Paul Waldman

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...

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...

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...

Tax Reform Silliness

Flickr/401K 2012
Barack Obama did a bunch of big things in his first term—passed health care reform and ended the war in Iraq, most notably. If he wants to do something big domestically in his second term (especially since he seems to have lost any inclination to do anything about climate change), one natural area to try would be tax reform. It might actually be possible to arrive at something both Democrats and Republicans could live with, if we put aside Republicans' desire to make sure he never accomplishes anything, ever (which will continue into his second term). Republicans already have their own tax plan, which lays out some goodies they'll give people (especially wealthy people, you'll be shocked to learn) while conveniently avoiding any specificity on how the goodies will be paid for. Some analyses have been done on the Republicans' plan, and they don't look too good : The tax reform plan that House Republicans have advanced would sharply cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and could leave...

Context Is Everything

President Obama, about to get yelled at. (White House video)
In the wake of Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's heckling of President Obama the other day (I called him an "asshat," a judgment I'll stand by), many people argued that we should be respecting "the office of the presidency," even if you don't like the person who occupies it. Jonathan Chait says this is wrong: This wave of fretting over respect for the institution implies that we owe the president more respect than we owe other Americans — a common belief, but one at odds with the democratic spirit. In his farewell address, Jimmy Carter (or his speechwriter, Hendrik Hertzberg) summed up that spirit quite pithily when he said that he "will lay down my official responsibilities in this office to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of president, the title of citizen." The problem with Munro's heckling of Obama is that heckling is wrong, whether the speaker is president or a candidate for the PTA. You don’t start screaming at somebody in the middle of...

That's How He's Gonna Roll

Do I come down to where you work and heckle you? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
There isn't all that much benefit to civility in politics. Oh, everyone will say that they prefer candidates who are polite and courteous, but in reality most of us find it amusing when our own side is uncivil, and appalling when the other side is. There are limits, of course—that asshat from the Daily Caller who heckled President Obama during his prepared remarks the other day was condemned by pretty much everybody across the ideological spectrum. But of late, things have gotten pretty juvenile, as when the Romney campaign sent its bus to an Obama event to drive around out front honking its horn. Truly an inspiring testament to the democracy forged by the Founders those many years ago. Naturally, somebody asked Romney himself about this, and he reacted with the kind of response candidates give when asked about something strategically critical to their campaigns, like negative advertising: Mitt Romney has declined to call on his supporters to stop heckling President Barack Obama's...

Romney Tells Inane Lie About Post Office, No One Notices

Not even close to 33 pages.
UPDATE : Turns out that Romney may have been talking not about the change of address form the doctor had to file with the Post Office, but the one he had to file with Medicaid. But as Greg Sargent tells us , the form providers have to file with Medicaid to change their addresses is ... two pages long! More than a postcard, in other words, but a whole lot less than 33 pages. I think my point—that candidates shouldn't repeat any damn fool thing some random person tells them as though it were the truth, just because it accords with their ideology—stands. In all the furor that gripped the country over Wawagate , I almost missed this tidbit from James Fallows, who despite being a national treasure and one of America's finest journalists is subjecting himself to the indignity of traveling with Mitt Romney's campaign. Apparently, on the stump yesterday Mitt described how "a doctor told him that he had to fill out a 33-page change-of-address form, several times, to get the post office to send...

We Will Forever Remember Wawagate

The scene of the crime. (Flickr/Eric Harmatz)
Today's installment of what Prospect alum Adam Serwer has termed the "dumbgeist"—the latest idiotic trumped-up controversy of the day—offers a demonstration of something important about Mitt Romney. It's just that it doesn't offer a demonstration of the thing the media says it does. I'll explain below, but first, witness the horror of ... Wawagate! For those of you who aren't familiar with the mid-Atlantic convenience store industry, Wawa is basically a much nicer 7-Eleven, a chain of convenience stores where, among other things, you can get a perfectly adequate hoagie. Because it's much nicer than 7-Eleven (and by "nicer" I mean generally clean, well-stocked, and free of junkies shooting up by the dumpsters), people praise Wawa, have a favorite Wawa, etc. (my own favorite, from my years in Philly, was a large one near Rittenhouse Square that the missus and I referred to as the Taj MaWawa). Anyhow, the story you'll be hearing is that Romney's amazement at the Wawa touch-screen display...

Economic Hearts and Minds

Image from Obama ad; Obama campaigning.
The term "hot button issue" first appeared in the mid-1980s, but came into common usage during the 1988 presidential campaign, when the nation soberly contemplated such questions as whether Michael Dukakis was planning to unleash a horde of dusky criminals to prey upon our precious white women. Alas, this year's campaign is nearly devoid of hot buttons for the candidates to push. God? Mitt Romney is the last person who wants to talk about religion. Guns? The Obama administration has done nothing to restrict their ownership, and the NRA's fevered warnings of government confiscating your weapons grow ridiculous even to gun owners themselves. Gays? Just a month and a half after President Obama surprised almost no one by announcing his support for marriage equality, Republicans haven't bothered to make it an issue, probably because they understand that the public has little taste for their past demagoguery. So aside from the occasional temporary flare-up over things like contraception or...

Friday Music Break

"Motorcade of Generosity"
For today's edition of Weirdly Bad Videos For Anti-Hipster Anthems That You'd Think Would Alienate a Band's Fanbase But Probably Didn't Because Everyone Thinks They're Authentic While Other People Are the Phony Ones, we have Cake, with "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle." How much did you pay for that bad Moto Guzzi?

What's Wrong With Politics-Driven Policy?

Flickr/Antonio Villaraigosa
Today's big news is that the Obama administration, through executive action, is enacting a kind of mini-DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children. We'll get to the details in a moment, but one thing we know for sure is that Republicans are going to be very, very mad, or at least they'll sound very, very mad. They'll make three separate arguments: First, they'll have a substantive argument about why it's a bad idea to allow any undocumented immigrant to work here legally. Second, they'll have a process argument about why it's an appalling power-grab for Obama to do this without congressional approval. Of course, they're quite happy with all sorts of executive orders and similar actions when a Republican is in the White House, but that hypocrisy doesn't necessarily make them wrong on that point. Finally, they'll say this is blatant "election-year politics" meant only to secure Latino votes in the fall election. Which it may well be, at least in...

Republicans Possibly Pretending to Be Mad At Other Republicans Definitely Pretending to Care About Health Care

Congressional Republicans discuss health care. (Flickr/nkenji)
The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act soon, and that has concentrated some Republicans' minds. It was all well and good to shout "repeal and replace!" when there wasn't really anything they could do about it, but if the Court actually strikes down some or all of the law, they'll be under greater pressure to put their money where their mouths are. The central quandary is this: if the law's least popular provision—the mandate for everyone to carry insurance—is struck down, that means the law's most popular provision—the requirement that insurance companies accept everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions—has to go as well. Not only that, some other popular provisions, like the requirement that insurers allow young people up to age 26 to go on their parents' insurance, would disappear if the Court strikes down the whole law. Should that happen, President Obama and other Democrats will immediately begin attacking Republicans for taking away...

The State of the Economic Debate

Gallup
Today, President Obama is going to roll out a new speech laying out his case on the economy. From the previews , it looks to be a contrast between what the economy will look like in a second Obama term, and what it will look like in a first Romney term. Essentially, he'll be trying to make this a "choice" election instead of a "referendum" election. Which is exactly what it should be. After all, we wouldn't be replacing something with nothing if we elected Mitt Romney, we'd be replacing something with something very, very different. And as I'm sure Obama will argue today, we have some experience with what Mitt Romney is proposing. Obama will characterize Romney's policies as "exactly what got us into this mess" or some such, but you don't even have to tar him with the 2008 catastrophe to make the case. As I've asked before , if the entire rationale for Mitt Romney's candidacy is that his business experience gives him such unique insight into the workings of the economy, why is it that...

People Who Wish They Were Working On Obama Campaign Complain About Obama Campaign

Barack Obama doing something he's pretty good at. (White House/Pete Souza)
Let's say you're a Democratic political consultant who has never worked for Barack Obama. How do you feel about him and his team? Well, chances are that although you respect their skill, you also think they're too insular and too unwilling to listen to outside advice. Like yours! Because after all, if you're a Democratic political consultant and you don't work for the Obama campaign, you probably wish you did. There's a lot of prestige, and not a little money, in working for the president's re-election effort. If you didn't work for the historic 2008 effort, you probably feel a little left out. And you probably also feel that you're just as smart as David Axelrod or David Plouffe, and you ought to be going on Meet the Press to share your wisdom just like they do. But you can't. So what can you do? You can complain anonymously to reporters that the Obama campaign is doing it wrong : That kind of unflappability is a hallmark of the Obama political operation — and was a crucial...

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