tax cuts were passed through a budget reconciliation process that Republicans are now decrying as undemocratic.

Dems, repeat and repeat and repeat.