Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Latest Attack on Bain Capital

Thanks to recent stories by The Washington Post and The New York Times , Bain Capital is back in the news. In particular, there’s a renewed focus on outsourcing; both newspapers found that Bain “pioneered” outsourcing during the 1990s, when it was led by Mitt Romney. This is an irresistible target for any political campaign, and it comes as no surprise to see that it's the core of a new ad from the Obama team in which the campaign asks—pointedly—“Does America need an outsourcer-in-chief?” Of course, Barack Obama, like most Democrats, isn’t opposed to outsourcing. Like his criticism of NAFTA in 2008—which disappeared after winning the Democratic nomination—this is little more than a cynical political gambit. But for what the campaign is trying to accomplish, this doesn’t matter. From the beginning, the Obama campaign’s assault on Bain has been dismissed as unfair and ineffective. East Coast Democratic elites are unhappy with the attack on Wall Street, and D.C. pundits aren’t convinced...

How Vague is Too Vague?

This was clearly the question in the Mitt Romney camp this morning, as the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law came down: How little can we get by with saying ? When it comes to practically any issue beyond the economy, the clear challenge for the Romney campaign has become how to say something that offends no one, while still giving all sides of the issue a fig leaf to latch onto. Also, of course, how to make everything a referendum on Obama, so that maybe it won’t matter that Romney says nada . Hence the intentionally forgettable but also very telling statement from the Republican candidate, in full: Today’s decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders...

Romney Faces a Tough Choice on Immigration

Two weeks ago, President Obama put Mitt Romney in a tough position with his DREAM Act by executive action—with a policy on the table, Romney was forced to respond, and his opposition to humane immigration reform came to the forefront of the election. With today’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law, the Supreme Court has put Romney in another perilous spot that may damage his attempt to win back Latino voters–or at least stem the bleeding. As my colleague Scott Lemieux notes in an excellent piece on the ruling, a 5–3 majority on the Court stuck down three of the major provisions in Arizona’s infamous immigration: [T]he imposition of a state penalty for failing to “complete or carry an alien registration document” in violation of federal law; a provision making it a state crime for an undocumented alien to seek employment; and a provision allowing state law enforcement officials to arrest anyone without a warrant if they have “probable cause” to believe that a person has “committed any...

Floors and Ceilings In Health Care

Flickr/Francis Bijil
When Rick Santorum said during the campaign that inequality is a good thing, a lot of people were surprised. Santorum was attacking a straw man—he was arguing that everyone shouldn't have precisely the same income, while no one actually believes that they should—but it was revealing. One of the questions that we've neglected to ask in our health care debate is just how much inequality we are willing to tolerate—or in the case of conservatives, want desperately to maintain—in this particular arena. Conservatives like Santorum have an ideological commitment to inequality, the idea that some people simply deserve to have more than others. While conservatives used to believe that the identity of those who get more should be determined by birth (inherited membership in a favored class), these days they say that it should be determined by merit , which they tend to define tautologically as the state of being wealthy. Wealth is determined by merit, so if you're wealthy, it's because you're a...

Blame the Supreme Court!

(Flickr/IslesPunkFan)
It’s a virtual certainty that, if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate or the Affordable Care Act wholesale, liberals will find a way to blame each other—or the administration—for its failure to anticipate the constitutional challenge. Yesterday, both The Washington Post and The New York Times ran stories in which critics and observers laid blame on the administration for its tactical strategy, and the bill’s authors for using the mandate to achieve near-universal health-care coverage. Here’s the Times : With the benefit of hindsight, some advocates said they would have been better off framing the law more explicitly as a tax, although doing so would have been politically explosive. Short of that, some said, strategy alternatives like slowing down the case still might not have made a difference. This strikes me as misguided. Underlying the assumption that the Court will strike down the individual mandate—or the Affordable Care Act as a whole—is the idea that the current...

100 Days, 50 Different Schedules

This week, Mitt Romney joined the pantheon of presidential candidates who have vowed to show up Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 100-day marathon legislation-passing session. But those first 100 days look pretty different depending on which swing state you're in. In ads in North Carolina, Iowa, and Virginia, Romney announces that his first priority is repealing Obamacare—no surprise given that 46 percent of North Carolina residents think Congress was wrong to pass it. No mention of Obamacare in Ohio, though. In this ad, Romney’s first priority is getting the Rust Belt rocking and rolling again. The Virginia ad makes a passing reference to offshore drilling and the Iowa ad mentions the deficit. Taken together, Romney’s different promises fill up the first few weeks of his hypothetical presidency pretty quickly. And given past presidents’ poor track record of following up on their 100 days campaign promises, the likelihood that Romney would cross off even a fraction of his to-do list is...

The Benefits of Medicaid

The Affordable Care Act
In tomorrow's New York Times , Annie Lowrey has an interesting story about a study researchers were able to do in Oregon when the state had to hold a lottery to give people Medicaid coverage, leading to the perfect conditions for a randomized field experiment on what effect obtaining insurance could have. The results were pretty encouraging: In a continuing study, an all-star group of researchers following Ms. Parris and tens of thousands of other Oregonians has found that gaining insurance makes people healthier, happier and more financially stable. The insured also spend more on health care, dashing some hopes of preventive-medicine advocates who have argued that coverage can save money — by keeping people out of emergency rooms, for instance. In Oregon, the newly insured spent an average of $778 a year, or 25 percent, more on health care than those who did not win insurance. For the nation, the lesson appears to be a mixed one. Expanded coverage brings large benefits to many people...

Obama on Immigration: "There Are Solutions, and Republicans are Blocking Them"

The core of Mitt Romney’s attack on President Obama’s immigration policy is process-related. “For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate—he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system,” said the Republican nominee in his speech yesterday to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Today, before the same group, Obama offered a response to Romney’s accusation–blame Republicans. “The problem is not the lack of technical solutions,” Obama told the crowd, “We know what the solutions are to this challenge.” Rather, he explained, the problem is that congressional Republicans have blocked every effort to pursue immigration reform. “When it came up for a vote year and a half ago, Republicans in Congress blocked it,” he said, “The bill hadn’t changed. The need had not changed. The only thing that changed was politics” Obama even reached back to the failed comprehensive...

What the Romney Outsourcing Story Doesn't Tell Us About the Romney Presidency

A call center in India (Sonamsaxena)
One mark of a skilled pundit is the ability to take the day's news and mold it to shape his or her own pre-existing interests, beliefs, prejudices, and hobbyhorses. In that spirit, let me offer my thoughts on an interesting article today in The Washington Post , revealing that while Mitt Romney was the head of Bain Capital, the firm invested in companies that specialized in outsourcing jobs overseas. What does this tell us about a potential Romney presidency? Let's look at the facts first, keeping in mind that Romney was at Bain until 1999: Bain’s foray into outsourcing began in 1993 when the private equity firm took a stake in Corporate Software Inc., or CSI, after helping to finance a $93 million buyout of the firm. CSI, which catered to technology companies like Microsoft, provided a range of services including outsourcing of customer support. Initially, CSI employed U.S. workers to provide these services but by the mid-1990s was setting up call centers outside the country. Two...

In Swing States, Obama Wins Big with Latinos

The latest poll from Latino Decisions—which surveys five Latino-heavy swing states—suggests that President Obama has gained in a big way from his immigration order. Fifty-four percent of Latino voters are now more enthusiastic about voting for Obama than they were before the order, with a particular increase in Arizona and Nevada, where 62 percent and 60 percent of Latinos say they are more enthusiastic about voting for Obama in November. Overall, according to Latino Decisions, Obama holds strong support among Latinos in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida: Compared to 2008 , this is a mixed picture. In Virginia, the president's support has dropped from 65 percent; in Florida it’s dropped from 57 percent; and in Nevada it’s dropped from 76 percent. On the other hand, Obama is winning like gangbusters in Arizona; his support has increased by 18 percentage points. That’s certainly enough to make the state a possible win for the Obama campaign, even if he loses white voters...

Mitt Romney Pretends Congress Doesn't Exist

Trust me, this'll be easy. (Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Mitt Romney went before a group of Latino public officials today to offer some remarks on immigration. Calling it a "plan" would be too generous, although there were a couple of details, some of them perfectly reasonable, like giving green cards to people who get an advanced degree at an American university. But the part everyone has been waiting for—his reaction to President Obama's recently-announced mini-DREAM Act—was pretty disappointing, because it engaged in a kind of magical thinking that has become increasingly untenable: Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure. As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal...

What Will Conservatives Say If Only the Mandate Is Struck Down?

Looking forward to the FreedomLibertyCare plan. (Flickr/Speaker John Boehner)
There seems to be a consensus building that the most likely outcome from the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act is that it will strike down the individual mandate but leave most of the law in place. Just how disruptive this will be to the near future of health care in America is open to debate (see Sarah Kliff for the optimistic take), but there's another question I'm wondering about: How are conservatives going to react? Obviously, they'd prefer it if the law was struck down in its entirety. At the same time, they've centered their criticism on the mandate. This started as a purely opportunistic move, since the mandate was not only unpopular, but it offerend the most likely legal vehicle to undo the ACA. But once that decision was made, they spend the next couple of years talking about how that mandate is the very essence of tyranny. That process of arguing almost certainly convinced them that what they were saying was true. The other provisions in the law range from things...

Romney, 2012's Trojan Horse

(Flickr / mac9001)
Mitt Romney is running as the Trojan Horse candidate of 2012, the big empty gift to America who will be wheeled into the gates of Election Night only for the bottom to pop out the next morning and whatever lurks inside to reveal itself. Watching his small disaster of an interview on Face the Nation this past weekend, we can only conclude he believes he will win the presidency by answering and offering nothing in the most calculatedly vacuous campaign since Richard Nixon’s in 1968. The difference is that in 1968 the American public knew Nixon all too well and, compared with the specifics of Nixon that people had understood for years, a vague Nixon was considered a step in the right direction. The more vague he got, the more people talked about a “New Nixon,” and whatever the New Nixon might possibly be could only be better than the old one. Raging among flackdom and the commentariat is an argument as to whether the election will be a referendum on Barack Obama’s first term or a choice...

Losing on Health Reform

An anti-Obamacare ad, in which a D-Day veteran explains how universal health insurance is as great a threat to our freedom as Nazism was.
When the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, we'll begin a new chapter in this saga, one that will probably (well, maybe) involve sorting through how the law's implementation will work once the individual mandate is struck down. But we've reached the point where there's no denying that the fight over public opinion has been lost, and that ground may never be regained no matter how hard the Obama administration or progressives might try. Perhaps it was inevitable. The administration passed an extraordinarily complex piece of legislation that sought simultaneously to solve a multitude of problems, each in its own way. At its heart was a compromise, an idea taken from conservatives to solve a problem created by the very fact that everyone was so insistent that we maintain the patchwork of private, employer-provided insurance, and this conservative idea provided conservatives the vehicle to get their allies on the Court to strike down the...

Romney to Governors, "Your Optimism is Not Helping"

Mitt Romney has a problem. His campaign is centered on the notion that President Obama has been uniquely disastrous for the economy. In his telling, Obama’s policies—including the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act—were responsible for the rapid job losses that marked 2009, and the sluggish growth we’ve seen since then. Indeed, the Romney team routinely hits Obama for losing more than 500,000 jobs over the course of his term. This isn’t true, but that hasn’t stopped Romney from running with the figure. Of course, the problem with running on a lie is that, occasionally, reality intrudes. Growth isn’t as high as it needs to be, and economic conditions are improving, especially in states disproportionately hit by the recession. What’s more, many of those states have Republican governors who are eager to tout economic growth. For example, in Florida, embattled Governor Rick Scott has been eager to tout the state’s recovery. Florida was among the states that suffered most from the...

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