Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parsing Reasons

Should a progressive vote for Obama?  Until the choice of Paul Ryan the answer was, at best, "maybe".  There were very good reasons to vote for and to not vote for (there were and are no good reasons for any human being to vote for Romney...well, maybe family).  Still there is some pretty bad thinking in this realm, and I've seen lots of "reasons" that were not.  This comes from an email and was written (afaik) by Paul and/or Karen Barton.
Supreme Court
If Mitt Romney becomes President, he will be choosing the next one, two or three Supreme Court Justices.  Appointing Supreme Court Justices may be the single most significant action any President takes.  It profoundly steers law, public policy and culture for perpetuity.  If progressive voters don’t go to the polls to re-elect President Obama they might find themselves losing rights and privileges that they have taken for granted their entire lives.
The most compelling reason is the supreme court.  Those are lifetime nominations and the most lasting way that a president affects policy in the United States.
A Romney victory would likely bring with it a large GOP majority in the House and quite possibly a Republican Senate as well, and hence a tsunami of regressive legislation.
This is bad cause and effect.  This is only a true statement if everyone who votes for Democrats down ballot also votes for Obama and Romney wins.  If Romney wins because progressives do not vote for Obama, but they do vote down ballot, then the statement no longer holds. 
Health Care/Affordable Care Act
Democrats, under President Obama, believe health care is a right and want all Americans to be covered by health insurance.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not achieve that goal but it moves the ball a lot closer to the goal line than it was before the ACA was enacted.  Universal coverage is not a goal for Republicans.  Mitt Romney has vowed to begin dismantling the ACA as one of his first actions as President.  This would mean the return of the “donut hole,” the loss of coverage for adult children up to the age of 26 and those with pre-existing or high risk conditions, the loss of free preventive exams, the loss of contraception with no co-pay and the reinstatement of lifetime and annual limits on coverage.
Meh.  It was also Romney's fucking health care bill.  Not sure if he'll really walk it back, especially since he keeps pointing to things he would keep, but if he does: it will be a Republican plan taken down.
President Obama’s proposed Medicare savings are achieved through payment reductions to vendors, service delivery innovations and increased efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse.  There will be no reduction in benefits to seniors under his plan and the money saved will be turned back into the health insurance system, delaying insolvency and extending the fiscal security of Medicare for eight years.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees that the ACA actually reduces the deficit.
Mitt Romney will raise the eligibility age to 67 and turn Medicare into a voucher system...The money saved from current levels of Medicare spending under the Romney plan would be spent on tax cuts for the rich.
Meh.  Again, Romney isn't proposing anything that will take effect in his administration.  Funny thing about congress: just because they pass a law today doesn't mean it will still be the law tomorrow.
Mitt Romney would eliminate the existing matching-grant financing structure of Medicaid and would instead give each state a predetermined block grant.  States would be forced to reduce their spending and lower the size of their Medicaid programs by such measures as cutting payment rates for doctors, hospitals, or nursing homes; reducing the scope of benefits covered; or limiting eligibility. 
An Urban Institute analysis of the Ryan budget proposal from last year found block grants would lead states to drop between 14 million and 27 million people from Medicaid by 2021 and cut reimbursements to health care providers by 31%.
Medicaid is issue 2 where I see a meaningful difference.  Maybe not as lasting, and easier to undo, but it will hurt people in the meantime.
Social Security
Mitt Romney’s Social Security plan would, by 2032, raise the normal retirement age from 67 to 70, and adopt “progressive price indexing” which would reduce the future growth rate of benefits for the top 60 percent of earners. (Their initial retirement benefits would partly reflect inflation but not overall wage growth during their careers.)  Wealthy retirees would get fewer benefits.  Vice-President Biden has pledged, “Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security.”
Right now, I trust neither party to maintain SS, Biden's comment notwithstanding.  It was part of the shitty "Grand Bargain" that Obama spent a fucking year distracted by and pushing for. 
LGBT Rights
President Obama believes in a future where no one is denied rights because of who they are or whom they love.   He supports LGBT rights including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and marriage equality and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOM).  Mitt Romney opposes ENDA and will actively push for a constitutional amendment to take away the rights of states to voluntarily extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. The GOP platform calls for a ban on marriage equality nationwide.
I think this is a meaningful difference, but without substance.  Society has become much more accepting of LGBT people and rights in the past decade and the trend seems to be accelerating.  If the GOP tried to do this it would only hasten their demise.  That said, it could certainly make a very large difference to individuals.
President Obama supports creating a legal immigration system that reflects American values and diverse needs.  In contrast to Mitt Romney who wants undocumented immigrants to “self-deport,” the Obama administration has developed a program of deferred action for childhood arrivals, a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion so that children of undocumented immigrants can work, attend school or serve in the US military without fear of deportation.  Mitt Romney has stated he would repeal the Dream Act  --  which President Obama supports  --  should it pass and the GOP platform states that federal funding should be denied to universities that provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens.
Similar to LGBT rights, but not as clear cut.  The GOP has in the past (their last president) supported pretty good comprehensive immigration reform: better than anything I've heard from Obama, who has bragged about deporting more illegal immigrants than his predecessor.
Equal Pay for Women
President Obama supports women’s rights to equal pay and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as one his first acts as President.  It took Mitt Romney days to say he would not repeal the Act.

Reproductive Justice
Unlike Mitt Romney who as recently as the Fall of 2011 expressed support for legislation which would declare a fertilized egg a person and vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, President Obama supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom including access to safe and legal abortions and birth control.  To this end, the ACA includes a provision now in effect that contraception be covered by health insurance without co-pay.  This year's GOP platform calls for a federal ban on abortion without an exception for rape or incest, supports a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorses legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.  The Romney campaign website states that “the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Ok, women's rights are the next biggest reason to vote Obama (between Supreme Court and Medicaid)
Obama recognizes the importance of education in assuring individuals are self-sufficient and productive.  President Obama wants to improve ALL the schools, especially the lowest-achieving.  The center piece of Mitt Romney’s education policy is school choice.  He wants to take existing funds which are given without conditions to the states and use them to encourage vouchers, charter schools, and the use of online learning technology, and use federal incentives to have high-stakes tests be a major determinant for the allocation of funds.
Education is a major issue and Democrats really aren't doing much better there than Republicans at the federal level.  The single best thing that could be done is massive, temporary increase in aid to states so that they can hire back some of the fired teachers.  Neither party is really advocating that, and both are talking reforms that are questionable at best.
Home Foreclosures
President Obama has designed programs to assist homeowners whose houses are in danger of foreclosure.  Mitt Romney would not act to prevent foreclosures and he advocates letting housing “hit the bottom.”
...Um, no, he didn't.  Sorry but HAMP was useless and the gift to banks who illegally foreclosed in the one settlement was just insane.  Obama has done effectively zero, Romney just admits he wants to do zero.
President Obama supports regulations to protect our air, water and food.  Mitt Romney advocates removing many of the existing protections.  He has stated “The idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." He would seek to have Congress amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to assure that costs are taken into account and that, when regulations are really necessary because of “compelling human health reasons,” industry is given an extensive lead time to come into compliance so that corporate interests are not sacrificed at the altar of human health.

Mitt Romney’s website does not contain the words “environment,” “global warming” or “climate change” and the biggest laugh line of his nomination acceptance speech mocked President Obama’s promise to address the negative effects of climate change.
There has been more advancement in oil drilling under Obama than there was under Bush.  Toss in fracking, and a continued use of the oxymoronic phrase "clean coal" and we currently have a regressive president on the environment.  Romney may be worse, but, frankly, that would be a challenge. Special note: the GOP denial of fact here is insane, so minor point to Obama, but he really hasn't done or advocated for anything that gives him marks here.
President Obama has fought hard and weighed in firmly in favor of unions.  He championed the Employee Free Choice Act and secured a more politically sympathetic National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  He issued an executive order that federal agencies should consider requiring union-friendly Project Labor Agreements and he weighed in during the Wisconsin labor standoff in support of collective bargaining rights.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has stated he would, mostly via executive order, on Day One, end preference for unionized companies in government contracting; end Project Labor Agreements; fight to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act; oppose the Employee Free Choice Act; fight for right-to-work laws; undercut the ability of the NLRB to do its job; and prevent unions from being able to spend member dues on political activity without the express approval of the individual members.
Two words: "card check".  In a neutral world Obama gets a C- for this, as a Democrat he deserves an F.  Yea, Romney would be worse, but it isn't like unions have been doing great under Obama.
Finance Reform/Wall Street
President Obama supports regulations to protect consumers from abuse by financial institutions as evidenced by passage of the Dodd-Frank Act which included the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Mitt Romney advocates the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act and its replacement with a “streamlined, modern regulatory framework” that “creates a simple, predictable, and efficient regulatory system.”  No details are provided on what this “modern regulatory framework” would look like or how he could get such a system through the new Congress.
Seriously?  No.  The extent to which Obama's administration has been captured by Wall Street is offensive. Romney would probably be worse, but after Obama that is almost not possible.
President Obama supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, the DISCLOSE act which would force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, and legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists.  While Mitt Romney, legendary in his support of expansive corporate power, originally stated Citizens United was "the right decision," he later stated that laws limiting political donations are too restrictive.  He prefers supporters contribute directly to campaigns rather than to super PACs that do not always act as the candidates wish.
Meh.  Roll this one into Supreme Court and toss it.  We are not going to get any new amendments under either and there is zero chance of major restructuring to campaign finance. 
Social Safety Network
Mitt Romney rants against a “culture of dependency” or an “entitlement society” and advocates huge cuts in social programs such as heating/cooling assistance, WIC, employment training, day care and mental health services in order to maintain or bolster the military and give tax breaks to the “job creators.”  The GOP program has been referred to as Social Darwinism, a model which was rejected in the 20th century: reward the rich, penalize the poor and let everyone else fend for themselves.  The inevitable excesses of free-market greed are freed from regulation in their plan.

President Obama believes that a just society cares for children, the sick and the disabled, feeds the hungry, and shelters the homeless.  He rejects the notion that each of us is on our own in a competitive contest for survival.  He supports the social safety network which includes such protections as Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps.

President Obama has learned from the tragic consequences of the draconian reductions in spending that we have seen in Europe and rejects that path.  He believes, as do Paul Krugman, Robert Reich and other Keynesian economists, that if we stimulate the economy through aid to the states and infrastructure spending, the debt will take care of itself.  Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics; the CBO; the Center of Economic and Policy Research; and the Economic Policy Institute believe that every dollar spent on such benefits as Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps generates more than a dollar in near-term GDP because people in need spend these grants immediately.

For example, every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates an estimated $1.63 in near-term GDP.   Boosting food stamp payments by $1 increases GDP by $1.73.
Yea but...when he had the chance to do right here, he gave us a stimulus with 40% tax cuts.
Among the series of tax changes Mitt Romney has proposed are: reducing individual income tax rates across the board by 20 percent, maintaining the Bush administration-era tax rate of 15 percent on investment income from dividends and capital gains (and eliminating this tax entirely for those with annual incomes less than $200,000), cutting the top tax rate on corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent, and eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.  Under the Ryan budget Mitt Romney would pay less than 1% on his income.

Unlike the examples above in which social safety net dollars spent generate increases in GDP,  the tax cuts Mitt Romney proposes generate decreases in near-term GDP.  Making the Bush tax cuts permanent as he proposes generates only $0.31 in near-term GDP,  cutting the corporate tax rate generates only $0.30 and making dividend and capital gains tax cuts permanent generates only $0.38.  Non-partisan analyses of Romney’s tax plan have estimated that it could add more than $3 trillion to the federal deficit, and would favor the highest-earning Americans, possibly raising annual taxes on middle-class earners by as much as $2,000.

In keeping with his understanding that a budget is a moral document, President Obama believes that the deficit is best addressed by reasonable progressive taxation and responsible economic stimulus.  In addition to eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000, calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes, President Obama’s plan would lower the nation’s corporate tax rate to 28 percent while at the same time boosting overall revenue from corporate taxation by banning numerous deductions and loopholes that save companies tens of billions of dollars a year on their tax bills.
Tax cuts for rich people is the only thing Republicans truly believe.  Unfortunately Obama's counter is weak and doesn't leave him in any position to compromise.  I don't think it is so terrible to suggest raising taxes even on people making only $100k/yr (note: snark), but I'm not nearly as conservative as Obama.
Mitt Romney's energy plan is a rehash of the top priorities of the Big Oil and Big Coal representatives who recently joined him at a fundraiser: the end of numerous safeguards for public health, the gutting of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the surrender of our public lands and offshore areas to drilling and mining, and the destruction of tens of thousands of American clean energy jobs.

The Obama Administration has launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history to ensure that our nation can safely and responsibly expand development of offshore energy resources.  President Obama supports more efficient cars, trucks, homes, factories and other buildings. The Obama administration has just announced a new fuel efficiency standard of 54.5 MPG for new vehicles sold in 2025.  These new standards will result in 570,000 new jobs, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day, save $1.7 trillion at the pump, and reduce carbon pollution by more than 6 billion metric tons, a 10% drop.  Under President Obama’s leadership greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years. We're using less oil; U.S. wind power has doubled over the last four years; and solar has grown by a factor of five.
Ok, fuck you, and see above on the environment. 
The Arts
In a recent interview in Politico, Mitt Romney stated his intention to cut all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR.  While President Obama has decreased allocations for the principal cultural agencies in recent budgets in a recession-inspired attempt to reduce overall expenses, he has included a modest increase in the allocations for the NEA, NEH and other cultural organizations in his 2013 budget.  There is a clear impetus to use innovative programming and educational efforts to achieve Obama administration goals in this area.
Ok, I'll, I won't.  I strongly believe in NEA and think that we should have public television and radio, and there is a meaningful difference, but it is a small big picture issue (though, again, large to some individuals).

All these points also ignore Obama's reprehensible kill-random-people-with-drones-then-just-label-all-the-males-"enemy combatants"-because-we-said-so program.  For any liberal the "wars" on terror and drugs provide plenty of reasons not to vote for this president (and Romney would be exactly the same).

The selection of Ryan pushed things a bit over the edge for me on a combination of taxes, regulation and the roll of government in the lives of people, but the fact remains that Obama has been really bad on all those issues, and until the selection of Ryan, Romney had been pretty much at the exact same point as Obama.  Not better, but not really much worse either. 

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