Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Support Our Troops By Cynically Using Them As Props In a Dishonest Campaign Ploy

They didn't succeed. (Flickr/Barack Obama)
Let's get this out of the way first: Mitt Romney's smear of Barack Obama over the issue of early voting in Ohio is both shamelessly dishonest and utterly despicable. In case you haven't heard, Ohio voters used to be able to vote early in the three days before election day, then the Republican legislature passed a bill eliminating the early voting for everybody except active-duty military servicemembers. So the Obama campaign sued to restore early voting for everyone, which the Romney campaign rather predictably characterized as an attack on our brave fighting men and women. So yes, Romney is just lying. But let's put that aside and ask this question: just what kind of special privileges should members of the military be entitled to? We can start with things that come out of your service. I happen to think that if you got a leg blown off in Iraq or Afghanistan, you should never have to work again if you don't want to. And veterans benefits ought to be funded to a degree that no veteran...

Missouri Republican Senate Primary Today

Three Republicans are going head to head today for the Missouri Republican nomination to face off against Senator Claire McCaskill in November. They are former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (who has the backing of Sarah Palin), Representative Todd Akin (whom McCaskill clearly prefers because he is the most conservative of the trio) and wealthy businessman John Brunner. A new PPP poll puts Brunner first at 35 percent, Akin second at 30 percent, and Steelman last at 25 percent. But with 10 percent of the voters undecided, an upset is certainly possible.

The Voting Rights Act: A 20th Century American Revolution

(Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum/Wikipedia)
Today is the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 by a bipartisan (if sectional) majority of Congress, and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. With the fight over who deserves to vote having been reignited by the partisan push for voter identification, and with conservatives mounting legal attacks on key provisions of the Act, it’s worth noting the degree to which the VRA was a milestone for democracy in this country. Prior to the VRA, African American voting in the South was close to nonexistent. A minority of blacks were registered to vote, and small percentages made it to the polls, but the overwhelming majority were kept disenfranchised through taxes, tests, onerous registration requirements, and outright violence—in 1873, to name one especially bloody example, a group of whites murdered over 100 blacks who'd assembled to defend Republican lawmakers from attack in Colfax, Louisiana. It was during this time that the Democratic Party emerged as the chief...

Bracing for a Hit from Europe

(Flickr/Juan Carlos García Lorenzo)
It may be the peak of vacation season in Europe, but the continent’s fiscal crisis has not taken a break. Last week, Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minister, took time out from his holiday to have a sit-down with his American counterpart, Tim Geithner, in the North Sea island of Sylt. The last-minute meeting was organized at Geithner’s request. Less than a hundred days from the U.S. presidential election, it highlighted—as if more evidence were necessary—the Obama administration’s concern about how developments in the Eurozone could affect the vote come November 6. The crisis calendar between now and then is certainly packed; if a week is a long time in politics, three months is an eternity in economics. Below, the Prospect sketches out a road-map of the pitfalls ahead. Greece We start, unsurprisingly, in Greece. The recently elected coalition government there is putting the final touches on a new austerity program—a condition for its second bailout. The program calls...

Will We Ever Get to See Romney's 2011 Tax Return?

Flickr/Images of Money
I don't know about you, but this year I filed my taxes just before the April 15 deadline. Most people do. But if you need to, you can file for an extension from the IRS. That's what Mitt Romney did. And if you look around the discussion about his taxes, you'll find that everyone keeps referring to the "two years of tax returns" Romney has agreed to release. But what people don't mention is that Romney hasn't actually released two years of tax returns. He released one year, his 2010 return (and even that was incomplete ). But we haven't seen his 2011 return. He keeps saying he'll release it when it's ready, but is it going to be ready before November? In fairness, Mitt Romney's taxes are really, really complicated. He has so many different income streams and accounts and pass-throughs and roundabouts and double-flipping financial McTwists that it takes a team of accountants to prepare the documents. His 2010 return ran to more than 200 pages. But it's August. Maybe someone should ask...

Romney: Still Caught in the Tea Party Vise

Every presidential candidate has to oscillate between courting moderates and energizing his core supporters, but the arc is unusually wide for Mitt Romney. On most issues, there’s a huge gap between his conservative base and the median voter. Most voters want a short-term plan to fix the economy, lower health care costs, higher taxes on the wealthy to lower the defict, lower spending on the military, and higher spending on education and other investments. The conservative base wants none of those things. Its priorities, as articulated in Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” and Romney’s own economic plan, are large upper-income tax cuts, significant increases to military spending, massive cuts to non-defense government services, and a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They also want a better economy, but these policies are more likely to cause a recession than improve the recovery. Even for a gifted politician, squaring this circle would be difficult—imagine a world where Bill Clinton had to...

Everybody Hates Mitt

What do you mean you don't find me likeable? (Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)
A new e-book from Glenn Thrush and the folks at Politico contains this interesting tidbit concerning Barack Obama's feelings about Mitt Romney: "One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at times even fun for Obama: he began campaign preparations feeling neutral about Romney, but like the former governor's GOP opponents in 2008 and 2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the main. That scorn stoked Obama's competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn't feel motivated to crush the opposition. Obama, a person close to him told me, didn't even feel this strongly about conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he disliked the most. At least Cantor stood for something, he'd say. "When he talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. 'There was a baseline of...

Pennsylvania's Other Voter ID Battle

(Photo of Voting poster from Flickr/kristin_a; Photo of Independence Hall from Flickr/harshlight)
When Pennsylvania Republicans passed the nation's most restrictive voter ID law in March, requiring all voters to show government-issued photo identification, it was less than eight months before the November elections. It was going to be a sprint to train state workers and election workers on the new law, and to inform the public and help those who needed to get new IDs. Fortunately, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, the state's election chief, had assured everyone during the legislative debate that 99 percent of voters already had a valid ID ready to go . For the other 1 percent, the state would make the new voter IDs free , and would advertise the new law widely to make sure everyone who had lost their eligibility would know what to do. After all, proponents argued, the point of a voter ID law wasn't to prevent folks from voting; it was to guard against voter fraud, even if that hadn't yet become a problem in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Now, three months before Election...

Should Mitt Romney Be Winning?

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
While it’s overstating the case to say that presidential elections are predictable, it’s fair to describe them as strongly influenced by a consistent set of conditions. These “fundamentals” are straightforward: Is the economy moving in a positive direction? Is the president an incumbent, or is this an open election? For how long has the incumbent party controlled the White House? What do people think of the president and his party? Elections aren’t determined by the answers to these questions, but to a great extent, they shape the dynamics of the contest. In this election, despite the close polls, it’s clear that the fundamentals are on the side of President Obama. Yes, the economy is bad, but it’s better than it was when he took office, and it’s moving in the right direction. Obama is an incumbent, and so public attitudes about him and his administration are just about set in stone; a majority of Americans like Obama, and his approval rating is just below 50 percent. This is the...

Romney's Cruel Joke on the Middle Class

In response, it seems, to criticism of his economic plan—which will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers—Mitt Romney has released a one-page “ plan for a stronger middle-class .” The provisions are what you would expect: Increase domestic drilling, reduce regulations on the coal industry, and complete the Keystone XL pipeline. Sign new trade agreements and “curtail the unfair trade pracices of countries like China.” Devolve federal programs, like Medicaid, to the states, cut spending on an existing agencies and social programs, and institute a larger, long-term cut by capping federal spending at below 20 percent. Cut taxes, repeal the Affordable Care Act, reduce regulations, and make it more difficult for unions to organize. Romney’s cuts to Medicaid, Pell Grants and other social services—the inevitable outcome of capping federal spending while drastically reducing revenue—would shred the social safety net and make financial...

Mitt Romney Passes Wind

Flickr/Steve Abraham
Mitt Romney was in Colorado yesterday, where some people aren't too pleased with him. This week he came out in opposition to an extension of the wind-power production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year. The tax credit helps make wind power competitive and is credited with enabling the creation of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and construction. This is almost certainly not going to be a huge issue in the campaign, but it does reveal some interesting things about where Romney is vis-a-vis the Republican Party. On one side, you have the parochial economic interests of many Republican members of Congress and some very well-heeled Republican economic constituency. On the other, you have the purely knee-jerk reaction of Tea Party types to anything hippies might like. Guess where Mitt comes down? Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed an extension of the credit with bipartisan support. The PTC has support from members of Congress from both parties...

Rick Perry Preemptively Outsmarts Most Pundits

When it comes to the significance of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice, Texas Governor Rick Perry seems to have more sense than most political pundits: “There are great and talented people out there, but vice presidential candidates are interesting choices that will probably only make two or three days worth of news, unless they make some huge gaffe,” Perry told CNN in an interview at the Republican Governors Association retreat in Aspen, Colorado. “As long as it’s not me, I’ll be cool.” Perry invoked another famous Texan, John Nance Garner, to make his point. “I think it was ‘Cactus Jack’ Garner, who was VP under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said that being vice president is not worth a bucket of warm spit,” he said. Because of its obsession with the horse race, the media will flip out when Romney announces his vice presidential choice, even if it’s someone as bland as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or Ohio Senator Rob Portman. But while it’s true that presidential...

Harry Reid Gets Under Mitt's Skin

Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund
Harry Reid has always been an unusual character. He's often dismissed as a lightweight by Republicans (Senator Tom Coburn recently called him "incompetent and incapable"), but he is also an adept legislative maneuverer who has notched some extraordinary victories, perhaps none more notable than getting every Democrat in the Senate, even ones like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who live to make trouble for their own party, to vote for the Affordable Care Act. He's very soft-spoken, speaking most of the time in a near-whisper, but he's also willing to wield a shiv with an enthusiasm few in his party can muster. And now, Reid is doing the kind of work that surrogates are supposed to do for presidential candidates: go out and make the kind of biting, maybe even questionable attack on the opponent that the candidate himself doesn't want to be seen making. Reid has charged that a source at Bain Capital has told him privately that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years, and that's why...

Four Things to Know About the July Jobs Report

(Wools/Flickr/Creative Commons)
Today is the first Friday of a new month ( i.e. , Christmas for wonks and political junkies), which means the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released its monthly report on employment . The economy created 163,000 net jobs in July, an increase over projections—which hovered around 100,000 —and a substantial increase over June, when the economy added a scant 80,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.25 percent (up from 8.21), but was rounded up to 8.3 percent for the purposes of the report. This isn’t a good number—a more rapid recovery would require up to 300,000 jobs a month—but it is a sign that the United States is not about to fall into another recession. Beyond the topline number, here are a few key things to take away from this month’s report. The revisions were … meh : The BLS revises its job statistics as it gets more accurate information. Today, job growth for May was revised from 77,000 to 87,000, but job growth for June—the most abysmal month of the...

Pennsylvania Voters: Dazed and Confused

(Flickr/richiec)
This is going to sound crazy, but in Philadelphia, plenty of voting-rights activists are hoping plaintiffs lose their case against the state voter-ID law—at the lower court level, that is. Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, one of the most restrictive in the country, requires a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, and would disenfranchise a significant number of voters , particularly those who are poor, elderly, and nonwhite. It's a scary prospect, and the lawsuit brought by several voting-rights groups on behalf of ten plaintiffs seeks to get the law suspended. Closing arguments ended yesterday, and Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has promised to rule on the measure by August 13. So why would any voting-rights activist hope that Simpson rules in favor of the state? Because if Simpson decides to grant an injunction, it will complicate the message of voting-rights activists who are urging people to get the new ID. Some worry that if the headlines say the lack is struck down,...

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