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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Won the Debate? Pinocchio!

It is somewhat exhilarating and affirming that what one says in one week’s blog is confirmed the next week by a presidential candidate.  Mitt Romney, in the first of the presidential debates, made it perfectly clear that what I said on this Blog last week is patently true:  the real platform of the Republican Party is that of lies and distortions.  Romney presented us with no fewer than 15 lies or distortions and probably more (some counted 28).  Let’s start by listing his Ten Most Shameless Lies as contained in an article by Alex Kane on AlterNet.org:

1. An ‘Unelected Board’ Controlling Your Health Care
    In reality, as the Associated Press points out , the board that is tasked with bringing down Medicare costs is prohibited from “rationing care, shifting costs to retirees, restricting benefits or raising the Medicare eligibility age. So the board doesn't have the power to dictate to doctors what treatments they can prescribe.”
2. A Bipartisan Record
    ABC News calls the claim “not quite factual.” Indeed: Romney’s health care plan was enacted with the help of a Democratic legislature. But in general, the body was “frustrated” with Romney “because he wanted to govern like a ‘CEO’ and ‘didn’t pay heed to the legislature and they resented that,’” according to the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation’s Michael Widmer.
3. Dodd-Frank Labels Banks as ‘Too Big to Fail’
    As ThinkProgress notes, this is far from the truth: “the law merely says that the biggest, systemically risky banks need to abide by more stringent regulations . If those banks fail, they will be unwound by a new process in the Dodd-Frank law that protects taxpayers from having to pony up for a bailout.”
4. Obamacare Leads to Loss of Healthcare
    Governor Romney claimed that the passage of the Affordable Care Act will lead to 20 million people losing health insurance.  PolitiFact’s final verdict on the claim is: “That number is cherry-picked, and he’s wrong to describe it as only including people who ‘like’ their coverage, since many of those 20 million will be leaving employer coverage voluntarily for better options. ”
5. The Failure of the Obama Economy
    Romney hammered Obama on the economy’s performance over the past four years. One claim Romney made was this: “[We have] 23 million people out of work...The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work.”
    The AP breakdown of the facts on this claim: “The number of unemployed is 12.5 million, not 23 million. ”  And on the college graduate claim, Romney was also wrong. Back to the AP: “A Northeastern University analysis for The Associated Press found that a quarter of graduates were probably unemployed and another quarter were underemployed, which means working in jobs that didn't make full use of their skills or experience.”
6. Obamacare Cuts Billions From Medicare
    This was one of Romney’s favorite attack lines debate night: the notion that the Affordable Care Act is siphoning off funds from Medicare, giving the impression that the law takes money already allocated to Medicare away from current recipients, which is why it gets only a "half true" rating.   The specific claim is that $716 billion was cut from Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act.  "That amount — $716 billion — refers to Obamacare's reductions in Medicare spending over 10 years, primarily paid to insurers and hospitals," says PolitiFact. What the number refers to is money that is saved “primarily through reducing over-payments to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, not payments to beneficiaries. Paul Ryan’s budget plan keeps those same cuts , but directs them toward tax cuts for the rich and deficit reduction,” ThinkProgress notes.  But perhaps more to the point, because the savings are over a decade, and, since this money is in savings, there will never be a lump sum that Romney can “give back.”
7. Gas Prices Increase
    Romney said that “gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up.” This is true--but to blame it on the president is highly misleading. Instead, as the Associated Press states, “Gasoline prices are set on financial exchanges around the world and are based on a host of factors, most importantly the price of crude oil used to make gasoline, the amount of finished gasoline ready to be shipped and the capacity of refiners to make enough to meet market demand.”
    The AP also skewers Romney’s claim on electric rates going up: “Retail electricity prices have.…grown by an average of less than 1 percent per year, less than the rate of inflation and slower than the historical growth in electricity prices.”
8. Health Care Costs Rising Under Obama
    FactCheck.org was on this false claim back when Romney used it on the campaign trail in September: “Romney says health insurance premiums have gone up $2,500 (per family) under Obama. The actual increase has been $1,700, most of which was absorbed by employers and only a small part of which is attributable to the health care law, which is why it gets only a "half true" rating.
9. Oil and Gas Production Increases Only on Private Land
    The former Massachusetts governor said debate night that “all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land...Your Administration has cut the numbers of permit and licenses in half.”  ABC News says Romney is playing loose with the facts. Data from the Bureau of Land Management shows that “the number of drilling permits on federal lands approved during the fiscal years President Obama has been in office has decreased somewhere between 20 and 37 percent compared to the years before he became president - not the 50 percent Romney claimed.”
10. No Tax Cuts for the Rich
    To fend off the perception that he’s only concerned about the wealthy, Romney made sure to emphasize that his economic plan would not lower tax rates on rich people.  Think Progress has the details on that claim: “If Romney were to actually implement his plan to reduce tax rates by 20 percent while eliminating tax deductions in order to pay for it, taxpayers with more than $200,000 would certainly see a tax cut. But everyone else — 95 percent of Americans —will see their taxes increase.” The New York Times notes that Romney "has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion."
   
So, the question becomes:  is an inveterate liar and flip-flopper someone we want to put in the White House as President of these United States? 

Maybe that’s exactly what a significant number wants, so that they do not have to face the reality of today’s economy, or the reality of a global economy, or the reality of having to fight through the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Or, more to the point, maybe they are simply tired of hearing how difficult it is to climb out of the mini-depression we have been forced in to by Bush policies that augured trouble from the beginning.

Interestingly, George W. Bush prepared us for this barrage of untruthfulness.  The original reason for the Iraq War perpetrated by his administration was that Iraq had weapons of “mass destruction” and would use them at a moment’s notice.  Secondarily, it was because Al Qaeda was active there (which it was not, of course).   Then, we were led down a primrose path regarding our individual rights, and all kinds of scare tactics were put into use to keep the American people in support of the War.  The Patriot Act made us more vulnerable to government intervention in our lives: all public travel but mainly air travel, surveillance, including the government’s ability to search our private documents and belongings without cause, or to take our pictures without permission, confiscate our computers or library records or what have you, just to see if we had any terrorist tendencies.

We did, after all, buy into this craziness.  And here we are again, allowing a Presidential candidate to lie to us over and over in order to win a debate and to put himself back in the running for the highest office in the land.  But here are a few of his commitments out of which he cannot squeeze:

First of all, whatever he says to the contrary, Mitt Romney is committed to the people of his economic class.  He is going to see that they are well taken care of.  You can’t say that he won’t favor the rich when he has already promised them:
A reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25%
To reverse Executive orders that favor labor especially the one encouraging use of union labor on government construction projects
To lower and then eliminate the estate tax
To lower tax rates for investment income to 15%
Continue the Bush tax cuts that favor the aggrandizement of the 1% over $250k per year
Lower the marginal tax rates (meaning the top rates) substantially from35% to something around 28%
In the long run, lower and flatten the tax rates (which automatically favors the rich)

Second, Mitt Romney is committed to making ours an austere economy for millions of our people, by:

-Immediately moving to cut and cap spending at 20% of GDP, meaning that many programs aiding vulnerable or poorer citizens will have to be cut.  Even Big Bird will take a hit!
-Immediately cutting non-discretionary spending by 5%, reducing the annual federal budget by about $20 billion, by his own estimate.
-By instituting “entitlement  reform,” which comes down to an assault on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Food Stamps.  Block granting some of these entitlements - like Medicaid and food stamps -- to the states will have the effect of increasing administrative costs for those states who will then have to cut other  programs in order to maintain even a semblance of the benefits now offered.
-By cutting federal government personnel across the board by 10% or more which will have the effect of gutting some programs and curtailing the services of others.
-By eliminating the Affordable Health Care Act, he will devastate millions of people who had already benefited: young adults up to age 26 no longer on parents’ policies; women - no longer able to receive certain services with no charge; seniors - no more help with their medicines: the donut hole returns; and no more restrictions on private insurance conglomerates who will raise your rates, restrict your benefits and cap your payments for certain procedures and services; to say nothing about the fact that a pre-existing condition can again prevent you from even getting insurance!   

Third, no matter what he says, we can count on Mitt Romney to mess-up our foreign relations.  He’s already shown how well he can do that!  But the devastating conclusion is that a bellicose attitude toward other nations, brought on by a jingoist concept of “exceptionalism,” is bound to get us into more wars.  We may be unique among democracies, we may be a leader in certain areas of manufacturing, we may be a wonderful people, and have a beautiful country with great schools and colleges and health care facilities; we may be many things, but “exceptional” crosses a line between special and outright arrogant.  Calling ourselves exceptional but acting as though we are simply better than everyone else, does not make it so.  We must demonstrate our best intentions in our relations with other countries.  Actions speak louder than words and we can be exceptional only when others come to regard us as such by how we act.

So, let us ask again:  do we really want a President who has shown over and over that he will lie, distort, and change his policies and ideas just to get ahead?  I think we have had enough of that in the previous administration.  Romney will listen to his rich friends.  Romney will act as he is told to act by the radical right controllers of his Party. Romney will not move to the center as many predict because his Party is not there.  But mostly Romney will lie to you whenever he is in trouble on any front.  That is his pattern, in business and in government, and it is not going to change.  In order to be the kind of CEO he was, Romney had to “fit” the circumstances or the constituency with which he was presented.  Distorting the truth for him is a way of life; it leads to his kind of success.  Manipulating people, firing them, stripping them of meaningful jobs was his way of life with Bain.  The aggressiveness, the distortions, the outright lies used at Wednesday’s debate was not just for that moment; it is his modus operandi - his manner of operation. 

An untruthful and vacillating President is a disaster in a free and democratic society.  So be aware, be cautious, be wary.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

*Can I trust Romney as President to protect Medicare from being diminished or developed into an inadequate voucher program, when he actually has praised his running mate’s budget that intends to do just that?
*Can I trust Romney to keep the plusses in Obamacare, such as no pre-existing conditions, children under age 26 being on parents plan, making drug costs less expensive for seniors, or even the improvement of the quality of health care? 
*Can I trust Romney to advocate for the middle class and the poor when he seeks to cut entitlements, cut government spending, and cut programs like food stamps?
*Can I trust Romney when he says that he won’t raise the taxes of the middle income group to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations?
*Can I trust Romney to put in place any protections for consumers, since he favors massive changes in regulations that control businesses, wall street, banks and the environment? 
*Can I trust Romney to invest the funds necessary to improve our environment, to put us on a track toward oil independence, when he talks only about cutting regulations, getting rid of the EPA, and depending on our own limited oil resources?  When he believes “green jobs” actually hurt employment more than help it?
*Can I trust Romney to enhance our public school system when he advocates for state and local control as opposed to federal involvement?  Can I trust him to advocate for teachers as professionals when he opposes unions and supports a budget that does not envision supporting more teachers?  Can I trust Romney to care about school building refurbishing when he stands against government help for such matters?
*Can I trust Romney to do anything about our crumbling infrastructure when he believes that such “intervention” is not appropriate?
*Do we really want a President who lies to us, deceives us, and changes policies every time he confronts a particular constituency?  Do we really want such a man to have the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices, to hold the detonator of hydrogen bombs in his hands, to command the strongest military in the world?

While President Obama has a specific and concrete plan to stimulate our economy, and has already demonstrated the effectiveness of that plan in moving us forward, Romney wants to go back to the failed policies that got us into this mess.  Romney not only won’t discuss specifics on almost any topic, he purports to keep some things secret until he can discuss them with Congress.  Can I trust Mitt Romney in any matter? since it is unclear what he believes; since he changes positions on issues at the drop of a hat; since he lies or distorts facts and data to suit his own purposes?  Not on YOUR life!