Tuesday Reads: Presidential Debate Take Two, The Sociopath Ticket, Warren-Brown, and a Sensata Update

Good Morning!!

I have to admit that I’m a nervous wreck worrying about the debate tonight. I’ve been very anxious about it ever since I read that article by Jonathan Chait that Dakinikat linked to in the Monday morning post. Here’s the part that almost sent me into a full-blown panic attack:

Let’s first imagine that, on January 20, Romney takes the oath of office. Of the many secret post-victory plans floating around in the inner circles of the campaigns, the least secret is Romney’s intention to implement Paul Ryan’s budget. The Ryan budget has come to be almost synonymous with the Republican Party agenda, and Romney has embraced it with only slight variations. It would repeal Obamacare, cut income-tax rates, turn Medicare for people under 55 years old into subsidized private insurance, increase defense spending, and cut domestic spending, with especially large cuts for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs targeted to the very poor.

Few voters understand just how rapidly Romney could achieve this, rewriting the American social compact in one swift stroke. Ryan’s plan has never attracted Democratic support, but it is not designed for bipartisanship. Ryan deliberately built it to circumvent a Senate filibuster, stocking the plan with budget legislation that is allowed, under Senate “budget reconciliation” procedures, to pass with a simple majority. Republicans have been planning the mechanics of the vote for many months, and Republican insiders expect Romney to use reconciliation to pass the bill. Republicans would still need to control 50 votes in the Senate (Ryan, as vice-president, would cast the tiebreaking vote), but if Romney wins the presidency, he’ll likely precipitate a partywide tail wind that would extend to the GOP’s Senate slate.

{{Shiver}} That’s scarier than a slasher movie. It could all depend on President Obama’s performance in tonight’s town hall style debate. Of course we’ll be having a live blog. The debate begins at 9PM Eastern.

There are countless journalists, bloggers, and talking heads advising President Obama what to do tonight. I’m just going to share one that I think goes pretty well with Chait’s predictions about a Romney presidency. It is offered by Jeffrey Feldman, who is somewhat of an expert on “framing.” Feldman suggests that One Word Can Win the Next Debate. The word is “restructuring,” which, according to Feldman is what Romney wants to do to the entire country.

Almost four years after it was published, his New York Times Op-Ed “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” is still the clearest statement of a sociopathic economic ideology that will be unleashed on the American public if Mitt Romney wins the election. President Obama would be wise to hold it up to the viewing audience multiple times in tomorrow’s presidential debate.

Published just after President Obama took office, Romney’s article takes the cavalier position that the U.S. government should not step in and help the auto industry that was at the time teetering on the brink of decline. As GM, Chrysler and Ford each fell to their knees clutching their chest, Romney was saying do not call the EMS unit, do not let anybody near them. Just let them fall to the floor, dead.

Why does Romney insist that GM, Chrysler, and Ford — three of the largest manufacturing firms in the history of the United States — be refused first aid at the very moment they fall to the floor clutching their chests? The answer lies in this Orwellian, bone-chilling phrase:

“Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself.”

I think Feldman has a great point. This would be a great way to frame Romney’s economic policies and explain how dangerous they are for those of us who don’t have offshore banking accounts in the Caymans, Switzerland, and Bermuda.

In contrast to Mitt Romney’s world of forced restructuring, the president bases his economic vision on what we already know about the destructive effects of standing back and letting the sectors of the economy on which a middle class depends go into a stratosphere free-fall.

To present this contrast with Mitt Romney’s sadistic world of forced restructuring, the president needs to do more than say he saved the auto industry or that he believes investing in the middle class is the key to economic recovery.

He needs to say that Mitt Romney looks at past suffering of working people and insists, “We need to repeat this right away” whereas Barack Obama looks at it and asks, “What can we do to make sure this never happens again?”

That would be very effective, I think. I hope President Obama has something like that up his sleeve! The White House must be confident, because they’ve arranged for Joe Biden to appear on all three network morning shows tomorrow.

Biden will appear on CBS This Morning, The Today Show, and Good Morning America, according to a network source.

The pre-booking stands in contrast to the last debate, when the Obama campaign was temporarily shell-shocked by the president’s performance. Aides waited more than 10 minutes to enter the “spin room” in Denver as they formulated a message. The following morning, aides, not high profile surrogates, took to TV.

I hope Biden calls Romney’s lies “a bunch of malarkey” and laughs his ass off!

And here’s a little bit of good news. As of yesterday late afternoon, Nate Silver’s predictive model has Obama’s electoral vote count back above 270, and his chances of reelection at 66%. It appears the Romney bump is really over. We should have a good idea tonight whether Obama will get a debate bump.

More good news, this time in the Massachusetts Senate race: Elizabeth Warren raises $12.1 million, Scott Brown $7.45 million, in latest Senate campaign quarter.

Elizabeth Warren, who has been the nation’s leading congressional fund-raiser this year, today announced raising $12.12 million during the most recent quarter for her bid to unseat Senator Scott Brown, who raised $7.45 million.

The period from July 1 through Sept. 30 was the most lucrative three-month for the Democrat since entered the Senate race last year. Warren’s previous best was the prior quarter, running from April through June, when she raised $8.6 million. Brown, the Republican incumbent, also had his best quarter, topping the $4.97 million he raised from April through June.

Brown’s best quarter and it’s far far less than Warren raised!

Overall, Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate, has raised about $36.3 million for her first bid for elective office. Brown has raised about $27.45 million so far, but was also helped by $7 million left over from his January 2010 special election.

“Tens of thousands of people across Massachusetts have joined this campaign because they know that Elizabeth will fight for them in the US Senate,” said a statement from Michael Pratt, Warren’s campaign finance director. “While Scott Brown has stood with billionaires, Big Oil, and Wall Street – and supports Republican control of the Senate – Elizabeth Warren has been there for middle-class families and small businesses. This strong support will help propel the campaign to victory in November.”

At the Boston Phoenix, David Berstein has an interesting piece on women and the GOP: “G(rand) O(ld) P(ricks).”

For years, I’ve chronicled in the Phoenix the dwindling ranks of Republican women in elected office, and suggested that their absence will ultimately hurt the GOP.
The moment of reckoning may be here. We can see it unfolding in the hotly contested US Senate race between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren. The GOP’s female deficit is likely to help Warren win this election — and prevent Republicans from taking control of the Senate.

It’s not a secret that women are the swing voters expected to decide the Brown-Warren race. Warren’s campaign has relentlessly attacked Brown on women’s issues, and Brown has used his mother, wife, and daughters — and tales of himself folding laundry — to counter the onslaught.

Bernstein points out that many of these women voters like Brown, especially those whose families have income of $100,000 or more.

But every time women get wind of the GOP’s latest misogynistic outrage — such as Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s assertion that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant — it pushes them a little further away from Brown.

That might not be the case if female voters saw plenty of prominent women speaking up from within the GOP — but all they see is a party of men.

Check it out. It’s well worth a read.

Paul Ryan pretends to wash pots

I know you’ve probably heard about this already, but I can’t resist including it because it’s so funny and so typical of the Romney campaign. Paul Ryan showed up at a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio run by the St. Vincent De Paul Society, a Catholic charity. By the time Ryan got late Saturday morning, breakfast was over, and the homeless clients were gone and the dishes were washed. So Ryan faked washing some pots for a photo op.

The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

How typical of the sociopath ticket.

Here’s a quick update on the Bain-Sensata story. Bainport is going to have some high profile visitors soon: Bainport to host Durbin, Sharpton.

The encampment of Sensata workers at “Bainport,” now in its 35th day, will play host to several notables this week as they continue to protest the outsourcing of their jobs to China by the end of 2012….

On Tuesday, the Democratic challenger for the Illinois 17th District Congressional seat, Cheri Bustos, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin will visit the workers at their campsite.
“Since day one of her campaign, Cheri Bustos has been standing with workers across Illinois,” said Bustos’ campaign spokesman, Arden Manning. “Bain Capital is actually afforded tax breaks to shut down the Sensata plant. … She’ll fight to end outsourcing by giving tax breaks to companies that bring jobs home.” ….

Also visiting Freeport this week will be activist Reverend Al Sharpton. He is scheduled to appear at the Sensata camp on Saturday at 4 p.m. to speak to the employees.
The appearances this week follow an active summer of rallies that saw the arrival of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond to Freeport.

Power to the people!

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Open Thread: Looking at Employer-Based Health Insurance as Part of a Salary Package

Since it’s a slow news day, I thought I’d throw out a question.

The argument about Obama’s birth control mandate for employers is based to some extent on who will be paying for an employee’s health insurance. As I understand it, health insurance is part of a compensation package offered by the employer in order to attract employees. The package might also include retirement benefits, life insurance, paid vacation, paid sick days, and paid holidays.

Obviously, I’m not an economist, but it seems to me that if health insurance is part of the employee’s salary, then the employee should have some control over it. My boss can’t tell me that I have to buy certain kinds of food with my salary or that I have to live in a certain place. It’s my money, because I earned it by working.

I’ve never had an employer try to tell me where I could go on my vacation time, even though the employer was paying me for the time. No, that vacation pay is part of my salary package. So is health insurance. I’m sure employers calculate salaries based on the total cost of the employee, including benefits. So the benefits should belong to the employee.

According to salary.com, benefits are part of an employee’s salary.

Compensation is more than just base pay. It is a total package that should address your overall well-being – financial, physical, emotional, even spiritual. As companies compete for talent in tight labor markets, many are rolling out better benefits to attract and retain the best workers. Companies often strive to make it easy for employees to balance their work and family lives by offering family-friendly benefits, cafeteria plans, and other flexible options.

Benefits can significantly increase the value of the compensation package. The costs to employers for providing benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, training, vacation and personal days, and perks such as concierge services could be a significant percentage of each employee’s salary. Because benefits boost the value of compensation, always take benefits into consideration when evaluating a job offer or a promotion.

In addition,

Some benefits are required by law. There are also many government regulations that set the minimum standards employers are required to make available to employees.

For example, states can require employers to provide paid sick days and holidays and a minimum amount of paid vacation time. Most states mandate a 10-15 minute break for every 4 hours of work and at least a 30 minute lunch break. Thanks to unions, there are also laws that employees can’t be forced to work more than a certain number of hours per day and week without overtime pay. There are many constraints on employers.

So what is so bizarre about the government requiring that health care plans offer preventive health care that is appropriate for women as well as men? Even though the employer is arranging for the health insurance and I’m getting a better deal as part of a large group, the insurance is still something I’m earning through my work. The employer doesn’t need to know what choices I’m making about my health care and shouldn’t pry into my choices unless they somehow affect my ability to do my work.

The Obama administration is not requiring that any individual use birth control or even that they have to get prenatal testing. But why shouldn’t they be able to specify that these services be available for people to use if they wish? If you look at the question in this way, the Catholic bishops really don’t have a leg to stand on.

Wouldn’t this be a better way for the administration to frame the argument? Am I nuts? What do you think? Feel free to use this as an open thread as well.