President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:
The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.
The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.
“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.
In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.
I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.
First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.
Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.
In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”
Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.
Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”
“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”
But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:
President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).
The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.
But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.
Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.
Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.
Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.
Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.
Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.
With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.
The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.
Sigh . . .
This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:
It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.
So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:
The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.
Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.
Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.
“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.
Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.
My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.
The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.
There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.
That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.
The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.
And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:
“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.
The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.
You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:
The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.
“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”
Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”
There’s much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!
One of the things that drives me crazy as an economist and a citizen looking at this so-called “fiscal cliff” is that our fiscal strife has been created by the people least likely to suffer from its resolution. Congress gave the Bush administration authority to start a series of unfunded, reckless wars that have lasted well over a decade. Congress passed the Bush administration’s reckless tax cuts and generous loopholes that have benefited the few at the cost of the many. The Bush administration’s and Congress’ lack of oversight and deregulation of the financial services’ industry created a low-risk, gambling casino with the national investment and savings accounts and the debt markets. This led to a huge recession. These are the roots of our fiscal problems. But, the discussions around cleaning up messes in the District mostly surround Social Security which has nothing to do with the national debt and deficit and items that have become more necessary to average Americans since Congress and the Bush Administration broke the country with its bad policies.
Here’s some of the latest examples. Closing loopholes and unnecessary deductions for certain constituents is a good idea. However, which of these things are on the chopping block? Inkling its way up the priority list is the major middle and working class deduction and source of household wealth: the mortgage interest deduction. I have no problem with eliminating second mortgages, mortgages on boats, and mortgages on second properties. These benefit very few people and really serve little policy purpose. Capping the deduction–with an annual COLA adjustment to the median price and below-based mortgages is also fine. However, what are we likely to see?
As the Obama administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill scramble to defuse automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1, a herd of sacred cows — from Social Security and Medicare to deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest — are in danger of losing their untouchable status.
Members of both parties have largely steered clear of detailed proposals so far. But plans put forth in the past year by President Obama and Mitt Romney to place limits on annual total tax deductions are likely to crimp the mortgage-interest deduction for certain taxpayers. Top congressional Republicans also have expressed openness to limiting total tax deductions as part of an overall budget deal. In addition, the presidentially appointed Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission suggested scaling back the mortgage-interest deduction as part of its own set of tax-related proposals.
Current law allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on mortgage balances up to $1 million, including on second homes, as well as on $100,000 worth of home-equity loans. The deduction overwhelmingly benefits wealthier families, partly because they tend to have larger mortgages and pay more interest, and partly because most low- and middle-income Americans do not itemize deductions on their tax returns. It also tends to favor homeowners on the East and West Coasts, as well as those in large cities such as Chicago, where average home prices are higher.
Edward Kleinbard, a tax expert and law professor at the University of Southern California, said the mortgage-interest deduction represents the kind of government “extravagance” that the country no longer can justify, given its fiscal troubles.
“We simply cannot afford wasteful government subsidy programs anymore, and this is one of the most important examples of that,” Kleinbard said. “It’s very much a subsidy to those Americans who need it least.”
Mitch McConnell continues to service Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth. He’s back on his high horse for no tax increases for the wealthy. Ending tax cuts for the wealthy endlessly shown to have no ill-impact on the economy. There is also no real benefit to extending them.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) slammed the door Thursday morning on Democratic demands to raise tax rates on families earning more than $250,000 per year.
“We’re insisting on keeping tax rates where they are, first and foremost, to protect jobs and because we don’t think government needs the money in the first place,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“The problem, as I’ve said, is that Washington spends too much. But if more revenue is the price that Democrats want to exact, then we should at least agree to do it in a way that doesn’t cost jobs and disincentivize rates, as we all know raising rates would do,” he said.
McConnell’s comments came a day after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shot down a proposal by a senior GOP lawmaker, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, to agree to extend tax rates only for families earning below $250,000 and resume the battle against higher tax rates on the wealthy next year.
Boehner said President Obama and Democrats should focus on finding ways to cut spending and reform entitlement programs.
The fate of the Bush-era tax rates — which will expire for all income levels in January — has dominated the debate over the slew of tax increases and spending cuts that are set to begin next year.
McConnell scolded the president Thursday for sticking fast to his campaign pledge to seek higher taxes on the rich, and made clear that raising tax rates on anyone is unacceptable.
The debate over Medicare is likely to be equally absurd. Medicare needs some reworking. Most of its problems comes from the pharmacy benefit which currently allows Big Pharma to price gouge participants and the taxpayers. But, you wouldn’t know that from the conversation. Republicans are playing games with Amercan’s health. They appear to be clinging to the Ryan’s voucher plan which would be disastrous for the majority of retired seniors.
The austerity crisis talks have hit a peculiar impasse. The problem isn’t, as most analysts expected, taxes, where Republicans seem increasingly resigned to new revenue. It’s Medicare. And the particular Medicare problem isn’t that Democrats are refusing the GOP’s proposed Medicare cuts. It’s that Republicans are refusing to name their Medicare cuts.
Politico quotes a “top Democratic official” who paints the picture simply: “Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s your guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen.”
That’s partly politics. If nothing else, Republicans are respectful of Medicare’s political potency. Recall that a core Republican message in both the 2010 and 2012 elections was that Democrats, through Obamacare, were cutting Medicare too much. Republicans, already concerned about their brand, don’t want to rebrand themselves as the party of Medicare cuts.
But it’s partly policy, too. The fact is that short of converting the program to a premium support system — a non-starter after they lost the 2012 election — Republicans simply don’t know what they want to do on Medicare.
Scour the various outlets for Democratic policy ideas and you’ll find plenty of proposed Medicare cuts. President Obama’s 2013 budget, for instance, includes hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts (see pages 33-37), and caps the program’s long-term growth at GDP+0.5 percent. More recently, the Center for American Progress released a 46-page proposal for cutting Medicare by almost $400 billion.
Republicans, meanwhile, have focused their energy on a long-term effort to convert Medicare to a premium-support model. Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget kept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts for the next 10 years and proposed to convert the program to a premium-support model in the future. Mitt Romney’s platform proposed reversing Obamacare’s Medicare cuts and offered a vague framework for converting the program to a premium-support model in the future.
If you dig deep into the Republican think tank world, you can find a few proposals that focus on the near-term.
The current fiscal ‘cliff’ framework appears to place a lot of burden on those least able to take it as well as those least responsible for creating the problems.
Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion — and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had a 30-minute phone conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.
No doubt, there will be lots of huffing and puffing before any deal can be had. And, no doubt, Obama and Congress could easily botch any or all three of the white-knuckle moments soon to hit this town: the automatic spending cuts and expiration of the Bush tax cuts, both of which kick in at the end of this year, and the federal debt limit that hits early next.
Go to the Politico story for a concept of what’s at stake and at issue.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday there had been “no substantive progress” in fiscal-cliff negotiations in the two weeks since congressional leaders met with President Obama.
Boehner, addressing reporters after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Capitol, called on the White House to “get serious” about the talks and warned of a “real danger” that Jan. 1 would come without a deal if President Obama did not offer up specific spending cuts he would be willing to accept.
“Despite claims that the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” Boehner said. “Secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House in the last two weeks.
“Listen, this is not a game,” he added. “Jobs are on the line. The American economy is on the line, and this is a moment for adult leadership.”
The Speaker criticized the president for holding “campaign-style rallies” instead of engaging in serious talks.
This is going to be mostly a link dump with little commentary, because I have a lot of news to share and I’m still tired from last night.
Yesterday was a day that will very likely go down in presidential campaign history along with the day Mike Dukakis posed for photos wearing a silly-looking helmet and riding in a tank. In a series of surreptitiously recorded videos/audios, we heard the real Mitt Romney–a man who truly believes that he and other wealthy people got where there are on merit alone and that those pathetic Americans who are not so “successful” are worthless, lazy drones who have the nerve to think we are entitled to food, shelter, health care.
Late last night, Romney finally responded to the firestorm over the leaked videos at a hastily called press availability. He looked desperate–his hair mussed and bags under his eyes, his expression sheepish yet defiant, but he stood by his statement at the May 2012 fundraiser that 47% of Americans are dependent on the government and pay no taxes.
For your reading pleasure, I’ve gathered some of the media reactions to yesterday’s stunning events, but before I get to those, there’s even more from David Corn this morning. After yesterday’s big scoop and his appearances on MSNBC last night, Corn released another episode from the Romney fundraiser bootleg videos: SECRET VIDEO: On Israel, Romney Trashes Two-State Solution
During the freewheeling conversation, a donor asked Romney how the “Palestinian problem” can be solved. Romney immediately launched into a detailed reply, asserting that the Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
Romney spoke of “the Palestinians” as a united bloc of one mindset, and he said: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”
Romney was indicating he did not believe in the peace process and, as president, would aim to postpone significant action: “[S]o what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem…and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Romney did note there was another perspective on this knotty matter. He informed his donors that a former secretary of state—he would not say who—had told him there was “a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Romney recalled that he had replied, “Really?” Then he added that he had not asked this ex-secretary of state for further explanation.
Video at the Mother Jones link.
Also at Mother Jones, a list of likely guests at the Romney fund-raiser.
Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: How Jimmy Carter’s Grandson Helped Leak the Secret Romney Fund-raiser Video
The damning video of Mitt Romney telling a room of wealthy donors how he really feels about the freeloading 47 percent of Americans “who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” among other candid things, has been floating around online in bits and pieces for three months, but didn’t hit the big time until it was published by David Corn at Mother Jones today. Credited as a “research assistant” on the story is James Carter IV, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who has been toiling online as an opposition researcher and is “currently looking for work,” according to his Twitter bio. “I’ve been searching for clips on Republicans for a long time, almost every day,” said Carter this evening. “I just do it for fun.” But by connecting Corn with the mysterious uploader of the clip, Carter has uncovered his biggest story yet, one that could potentially affect the outcome of the election. (And get him a job.)
Carter told Daily Intel that he first noticed a portion of the video in which Romney discusses using Chinese labor while working at Bain Capital. That clip, uploaded by a YouTube user named “RomneyExposed” in late May, and then again in late August by an account called “Rachel Maddow” that has since been deleted, eventually made it to Buzzfeed and Daily Kos.*
Additional pieces of the tape were then added to a YouTube account called “Anne Onymous” starting three weeks ago. “There was a minor uproar about it on Twitter when I found [the first clip], so I kept doing research on it and that eventually led me to be able to narrow down who it originated from,” said Carter. Via Twitter, he contacted the person who claimed to have secretly taped and uploaded the video, and then sought to help publicize the remarks. “That seemed to be the purpose of [the filming] — to get it to a larger audience,” Carter said.
Now for those reactions…
Charles Pierce: The Worst Thing Romney Has Said About Americans Yet
Chris Cillizza: Mitt Romney’s Darkest Hour. Chris transmits what is probably the reaction of most Villagers–that the videos are just a distraction and won’t spell the end of Romney presidential campaign.
Jonathan Chait finally faces the reality that Romney is not a moderate Rockefeller Republican: The Real Romney Captured on Tape Turns Out to Be a Sneering Plutocrat
The New Republic staff: Three things we learned from the secret Romney video.
Right wing nut blogger Erick Erickson announced that he has given up on Romney winning the election.
Dave Wiegel: We Are the 47%: The Lousy Math Behind Romney’s Gaffe
Brad Plummer at the Wonkblog: Mitt Romney versus the 47%. Plummer explains why Romney is wrong about half of Americans being shiftless louts who contribute nothing to society.
David Graham at the Atlantic: Where Are the 47% of Americans Who Pay No Income Taxes?
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed: The Long Strange Leak Of Mitt Romney’s 47% Video
The Guardian: Mitt Romney ‘victims’ gaffe: key players
In Other News…
The Nation: What’s Behind the U.S. Embassy Protests in Egypt
WaPo: US Aid to Egypt Stalled
Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?
So,what better way to take the focus off your own short comings and the way you hide your viewpoints and taxes than to appoint a VP candidate that is sure to be a touch stone with the political press? That’s how I see the Ryan appointment. Romney’s positions are all over the place. Ryan’s are very much on record. Romney’s specific agendas and plans have been as translucent as his tenure at Bain and his tax returns. Ryan’s agenda is very much known. Ryan holds extreme views on abortion and all social issues as well as having introduced two extremely controversial and unpopular budget plans. What a way to change the conversation. Here’s a reminder of the extremist positions of Paul Ryan who still manages to be a media darling. This is from The Daily Beast today and was written by Michelle Goldman.
By now, you surely know, if you didn’t already, that Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, wants to privatize social security and turn Medicare into a voucher system. You might have read that, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, his economic plan “calls for radical policy changes that would result in a massive transfer of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation’s wealthiest individuals.”
Less attention has been paid, though, to Ryan’s hard-right positions on social issues. Indeed, on abortion and women’s health care, there isn’t much daylight between Ryan and, say, Michele Bachmann. Any Republican vice presidential candidate is going to be broadly anti-abortion, but Ryan goes much further. He believes ending a pregnancy should be illegal even when it results from rape or incest, or endangers a woman’s health. He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. The National Right to Life Committee has scored his voting record 100 percent every year since he entered the House in 1999. “I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” he told the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack in 2010. “You’re not going to have a truce.”
Indeed, Ryan exemplifies a strange sort of ideological hybrid that now dominates the GOP. On economic issues, he’s a hardcore libertarian who once said, “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker…it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” Yet when it comes to women’s control of their bodies, he quickly turns into a statist. “In the state of nature—the ‘law of the jungle’—the determination of who ‘qualifies’ as a human being is left to private individuals or chosen groups,” he wrote in a 2010 essay titled “The Cause of Life Can’t be Severed from the Cause of Freedom.” “In a justly organized community, however, government exists to secure the right to life and the other human rights that follow from that primary right.”
For anyone who wants to know how Ryan thinks, that essay is worth reading. It’s about 1,500 words long, but the word “woman” doesn’t appear in it once. Nor does the word “mother.” To him, a woman’s claim to bodily autonomy or self-determination doesn’t merit even cursory consideration. Here’s his analogy: “The car which I exercised my freedom of choice to purchase…does not ‘qualify’ for protection of human rights. I can drive it, lend it, kick it, sell it, or junk it, at will. On the other hand, the widow who lives next door does ‘qualify’ as a person, and the government must secure her human rights, which cannot be abandoned to anyone’s arbitrary will.”
In selecting Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the one thing he has never flip-flopped on: economic elitism. Romney, born to wealth, has selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who was also born to wealth. As the former University of Oklahoma football coach, Barry Switzer, once said of someone else: both these guys were born on third and thought they hit a triple.
There’s nothing wrong with inherited wealth. Lord knows great presidents from FDR to JFK came into their fortunes through the luck of birth. But there is something wrong with winners of the lineage lottery who want to hammer those who did not have the foresight to select wealthy sperm and egg.
Finally, we have peered into Mitt Romney’s core. It is neither pro-choice nor pro-life; neither pro-NRA nor pro-gun control; neither pro-equality nor antigay. But it is pro-wealth and very anti–middle class. Mitt Romney has decided to go nuclear in the class war.
Paul Ryan, the darling of the New York–Washington media elite, is almost certainly not the most qualified person Romney could have picked. Unlike governors like Chris Christie or Tim Pawlenty, or a former high-ranking White House official like Rob Portman, Ryan has never run anything larger than his congressional office or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. The elite love Ryan because he speaks for more cowardly members of their class; his stridently anti–middle class policies are music to their ears.
You will often hear people who ought to know better dress up Ryan’s savage economic priorities with euphemisms. Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare. No, he doesn’t. He wants to kill it. Saying Paul Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare is like saying the vet wanted to “fix” my dog Major; that which used to work very well no longer works at all—and Major is none too happy with the procedure.
Ryan’s budget is the fiscal embodiment of the deeply evil, wholeheartedly selfish so-called philosophy of Ayn Rand. In fact, Ryan has described Rand as “the reason I got involved in public service,” and reportedly makes staffers read her works.
Think about that. As my buddy James Carville has said, what would all the Best People say if Nancy Pelosi made her staffers read, say, Margaret Sanger? Or if Barack Obama made interns study Das Kapital? Sure, a few months ago, facing Catholic protestors at Georgetown University, Ryan said he renounced Rand. But as the national Catholic weekly, America, wrote, he did not change the substance of a single policy. Some renunciation. It seems to me Ryan has renounced Rand’s politically incorrect atheism, not her morally bankrupt philosophy of Screw Thy Neighbor.
So, how long will the focus be on Major’s neutering rather than poor Shamus who was strapped to the top of a car for 12 hours?
How long will the focus be on Paul Ryan whose life is an open book compared to the secretive and snaky Willard?
Was this part of the strategy of picking Paul Ryan. Was this an attempt to get the focus off of the car elevators, the dancing horses who get bigger tax deductions than most people’s children, the you don’t get to see my taxes stand, the insults to Japan and Britain and the highly botched tour abroad? Is this all about appeasing the base and getting the punditry to chase a less important bone?