Economist Robert Frank in the New York Times: "The nation doesn't actually face difficult economic choices. Many problems will be expensive to solve, yet we can solve them without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone.... The debt is an important long-run problem, but deferring infrastructure repairs will only worsen it. Relative to current policy, then, such projects would address multiple pressing problems without distress.... By shifting taxes toward activities having harmful side effects, we can raise substantial revenue while expanding the economic pie." CW: good luck getting Congress to do the right thing.
Kathleen Geier, writing in the Washington Montly, comments on the New York Times report (which I also linked a couple of days ago) on a new study that shows "that the least educated white Americans are experiencing sharp declines in life expectancy." Geier writes -- as the Times reporters do not -- that "there is a compelling body of research that suggests that inequality itself -- quite apart from low incomes, or lack of health insurance -- is associated with more negative health outcomes for those at the bottom of the heap." Thanks to Trish R. for the link. ...
... Paul Krugman agrees: "... high inequality isn't just unfair, it kills."
Kevin Begos of the AP: "It sounds like a free-market success story: a natural gas boom created by drilling company innovation, delivering a vast new source of cheap energy without the government subsidies that solar and wind power demand. 'The free market has worked its magic,' the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group, claimed over the summer. The boom happened 'away from the greedy grasp of Washington,' the [conservative] American Enterprise Institute ... wrote in an essay this year. But ... over three decades, from the shale fields of Texas and Wyoming to the Marcellus in the Northeast, the federal government contributed more than $100 million in research to develop fracking, and billions more in tax breaks."
David Kirkpatrick & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt's new Islamist president Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger." The linked page has links to portions of the audio of Morsi's New York Times interview.
Gregory Wallace of CNN: Speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus gala, "Attorney General Eric Holder and first lady Michelle Obama weighed in Saturday on a battleground in the 2012 election: voting rights.... She did not specifically address voting laws, but stressed the importance of registering people to vote, calling it 'the movement of our era.'" ...
... Video of the First Lady's full speech is here.
Jeff McDonald of the San Diego Union Tribune: "Congressman Darrell Issa [R-Calif.] received a 'dishonorable mention' Wednesday on a list of the most corrupt lawmakers published Wednesday by ... Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for placing information from a sealed wiretap into the congressional record earlier this year. Twenty members of Congress -- 12 Republicans and seven Democrats -- were singled out for what CREW said was unethical or illegal behavior over the past year. Eight of those, including Issa, received the dishonorablemention citations." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.
Quote of the Day. It's our turn, you guys. -- Mitt Romney, at a big-ticket fundraiser in California
Michael Barbaro & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "... a review of [Mitt Romney's] remarks at dozens of fund-raisers, in well-off neighborhoods from Los Angeles to Miami over the past year, highlights differences both subtle and significant in how he speaks to voters and donors.... The intimacy of the receptions (at homes and hotels), their transactional nature ($75,000 per couple is often pledged) and familiarity with that audience (usually filled with fellow businessmen and -women), appears to put Mr. Romney at ease. He uses looser language, divulges strategy, tells detailed personal stories and takes pointed questions." CW: Barbaro & Parker never suggest -- directly, anyway -- the obvious: that Romney is more comfortable when he's with "his people."
David Firestone of the New York Times: "Mr. Romney really doesn't see much difference between giving to charity and giving to the government.... In his mind, apparently, you can just add up the two figures into a new hybrid column, perhaps called, Total Obligation to Society, and make yourself look even more generous.... Taxes represent the obligations citizens have to each other and to society.... Charity is entirely voluntary, even for those who, like Mr. Romney, are asked by their religious authorities to tithe a fixed portion of their income.... One would think that someone running to be the government's chief executive would be proud to make tax payments, and would not try to reduce them through exotic foreign tax shelters and an outsized IRA, as Mr. Romney has done for years." CW: Firestone doesn't say so, but Romney has made this argument before: in mid-August, responding to Harry Reid's remark that he'd heard Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years, Romney himself said, in part, "... every year I've paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent."
Jill Lepore in the New York Times: Mitt Romney has been characterizing himself as an "underdog" since the primaries. "Mitt Romney is no Downtrodden Man. In May, at a fund-raiser in Florida, Mr. Romney expressed contempt for the '47 percent.' ... This is not a man who loves underdogs.... Research ... demonstrates that telling a story about yourself in which you are an underdog builds brand loyalty...." CW: you might think a man famous for riding in his car literally "under the dog" could find another term to call himself. ...
... Here's how UnderShamus treated Univision, the Spanish-language network which sponsored forums last week with him and with President Obama: according to McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed, both camps agreed to groundrules that the audience for the forums would be comprised mostly of students. But when the Romney camp couldn't come up with enough students, they demanded they be allowed to bus in "rowdy activists from around South Florida" or else Romney might have to "reschedule." Obama stuck to the rules. Then, with cameras rolling, Romney refused to appear on stage because he didn't like his introduction. He demanded it be changed & retaped before he would show his special brownface. One of the show's anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, called Romney's high-handed snits "a little bit of disrespect." ...
... CW: hey, what did she expect? The place was crawling with 47-percenters. At least Romney didn't demand they all show their papers or ask them for tips on lawn maintenance, for Pete's sake. Univision should have called his bluff & let the anchors spend the hour talking to an empty chair, which is of course a favorite GOP routine anyway. ¿Cómo se dice "major douchebag" en español?
Robert Reich: "So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it."
Jonathan Bernstein, in Slate, blames Tea Party conservatives, Fox "News" & Rush Limbaugh for Mitt Romney's faltering campaign.
Maureen Dowd disses Stuart Stevens, Romney's campaign guru & self-conscious dilettante. The New Republic profile of Stevens by Noam Scheiber, which Dowd refers to a couple of times, is here. Scheiber, BTW, blames Romney. ...
... Dowd also refers to a comment Lady Romney made on Radio Iowa Thursday, which contributor Forrest M. mentions in the Comments section:
Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now and it's an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country. -- Ann Romney, addressing Republicans who have criticized her husband
... CW: I didn't see Lady Romney's little tantrum as anything more than another display of her customary petulance of privilege. But Jim Fallows of The Atlantic writes, "True as it might have been, Mrs. Romney's 'break' was also sad and damaging. Self-pity is doom for candidates.... Running for president is hard, but there is one thing harder. That's what happens if you win." One of the annoying downsides of our so-called democracy is that we tend to make our top royals sing & dance for the sorts of perks royals elsewhere simply inherit. Surely Republicans plan to fix that constitutional quirk soon.
Are Willard M. & Ann Romney "real Americans"? Not according to their just-released 2011 IRS 1040, where they claim their Belmont, Massachusetts, residence is in the "foreign country" USA.
... Tax preparers say actual U.S. citizens would have left the "Foreign country name" space blank. As this couple did:
Jennifer Agiesta & Nancy Benac of the AP: "The challenge for President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is how to lay claim to [undecided voters,] this small but mightily important swath of the electorate. These people are truly up for grabs, claim they're intent on voting and yet aren't paying that much attention." ...
... Just who are these undecided voters? Here are a few of them:
CW: The following belongs in Infotainment, but -- ironically enough -- I can't shrink the video, so I'm posting it here:
Bone-ified. Rushbo blames shrinking penis size on feminazis: