Friday, October 26, 2012

The Case for Obama - Part 5: Election Minutiae

Part 1: On Election Mythology
Part 2: On Trajectories and Private Sector Jobs
Part 3: On Deficits, Taxes, and The Figment of Our Collective Imagination
Part 4: On Tax Cuts for "Job Creators"

For our final entry, I'm going to throw out a bunch of bullet points. Whereas I tried my hardest to stick ONLY to facts in the first four, most of these are my own opinions, and I'm not trying to pass things off as anything other than that. These are primarily observations I've made over the past six months of campaign season.

  • Mitt Romney said at the second debate that "government doesn't create jobs." Begs the question, then: why is he running for president if he believes that being in government won't create jobs?
  • Mitt Romney's dad George ran for president. He released 12 years of tax returns when he was asked for just one. His reasoning? One or two years could be a "fluke" instead of the full trend. Mitt Romney released more than 20 years of tax returns to John McCain's campaign in 2008, and McCain picked Sarah Palin. That should tell you something about what's in those tax returns, people.
  • Mitt Romney has a commercial out with five reasons not to vote for Obama. Two of the five reasons are outright lies, one is conjecture, and two are reasons that will not change under a Romney presidency. Lie: Under Obama, taxes on the middle class will go up $4000. The truth: "The ads cite a conservative group’s study, but even the group itself doesn’t say Obama will raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers. It says his budget could result in a “potentially higher tax burden” over the next 10 years." Lie: Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare. The truth: "Medicare’s money isn’t being taken away. The Affordable Care Act calls for slowing the growth in spending, a move that — if successful — would keep the hospital insurance trust fund solvent for longer than if the reductions didn’t happen." Of note, Paul Ryan took that same $716 billion out of Medicare in his own budget. Conjecture: 20 million could lose their employer based health insurance coverage. The truth: "The truth is that might happen under a very pessimistic scenario, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But the agency said it is more likely that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people, on net, would obtain health insurance from their employer under the law. The CBO said it’s also possible more people would be covered by employers, not fewer (which is what the CBO said actually happened in Massachusetts)." More on that one below. Same: Our debt will increase to $20 trillion. True, but Romney's proposals would increase the debt to $19 trillion by the same standards. Same: Energy costs will continue to go up. No president affects gas prices. They just don't. Neither candidate's energy plan will affect gas prices. If these five things are the core of Romney's argument, well, it isn't much of an argument.
  • Some say regulations kill jobs. I say dirty air and dirty water kill people.
  • Abortion rates are higher in countries where the procedure is illegal. To my right-wing friends, please explain to me how you can argue that making guns illegal won't get rid of guns and gun violence, but that making abortion illegal will suddenly get rid of abortions. Further, please explain how limiting or removing affordable access to birth control will lower the number of unwanted pregnancies and, by extension, abortions.
  • To that end, please explain to me why any woman can support Mitt Romney, who cut an ad in Indiana supporting Richard Mourdock, who thinks it's God's Will when a women gets pregnant from rape. Romney distanced himself from Mourdock's comments, but won't pull the ad. Let's not forget that Todd Akin thinks a woman's body will shut down a pregnancy because it knows it's conceived of rape. Or that Paul Ryan was one of the guys who tried to write the law change to delineate some rapes as "forcible," and recently noted that rape was really just another method of conception. THESE ARE THE GUYS DRIVING YOUR BUS, REPUBLICAN LADIES.
  • Please cite specific examples of voter fraud that necessitate all of these states--coincidentally swing states that Romney needs to win in which Republicans are in control of state government, hmm--creating laws that make it harder for people to vote. Go ahead. I'll wait. Maybe if you had good ideas, Republicans, you wouldn't have to try to suppress voter turnout.
  • Just want to reiterate that tax cuts don't create jobs, but they DO create giant deficits.
  • Republican policies over the past 10-15 years have completely favored the rich at the expense of the poor. I don’t like to ascribe religious leanings into politics. I hate the national myth that the religious and moral high ground belongs solely to Republican policy makers. I don’t think God is on anyone’s “side” when it comes to purely political issues. But I also don’t remember Jesus--in what I’ve read--ever talking about rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor or of minorities, and that’s ultimately what these policies of tax cuts for the wealthy and off-setting that by cutting things like education and Medicaid while destroying Medicare and Social Security do. Are there some magical benefits that we’re all missing that make it OK to do this, from a purely moral perspective? Or have I been misinterpreting the Gospels all this time?
  • As we noted above, Republicans argue that Obamacare might (AGAIN: MIGHT) cause 20,000,000 people to lose their employer-based health insurance, though there are plenty of sources that call that claim false. In addition, the nature of Obamacare means that people that lose employer coverage can still get insurance through state exchanges. However, repealing Obamacare will increase the deficit, per the CBO. It will also DEFINITELY mean that people who couldn't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions STILL WON'T BE ABLE TO GET INSURANCE. Whether you like the machinations of the bill or not, IT EXPANDS INSURANCE COVERAGE TO 30 MILLION PEOPLE. So, if you're scoring at home, that's 30 million more insured people (not to mention easier access to preventative care) vs. 20 million people who might lose the coverage they have now but will still have the option to buy other coverage. Again, I hate to inject "morals" into politics, but which one is more moral, purely from a "love your neighbor" standpoint?
  • If Paul Ryan's Medicare plan is so freaking great, why can't current retirees have it? Oh, that's right, because if you mess with their Medicare, they won't vote for you. Food for thought.
  • Likewise, if we had privatized Social Security in 2005, how many people would have lost their entire life savings in 2008?
  • Finally, they're called "entitlements" because we've been paying into them our entire lives. Thus, we're "ENTITLED" to that money.
  • The current Supreme Court--at least a majority of it--thinks corporations should have the same rights as people. Mitt Romney thinks corporations are people. Corporations are not people, because as Elizabeth Warren correctly said: "People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama." And, I would add, people can go to jail when they break the law.
  • Along those lines, the next president will get to appoint two Supreme Court Justices.
  • This president has been treated with less respect than any other president sitting in my lifetime. He has had his citizenship questioned (can't remember ANY other presidential CANDIDATE being asked to produce a birth certificate), he has been shouted at and called a liar by a sitting Congressman DURING the State of the Union, he has had a sitting governor stick her finger in his face while admonishing him, he has endured the mantle of being the first non-white president, and he has handled it all with a calm and cool we have not seen from nigh any other president. That, in my book, is the kind of leader I want: a leader that can ignore all of the noise and focus on his job. You need thick skin to be president, and this campaign has showed me that Obama has it, and Mitt Romney does not.

I thank those of you who've read this entire series of posts. It has helped me tremendously to write everything out, to organize what I think are both strong arguments for Barack Obama AND against Mitt Romney. Whatever you do, make sure that you vote. Not just for President, but for your leaders at every level of government.

Cheers. Obama 2012!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Case for Obama - Part 4: On Tax Cuts for "Job Creators"

Part 1: On Election Mythology
Part 2: On Trajectories and Private Sector Jobs
Part 3: On Deficits, Taxes, and The Figment of Our Collective Imagination

First and foremost, let's call a spade a spade. "Job Creators" is nothing more than political-spin-speak for "rich people." To that end, we’ve had massive tax cuts on “job creators” for the past 11 years. Obama has tried to end those specific cuts while keeping tax cuts for the middle class, but he has admittedly had no success in the GOP-led House.

The heavy lifting, though, in terms of cutting taxes on the very tippy top was done in 2001 and 2003 under George W. Bush. What have those tax cuts to “job creators” given us?

Before we get to the numbers, let's talk about the rationale and some of the myths. The theory on tax cuts, as summarized by David Leonhardt in the New York Times, is this:

The main economic argument for tax cuts is simple enough. In the short term, they put money in people’s pockets. Longer term, people will presumably work harder if they keep more of the next dollar they earn. They will work more hours or expand their small business. This argument dominates the political debate.

But tax cuts have other effects that receive less attention — and that can slow economic growth. Somebody who cares about hitting a specific income target, like $1 million, might work less hard after receiving a tax cut. And all else equal, tax cuts increase the deficit, as Mr. Bush’s did, which creates other economic problems.

There's no doubt that having some extra capital in the hands of startup businesses and other small operations would help. However, in researching, I stumbled across an interesting piece from 2010 by Peter Cohan of Forbes. In it, he interviewed 17 startup CEOs, and slipped in this nugget:

One other thing -- with a single exception -- none of the Job Creators I talked with plan to hire people solely because of the tax incentives being discussed in Washington. Since many of them have been losing money during their startup stage, they don't need the tax breaks. And even if they did, they say such incentives wouldn't be an important factor in their decision to create new jobs.

So, while extra capital can certainly help small businesses, from Cohan's (albeit small) sample size, most people are more concerned with growing their businesses regardless of the tax policies enacted. Or, to put it another way, they're not going to hire people ONLY because of tax cuts, which throws the notion that we NEED tax cuts on "job creators" out the window. It should also be pointed out that most startups lose money during their initial years, these are hardly the wealthy incomes that are going to see a tax increase under Obama. We'll have more on this below.

Much like Bush's early agenda, tax cuts--skewed toward the wealthy, no matter what Romney may say to the contrary--are the cornerstone of Romney's recovery plan. So, is there any evidence that tax cuts really drive growth in the employment market? Let's look at some raw employment numbers.

When Bush came in in 2001, the U6 unemployment rate was 7.3%. Bush inherited a budget surplus and an economy not yet in recession, immediately cut taxes, and saw that rate jump to a peak of 10.4% in 2003 before settling back to 9.3% by the end of his first term. When Bush left in 01/2009, the U6 was 14.2%. The private sector lost a total of 646,000 jobs over Bush's eight years in office, though it must be pointed out that private sector jobs dropped from 2001 through 2003, rose from 2004 through 2007, and then fell off a cliff in 2008.

Obviously, there are many factors that affect job creation in this context. But, is there evidence that sustained tax cuts created jobs at a better rate than without them? It wouldn't appear so. It would appear that tax cuts passed by Bush in 2001 and 2003 had mixed results, based purely on the numbers above. So, let's ask a rhetorical question: do tax cuts create jobs?

One of the better articles I've read on the subject is by Rick Ungar, who writes for Forbes (though he is admittedly their "token lefty" in his own words). He reviews two different measuring sticks to determine whether George W. Bush's massive tax cut package for the very wealthy spurred job growth, as compared to the job growth rates under other two-term presidents over the last half-century. And, to give Bush the best possible outcome, he even didn't factor in the last year of Bush's presidency in which the economy was bleeding jobs. What were the results of his study?

So, should we argue over which measuring stick is the better judge of success?

No need. Let’s use them both because, whether we use one tool or the other, the growth in jobs following the Bush tax cuts remains surprisingly small in comparison to the job growth achieved by two-term presidents without the benefit of the mega-tax cuts for the wealthiest among us as delivered by President Bush.

Using the CES survey, employment during the period measured grew 4.5 percent. Using the CPS approach, employment grew 7 percent—both numbers producing a large yawn for Gary Burtless, a senior policy analysts with the centrist Brookings Institute, because neither number is very impressive, particularly if one is seeking to make the case that cutting taxes on the so called ‘job creators’ equals job growth.

By Mr. Burtless’ calculations, the Reagan years produced double-digit job growth. Same goes for the Clinton era, the 8 years of the combined Nixon and Ford administrations, and the 8 years of the combined Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy terms (both Ford and Johnson finished the terms of their predecessors.) Indeed, the only two-term president in modern history to experience job growth as sluggish as that experienced during the President George W. Bush years used in this analysis, even before the recession set in, was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

...

So what does this data tell us?

For starters, given that all of these two-term presidents experienced better job growth without the assistance of the massive tax cuts for the wealthy provided by President George W. Bush, it certainly seems fair to note that a certain amount of job growth would have come during the years George W. was president—whether he had given us the tax cuts or not.

And if one feels the need to argue that tax cuts are the great driver of employment, the comparative numbers presented make it shockingly clear that these tax benefits to the wealthy do little to nothing to even keep up with the employment increases under all of the other two term presidents of the modern era, with the exception of poor old Ike.

So, in Ungar's summaries, we see that, even without counting the dreadful last year of Bush's presidency, his rate of job growth was much lower than any other two term president this side of Eisenhower. And, his last note is important. As I noted in previous posts, the rate of growth that Romney's campaign numbers cite is SLOWER than the current job growth trajectory of Obama's recovery.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for tax cuts, eh?

In addition, two other snippets come from the NYT article I linked to above. First, a September report from the Congressional Research Service found that over a 65 year span changes to the top tax rate “do not appear correlated with economic growth.” CRS is a part of the legislative branch within the Library of Congress, and confidentially works primarily and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff. They are non-partisan.

For the second item, we'll give the final word to Donald Marron, who was quoted in the NYT article to which I linked above: “At the level of taxes we’ve been at the last couple decades and the magnitude of the changes we’ve had, it’s hard to make the argument that tax rates have a big effect on economic growth.”

Donald Marron is the director of the Tax Policy Center, and was a former member of the Bush administration.

Romney would be inheriting a less stable economy than Bush did, but one at least heading in a positive direction over the previous three years. Bush's job rates grew more slowly than any other two-term president in 50 years. And if you factor in Bush's entire legacy, where is the evidence that his tax cuts did ANYTHING to help the economy? Further, is there ANY precedent that we should do the exact same thing on a much larger scale now?

But what about Obama's plans, you might ask? The first issue: many small business owners complain that raising their taxes will stop their growth, because higher taxes on higher income levels remove the incentive to grow to that point. Some argue that small businesses might even lay people off to get under that threshold. Some even argue that a tax increase might force them out of business. Very scary stuff, indeed.

However, as Matthew Yglesias points out in Slate, it doesn't really work that way at all. In order to see ANY tax increase, a small business owner must be making AT LEAST $250,000 in profit each year. That means that, after ALL of their expenses and overheard, they're making $250,000. And, per Yglesias (emphasis mine),

The way U.S. income tax brackets work is that taxes are levied on marginal income. In other words, the rate applied to income earned over the $250,000 threshold is irrelevant to the first $250,000 worth of taxable income. If you have $250,010 of taxable earnings then only that last $10 is taxed at the higher rate. In all cases, higher pre-tax earnings lead to higher after-tax income.

Similarly, a curiously large number of the small business owners surveyed by House Republicans don’t seem to understand the difference between profits and revenues. The issue here is that some (but not all) small firms are organized as what are called “pass-through entities” for tax purposes. ... A pass-through entity... pays no taxes. Instead its profits are distributed to its owners (typically a small group of people) and they pay income—but not payroll—taxes on the proceeds.

So, it would seem that all these doomsday scenarios about what will be happening to small business if taxes are raised on the rich are either intentionally misleading, or are due to a lack of understanding of how the tax code actually works. I'll admit, I had to look it up myself.

Most importantly, even John Boehner has admitted that only 3% of people classified as "small businesses" will face any tax increase at all. The scare tactic that "half of small business income will see higher taxes" is because that top 3% makes HALF OF THE SMALL BUSINESS INCOME. Think about that for a second. 97% of "small businesses" make less than $250,000 a year, and therefore will see NO TAX INCREASE.

Second, does raising those taxes on the top earners stunt overall job growth? Recent history would actually suggest that it might have the opposite effect and spur MORE job growth. In fact, raising taxes to help combat rising deficits has happened twice in the past 20+ years: despite his campaign promises, George H. W. Bush raised taxes in his 1990 budget at the behest of the Democratic Congress, and Bill Clinton raised them again in 1993.

There was a recession in 1991, but from January 1990 through December of 2000, the economy added 23.672 million jobs, of which 20.943 million were private sector jobs. Obviously, there was a tech boom during that period of time, but it doesn't appear that the "job creators" were too strapped for cash because of higher taxes to invest in those jobs.

This isn't to say that Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthy will create 20 million jobs. After all, it's not intellectually honest to quote someone who says that the tax rate of the top 1% doesn't directly affect the economy and then turn around and say raising taxes will create jobs. I'm not saying that. But, consider: the CBO has already predicted that the economy would create 9 million jobs:

The Congressional Budget Office is required to consider the effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff” if a year-end budget deal is not reached, which many experts believe would push the country into a recession. But even with that caveat, the nonpartisan agency assumes 9.06 million jobs will be created between 2013 and 2017. (This is a revision downward; CBO had estimated 11 million in January.)

The biggest caveat is that the result of Bush 41's and Clinton's tax increases is that, by the end of the decade, the federal budget deficit was gone. After eight years of Bush 43 and tax cuts, the budget deficit was back to $1.3 trillion.

So, whose tax plan is better? History tells us it's Obama's, by a HUGE margin. A decade of higher taxes, during which the economy was NOT stalled and created almost 21 million private sector jobs and erased deficits in the budget, or eight years of tax cuts that produced no net job gains in the private sector and blew a hole of over a trillion dollars in the yearly budget deficit?

This shouldn't be hard to figure out.

Tomorrow, we'll attempt to wrap this up with Part 5: Election Minutiae.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Case for Obama - Part 3: On Deficits, Taxes, and The Figment of Our Collective Imagination

Part 1: On Election Mythology
Part 2: On Trajectories and Private Sector Jobs

We've looked at some myths about Obama's first term, as well as some of the more important trends in the labor market. Today, we're going to (try to) tackle the issues of deficits, debt reduction as a campaign tool, and taxes--more specifically, tax cuts--as they relate to the current deficit situation.

(As a note, there are two words used a bunch below, but they are not used interchangeably. For reference, when I use the word "deficit" I'm talking about the yearly fiscal budget deficit. When I use the word "debt" I'm talking about the national debt. Big difference, and important in many of these contexts.)

One of the big campaign points of the Romney campaign is the issue of the national debt, and tangentially the federal budget deficit. I looked at the deficit in very small part on Monday as one of the four myths. Today, we're going to look at Romney and his political party, since they of late have been driving this "deficit and debt" bus.

I take serious issue with the notion that Romney will be better on the deficit. As high as the deficit is, it hasn’t grown under Obama (yes, the national debt as a whole has, but it has been growing steadily since 1957 and yet here we all still are...). I take issue with this notion that Republican politicians are somehow misers when it comes to deficit spending; it’s just not true, even though in 2010 they started trying to sell the idea that it is.

For 20 years, under Reagan and the Bushes, the national debt increased compared to GDP every single year. Dick Cheney himself said: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." When Reagan’s first fiscal year started, the debt was $998 billion. He increased it by over 186% in eight years, or 23.3% for each year. George W. Bush increased his national debt by 89% in eight years, or 11.1% for each year. George H.W. Bush and Clinton grew it by 54% and 32% respectively. So, yeah, the national debt has grown under Obama by 36%, only slightly higher in relation to his predecessor, and ahead of two other Republican presidents over the past 30 years.

Most damning in terms of evidence of where we are right now comes from the CBO, which releases a 10-year forecast every year. Then, each year, they take a look at the past 10 years as compared to their forecast from 10 years ago. If we're seriously going to look at deficits and national debt, this is a damn good place to start. From the CBO, revised in June of 2012:

In January 2001, CBO's baseline projections showed a cumulative [budget] surplus of $5.6 trillion for the 2002–2011 period. The actual results have differed from those projections because of subsequent policy changes, economic developments that differed from CBO's forecast, and other factors. As a result, the federal government ran deficits from 2002 through 2011. The cumulative deficit over the 10-year period amounted to $6.1 trillion—a swing of $11.7 trillion from the January 2001 projections.

Funny, we're $16 trillion in debt. CBO says we could have only been $4.3 trillion in debt. And, though the Republicans are so quick to blame Obama for this, remember this: George W. Bush inherited a budget SURPLUS of roughly $127.3 billion in 2001, which followed three other surpluses under Clinton: $69.2 billion in 1998, $125.6 billion in 1999, and $236.4 billion in 2000.

This was not that long ago. That national debt was still substantial when Bush was sworn in: around $5.7 trillion, and that coming even after four straight years of a budget surplus. However, Bush IMMEDIATELY said that the budget surplus meant we were all paying too much tax! Tax cuts for everyone! And so, it is with great non-objectivity that I state that anyone that voted for Bush even once has no right to complain about the national debt under Obama. Why not, you ask?

The 2002 budget deficit, which was Bush's first budget? $157.8 billion deficit. Total budget deficits under George W. Bush, from 2002-2009: $3.5474 TRILLION.

So, when Republicans--especially ones serving in government currently--claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, the numbers don’t lie: we know better. The truth is that EVERYBODY in government since Bill Clinton and the teeth-gritting bipartisan work of the late 90's--when they weren't trying to impeach him for getting a hummer--are the last people that can lay any claim to any kind of fiscal responsibility.

Check VP candidate Paul Ryan’s voting record when it comes to deficit spending. And he's supposed to be the "budget hawk"!! Check Ryan's budget proposals, which Romney has said he would sign into law were they to land on his desk as president. Per FactCheck.org back in 2011:

Ryan says his plan would not increase the debt. In fact, under his plan the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021, by his own figures. That’s a slower increase than under President Barack Obama’s budget, but the debt would still rise substantially.

I think almost everyone can agree that deficit spending needs to be curbed. However, the notion that it’s ALL on Obama right now just isn’t accurate. And, there’s no data that Romney would somehow slow deficit spending. In fact, it seems like he’ll increase it. THIS is the figment of our collective imagination: that we can just keep on cutting and cutting taxes, and still somehow balance our budget. The only president to balance a budget since Richard Nixon was Bill Clinton, and he did it by raising some taxes. Republicans have all signed a pledge to Grover Norquist--a non-elected official, mind you--that they won't even CONSIDER any tax increases. So, if it is your policy belief that taxes need to be cut to stimulate the economy, then you have to take the issue of debt and deficits off the table. Those two ideas cancel each other out.

Romney STILL hasn’t told us how his tax cuts--which, as we discussed previously, will create jobs at a slower rate than our current job gains--will even be revenue-neutral and won't heavily favor the rich. The Tax Policy Center has said it’s mathematically not possible (source), and the big reason why is that his tax cuts do away with the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is put in place to keep the super-rich from taking enough deductions to reduce their amount paid below a certain threshold. He's also cutting the capital gains rate and the estate tax, both of which heavily favor the very wealthy.

And, despite the claims that the cuts will somehow broaden the base enough to create enough revenue to balance everything out, Romney’s claim is just 7 million jobs over 10 years. 700,000 additional tax payers per year isn’t enough to offset the $500 billion-per-year deficit the tax cuts would create, unless each of those new taxpayers forks over $714,285.71 a year.

I know, I know, it's not really that simple. More taxpayers would imply lower unemployment, which in turn means fewer monies paid out by government support agencies. But, look at that number. And, consider that, here in Ohio, if you made ZERO income in wages for a calendar year from June 2011-June 2012, your MAX unemployment benefit is $2678.00. 700,000 people at that rate would only account for $1.875 billion in savings over a year. The tax cuts cost $500 billion over a year. It still doesn't add up, unless everyone starts paying a ton more sales tax and we jack up payroll taxes. But that won't happen, because the Republicans all signed a pledge for NO NEW TAXES!

The ironic thing is that, in a way, Romney is potentially proposing a Trojan Horse tax increase. The original notion was that removal of deductions would cover the revenue needed to pay for the tax cuts (which begs the question, aren't you just robbing Peter to pay Paul by paying a lower rate but still somehow owing the same amount of money?), though he won’t say specifically which deductions are on the table.

All I can say is: if the mortgage and charitable donations deductions go away, my tax obligation WILL GO UP even if my "rate" is lower; you'll have to take my word for it that I'm squarely in the middle class. It doesn't take a slide rule to figure this stuff out.

And this is Romney's sleight-of-hand. He can say that he's not raising taxes on anyone, because he's cutting the rate for everyone. However, we all lower our amount of money owed (hence, tax refunds) by deductions. And, it's just simple math: for people of very modest incomes, giving up deductions definitely has a very large impact in the percentage of money owed. So, Romney can "cut middle-class taxes" while still causing members of the middle class to either owe more money come tax time, or get smaller refunds. And that, by every definition, is not a "tax cut" for the middle class.

Conversely, by removing the AMT, cutting capital gains, and gutting the estate tax, there's no "floor" for the super wealthy anymore. How all of THAT doesn't add up to a huge drop in revenue--and therefore a huge increase in the federal budget deficit--is a feat of mathematical genius we've not seen on this planet before. Except that it isn't, because Romney STILL hasn't explained how it will work.

The "broadening the base" argument doesn't add up, as we showed above. Romney's latest tack has been this notion of capping deductions, which I'm sure sounds like a great idea in theory. But, until we hear specific numbers (Romney just made one up on the spot in the town hall debate), there’s no way to know if it will work. But, I'm a subscriber to the principle that all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one, combined with the notion of "following the money" when it comes to deciding what's true.

Romney took a deduction for his wife's dressage horse that was more than I've made in any one year of my now-14-year professional life. Am I to believe that Romney is now suddenly going to cap deductions in such a way that he’d forfeit enough of his to balance out this tax rate cut? Follow the money.

Further, if you believe him, Romney believes the government has little to no role in the lives of every-day people (unless you're gay or are putting something into/taking something out of your uterus). Why, then, would I believe that he’s suddenly going to change the deduction policy to give up MORE of his own money to an institution he doesn’t believe in? He didn’t become a gajillionare by giving away more of his money. The simplest explanations tend to be the correct ones. Follow the money.

But, to be fair, those last two paragraphs are pure editorializing on my part, mainly because Romney simply won't tell us how it's going to work. He skirts this notion of the math by saying that "the rich will still pay the same share of the taxes that they do now." Well, sure. But the devil's in the details: If the top 10% pay 70% of the taxes, then (as an example) they'd be paying $700 million of a $1 billion pie. Romney wants a 20% rate cut across the board, which would imply that the new pie would be $800 million. The top 10% can still pay 70% of that pie, but that slice drops from $700 million to $560 million. So, just in this tiny example, the top 10% have gotten out from under $140 million in taxes while "still paying the same share" of the taxes.

This is just math, people. Maybe this is why Obama is pushing so hard for more math teachers. Romney just wants us to trust him that it will work. Vote for me! We'll sort the whole thing out after the election! I, for one, don't trust him, and neither should the average middle class person. Romney can say he's concerned about the middle class all he wants, but there's no real evidence that his policies somehow don't favor his super-rich buddies.

On top of that, Romney wants to increase military spending. The $2 trillion number is a bit of a reach by Obama; what Romney has said is that it shouldn't drop below 4% of GDP. However, in a fact-check of the argument, Glenn Kessler had this to say:

To sum up, the $2 trillion figure is not adjusted for inflation, is based on predictions of the size of the economy 10 years from now and makes assumptions about Romney’s policy that his campaign says are not correct.

Still, Romney is proposing a significant boost in defense spending. By the campaign’s own account, the budget increase is as high as nearly $1.6 trillion over the president’s current path — or at a minimum almost $1 trillion more than Obama’s budget two years ago.

So, regardless of what figure you use, Romney is essentially proposing at least $160 billion a year in additional military spending. And, regardless of whether or not you think that spending is necessary, it's STILL SPENDING that is not accounted for by increased revenues.

What I’m trying to argue today is that, if we truly want to cut the deficit and national debt--for which both parties bear plenty of responsibility--who’s being more realistic in 2012? Obama, who is willing to admit that we’ll have to raise revenues while also cutting spending, and has proposed raising taxes on wealthy people to help do it? Or Romney and Ryan, who are proposing a spending package so massive that it ALONE will cover almost HALF of our current budget deficit EVERY YEAR FOR TEN YEARS? Without any provable means of offsetting that increase? And no discernable boost in job growth according to their own numbers?

It just doesn't add up. And, NO ONE on the Republican side should talk about the debt and deficit reduction as a reason to sack Obama, because math is not on their side.

Romney claims the president's proposals will raise taxes on the middle class. Factcheck.org says that's not true on its face, and is based on a partisan report that offers no definitive answer as to what will happen.

And, with Romney as a whole, the spending collateral damage of his tax policies elsewhere is, in my opinion, catastrophic. Is Romney’s tax cut proposal so good that we have to sacrifice Medicaid for it, for instance? That we need to make it legal again for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (even though, as the CBO pointed out this summer, repealing "Obamacare" would actually RAISE the budget deficit by almost $2 billion per year)? That we need to cut women’s access to birth control and cancer screenings via Planned Parenthood because they use 3% of their money nationwide for abortion services? And on that issue, that we need to force a woman who’s been raped to have a baby she doesn’t want? (Romney's tried changing positions on that last one, but look in the Republican platform and listen to Paul Ryan; it's still there. Also don't forget that when Romney ran for Senate in Massachusetts in the 1990's, he was firmly pro-choice.) Giving student loans back to big banks so they can soak fees off of the money loaned? Raising interest rates on those student loans? Cutting pell grants?

Do we need to go to fucking war with Iran?

All of that shit--and much, much more, some of which has no bearing on jobs but instead comes from antiquated religious and social fears--is what comes along with Romney’s tax plan by virtue of the wingnuts on the far right of his party that are driving the bus. Is it really worth it? Is it so good that we have to take all the other junk with it, just to give some super-rich people a huge tax cut?

Barack Obama says that we don't. And I agree with him.

Beyond that, unless Romney pulls some magical data about his enormous tax cuts and their stimulative impact out of his ass, his use of deficits and the national debt as a campaign tool is nothing more than an obfuscating tactic meant to stir up anger at incumbents. Nothing more. And if Romney truly wants to blame all of the people responsible for free-wheeling spending, he need look no further than his own running mate.

Tomorrow, we'll look at whether Romney's tax plan really stimulates the economy in Part 4: On Tax Cuts for "Job Creators".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Case for Obama - Part 2: On Trajectories and Private Sector Jobs

(Read Part 1: On Election Mythology)

Yesterday, we covered some of the more pervasive myths about Obama's first term. But, what this is really all about is the next four years. So, let’s look at where we’re heading, with the context of where we've been in our minds. This is where you have to put on those critical thinking caps that your teachers tried so hard to get you to use back in school.

You can look at a snapshot of the economy devoid of any context and say, “It’s bad.” And no one can really argue. But, when you look at trends and trajectories, there’s a lot more going on. The economy isn’t “great” right now, but in the standard electoral question of “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” the answer is pretty clear. First, here's the overall private sector job trend from Obama's first term (all graphs created at BLS.gov):

Obama has recovered all of the jobs lost from his end of the recession. However, I think it's important to look at the way the economy was going before he took office. From January of 2008 to January of 2009, the economy LOST 4.662 MILLION JOBS. In terms of trajectory, that’s an average of 388,500 job losses every month, and the peak was that January of 2009 just before Obama took office, when the economy lost 839,000 IN JUST ONE MONTH! Here's the 2007-2008 private sector job graph:

So, that downward slope is what was happening--for a full year--before president Obama took office. And, as it got closer and closer to him taking over, the trend was heading steeper and steeper downhill.

So then what happened? The economy’s rate of job losses decreased to 734,000 in February, and continued to decrease until the economy lost just 35,000 in February of 2010. From then on, it’s done nothing but gain jobs.

Compare the trend and trajectory from 2008 to 2009: in 2008, it was going downhill like a snowball picking up steam as it went. Obama took office. The snowball started slowing down. Within a year it was stopped, and the economy began to go back in the right direction. Here's the 2009-2010 trend. Notice how it levels off and starts back up again:

Now, let’s look at another trend. From February of 2010 until now, the private sector has gained jobs every month, to the tune of a monthly average increase of 152,452 jobs for 31 straight months. Here's the graph from 2010-2012:

So, which trend is better? -388,500 jobs per month for a year, or +152,452 for almost three years? ARE WE BETTER OFF THAN WE WERE FOUR YEARS AGO? YOU BET!

Now, let’s talk some more trajectory. The economy is recovering, but some say (cough—Romney—cough) that it’s not recovering fast enough. If we just stay at our current average of job gains for the next 52 months—i.e., October-January, plus 48 more months under Obama’s current trajectory—the economy adds 7.928 MILLION private sector jobs.

Romney says that’s not fast enough. I wrote extensively about this earlier on Facebook (and my number there of 7,317,696 jobs is based soley on a comparison of the second term of Obama), but here is the big hiccup in Romney’s jobs plan: he claims his tax and spending policies will create 7 million jobs alone. However, the source he cites is a TEN year projection, not a FOUR year projection. I don’t have to tell you that that’s only 2.8 million jobs over four years, not 7 million. If you read the whole breakdown, his “12 million jobs” over four years is actually 6.3 millions jobs. Obama’s current tractory is more than 1 million jobs MORE than that. So, who’s really too slow?

The point of all of this is not to say everything's great with the economy. I don't feel like Obama has ever tried to say that it is. The point here is to say that the economy was in total free-fall when Obama took office. He stopped that trend, reversed it in just one year, and has us headed in a sustained, positive direction. And beyond that, Mitt Romney's ENTIRE jobs plan--if we're to believe the numbers he cites--would actually slow the private sector job growth.

So, you may not like President Obama. But, if you really feel like Mitt Romney will be better on the economy and jobs, you'll need to find some new data that says so. All that we have now points to Obama handling the economy more strongly in a second term. Oh, and lest you think we’re done with Romney’s tax plans and his claims, we’re just getting started. Tomorrow, we'll move on to Part 3: On Deficits, Taxes, and The Figment of Our Collective Imagination

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Case for Obama - Part 1: On Election Mythology

The 2012 presidential election has become one of the more polarizing in recent memory (right up there with 2004). What this election is most likely going to come down to is the economy. The choice is whether we keep on the same track of progress we’ve been making, or change direction. As anyone who follows me on Facebook knows, I’m pro-Obama. I’ve reconstituted this blog after four years--for only a couple of weeks--to lay out the case for why I'm pro-Obama.

I'm going to try to explain why I think he will be better for the economy over the next four years, and I’m going to lay out a pretty broad picture over several entries. First up: let's do some myth-busting on the economy.

Myth 1 – Barack Obama caused the recession and is solely responsible for the economy.

The Truth: the economy went into recession in December of 2007, and the bottom fell out in September of 2008. Beginning in April of 2007, the U6 unemployment rate—which some will argue is one of the better measures of the state of employment and jobs in the economy—began rising from 8.0% in March of 2007 to 14.2 at the end of January of 2009, which is when Obama was sworn in. That was 22 months of that rate increasing, and that was all BEFORE OBAMA WAS PRESIDENT. The private sector lost 4.038 MILLION jobs during that stretch.

President Obama took office right in the midst of this horrible stretch.

Myth 2 – Barack Obama’s stimulus “failed,” and the economy is not recovering under Barack Obama’s leadership.

The Truth: Inheriting the downward trends outlined above, Obama enacted policies that put the brakes on that recession. His stimulus bill passed in the spring of 2009, and, “The truth is that the stimulus increased employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million people, compared with what employment would have been otherwise.“ (source)

Job losses steadily decreased (more on this tomorrow) until February 2010, and from that point on, the economy has done nothing but grow jobs. 4.256 million TOTAL jobs have been added to the economy since February of 2010. And, incredibly, 4.726 million PRIVATE SECTOR jobs have been created in that period. (source)

Wait, there are more private sector jobs than total jobs? What?? This leads us to...

Myth 3 – Barack Obama has grown the size of government.

The Truth: Again using the BLS website, we see that government jobs under Obama have DECREASED by 575,000 throughout his entire first term.

Myth 4 – Barack Obama DOUBLED the budget deficit in his first year.

The Truth: the widely-accepted notion that Obama doubled the deficit is not correct, and based on a false attribution that Bush’s fiscal-year-2009 budget is “Obama’s spending”. On Jan. 8, 2009, the C.B.O. projected a deficit for the year of $1.3 trillion that didn’t include any Obama policies (source).

The budget deficit has hovered slightly above or slightly below that number in subsequent years. The budget Obama submitted in February of this year for fiscal year 2013 requested just $900 billion in deficit spending. Federal spending has grown more slowly under Obama than under any president since Eisenhower. (source)

Those are four pretty big myths busted, no? To my eyes, it appears that Barack Obama inherited a shit-storm of an economy, put the brakes on a huge slide, and he turned the ship around and got it moving in the right direction. And it has continued moving in a positive direction for almost three full years.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Part 2: On Trajectories and Private Sector Jobs

Friday, August 29, 2008

One More, Because It Is So Very Important

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest – a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia – I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story – of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America’s promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what – it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color, from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

“We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.


--Barack Obama, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Closing Time

Well, I've come to a realization:

I'm not good at keeping up my blog.

It's no secret that I've been less than on top of updating this blog. And, it's also no secret that I really only write about two things: politics and my love affair with all things sports (Cleveland, Blue Jackets, etc.).

Well, I've basically become enamored with two much more established blogs for each of those things:
Sports: Waiting For Next Year
Politics: Political Inaction

I've been known to comment a bunch at both, and I'm working on potentially doing a weekly Blue Jackets column at WFNY.

So, it is with all of this on the table that I announce my retirement from the world of Welcome to the Monkey House. You can catch me at one/both of those sites... see you around the bend!