Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Class Warfare, Romney-Style

Nothing gets Mitt Romney more animated on the campaign trail than inveighing against President Obama’s penchant for wealth-redistribution. The president wants to “substitute envy for ambition and poison the American spirit by pitting one American against another and engaging in class warfare,” as Romney put it earlier this week in Des Moines. But as the non-partisan Tax Policy Center reported yesterday, the former Massachusetts governor is waging his own brand of class warfare. Romney’s plan would save a middle-income American about $1,400 a year—and lighten a 1 percenter's tax load by $171,000. It would also add $600 billion to the deficit in 2015. (Among those benefiting from Romneynomics would, of course, be Romney; his net worth is estimated at $250 million, making him one of the 3,140 richest people in America—part of the 0.001 percent.) The Economist calls Romney’s plan “very progressive, by 15th-century standards.” But if you ask a lot of conservatives, Romney’s plans are the...

Romney the Populist?

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Love Only Thy Neighbor

It's hard to keep a straight face when Rick Santorum says he is the most electable of the Republican candidates. "We need bold colors, not pale pastels," Santorum said last week in Iowa. "Ladies and gentlemen, be bold. Do not have a pyrrhic victory next November, where we elect a Republican, but we don't elect the person who can do what's necessary for America." He touts his experience winning in a swing state while maintaining his conservative credentials, an implicit ding against Mitt Romney's left-leaning record as governor of Massachusetts. It's a dubious claim for Santorum that's little related to reality considering he lost his last election by a historic 18 points. In today's Washington Post , Michael Gerson somehow manages to concoct an even more ludicrous framework to describe Santorum's appeal: He's a compassionate conservative. But perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to...

Policies Somewhat Different From Those I Favor Will Kill Us All

I'm sure I'm not alone in finding Rick Santorum a uniquely repellent figure among contemporary Republicans, someone who combines standard-issue objectionable positions on things like economics with a level of reactionary venom on social issues that is becoming unusual even in his own party. With some Republicans, you get the feeling that they'll parrot the party line on the danger of gay marriage, but they really don't mean it. Santorum, on the other hand, really, really dislikes gay people (although he claims he has gay friends, but I'll believe that when we meet one). And he doesn't just want to make it impossible for women to have access to abortions, he actually thinks birth control is morally wrong and states ought to be allowed to ban its use. Coming as he does from the fringe, Santorum is prone to the offhand use of apocalyptic language, to wit : Am I going to go after Mitt Romney on Romneycare? You bet I will, because it was the basis for Obamacare. Why? Because it’s top-down...

The GOP's Bogus Attack on Jobs

By now, you’ve probably heard that the December jobs report was pretty good; the economy grew by 200,000 jobs, and unemployment declined to 8.5 percent. Still high, but a positive trend given the circumstances. As you might imagine, this presents a problem for the Republican presidential candidates, who routinely accuse President Barack Obama of destroying jobs with his policies. Their solution has been to fudge the numbers. To wit, here’s Mitt Romney with a statement on today’s report: Under President Obama, we have lost 1.7 million jobs — America deserves better. Eventually our economy will recover, America always does. But President Obama’s policies have slowed the recovery and created misery for 24 million Americans who are unemployed, or stuck in part-time jobs when what they really want is full-time work. As President, I will refuse to accept high unemployment as the ‘new normal’ for our economy. [Emphasis mine] This is only possible if you include every job loss in 2009,...

Santorum Picks Up Steam in the Palmetto State

Judging from the latest Rasmussen poll of South Carolina Republicans, Rick Santorum’s near-win in Iowa has generated a huge amount of momentum for the former Pennsylvania senator. ...

Awkward Introductions

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —Mitt Romney has never been a great retail campaigner, and he can’t seem to hold a major event without some awkwardness. “I’m here with two beautiful women,” he said in a little pre-speech banter at a rally Thursday, gesturing toward Ann Romney and Cindy McCain. But then he remembered that Governor Nikki Haley was there (standing next to him) and declared, to a few laughs, that “there are a lot of beautiful women in this audience.” As per usual, Romney attacked the administration’s handling of Iran, offered a promise to get the economy in order, and described President Obama as a “nice man” who is just “in over his head.” Of course, Romney tailored his rhetoric to the audience—he began his speech with an attack on the National Labor Relations Board for its decision to halt the construction of a Boeing plant in the state, which has been a huge issue for South Carolina Republicans. He also doubled down on the “crony capitalist” charge, accusing Obama of using...

Santorum the Moderate?

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Windham, New Hampshire— Rick Santorum, the darling of the cultural-religious right, came here last night for a town-hall question-and-answer session with 500 eager listeners, only to find that his questioners were so far to his right that he was compelled to sound moderate by comparison. The disappointment— Santorum’s and the crowd’s—was mutual. The event—which was moved to a high-school auditorium three times larger than the venue originally scheduled, and where every seat was nonetheless filled— was hosted by a radical-right local group called the 9/12 Coalition. Alas for Santorum, the 9/12ers selected the first seven questioners, who peppered him with queries at once so arcane and so fantastical that Santorum must have harbored suspicions they’d been planted either by Mitt Romney or Ron Paul. Two of the questions were libertarian, even civil libertarian, though suffused with a conspiracy theorist’s fear that the government in general and Barack Obama in particular was on the verge...

The Problem with Right to Work

One of the things to pay attention to in Mitt Romney’s latest South Carolina ad is his implicit defense of the state’s “right to work” law, which makes it more difficult for unions to organize. “The National Labor Relations Board, now stacked with union stooges selected by the president, says to a free enterprise like Boeing, ‘You can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a Right to Work state,’” Romney says in the ad. “That is simply un-American. It is political payback of the worst kind.” Combine this with his attack on President Obama as a “crony capitalist,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Romney tout right-to-work laws as part of his strategy for reviving the economy. The problem, of course, is that said laws do nothing of the sort. The Economic Policy Institute has a great primer on the actual effect of right-to-work laws on workers, wages, and employment. On the whole, RTW laws “reduce wages by $1,500 a year, for both union and nonunion workers”; “...

Romney's Pitch to the Palmetto State

This afternoon, Mitt Romney kicks off the South Carolina leg of his campaign with an event in Charleston, where he’ll join Governor Nikki Haley and a host of supporters. Given the extent to which the state is defined by its deep conservatism, Romney isn’t in the best position; his moderate reputation makes him an easy target for attacks from the right. But, if his newest TV ad is any indication, Romney plans to get around that with a straightforward pitch on the economy, targeted toward conservative frustration with the National Labor Relations Board, and the fight to open a Boeing plant in the Palmetto State. Take a look: This has been airing with some regularity since yesterday, when it debuted. With the attacks on “union stooges” and the declaration that the president’s economic policies are guided by politics, Romney is hoping to tap into conservative anti-union sentiment and the state’s strong disdain for Obama. What’s more, it could work. South Carolina prides itself on being...

Attacking Mitt Romney

It looks increasingly likely that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president, so the Obama campaign needs to decide just how they are going to eviscerate him. As the New York Times asks , "Do they go the out-of-touch, protector-of-Wall-Street route or the flip-flopper route?" The consensus from the smart people they talked to seems to be that painting Romney as overly conservative is the way to go. Of course, Romney can't be both an extremist ideologue and a craven opportunist who'll say or do anything. Either he has the wrong values, or he has no values -- one or the other. Kevin Drum makes an interesting point, however: "The fact is that Romney has reserved almost all of his most extreme rhetoric for laughably over-the-top denunciations of Barack Obama, and that's not really a problem for him. By contrast, most of his issue positions have remained relatively tolerable. The truth is that Romney is unusually well positioned to moderate his image by summer, which is when...

What Happens in the One Percent, Stays in the One Percent

Despite conservatives' denials about income inequality and the validity of the Occupy movement's mission, recent surveys show that the protest's rallying cry—"We are the 99 percent"—strikes a chord with many Americans. The economic mobility that once seemed a basic feature of American life has faded away; the U.S. now stands behind Denmark, Canada, and Britain, among others, when it comes to social mobility— 62 percent of Americans born into the top two-fifths of the income distribution stay in that bracket, a far larger sum than in Britain (30 percent). The middle class retains a far higher degree of mobility—about 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle-fifth move up as adults—but people at either end of the economic spectrum are unlikely to budge. The Latest Eurozone's Phoney War will be Short-Lived The Guardian Obama to Unveil Austere Pentagon Strategy The Washington Post Cordray Appointment Activates Full Powers of New Consumer Bureau Bloomberg Businessweek A Less Dismal...

Republican Roulette

Even on past occasions when the result of the Iowa caucuses appeared to be an aberration—and whether eight votes divides relevance from irrelevance this year remains to be seen—it has set the tenor of the subsequent campaign. Four years ago, both Democrats and Republicans had a sense of voting for something (which itself was an aberration), with Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama representing the prospect of new national possibilities to different people in different ways. It’s hard to imagine how Tuesday’s result could establish more viscerally the sense of people voting against something. For the last six months, Republican Presidential Candidates Not Named Romney have played an electoral version of Russian roulette, one after another spinning the chamber and blowing him- or herself away until Senator Santorum was left alone holding the gun, corpses strewn before him. There has been about the nomination race so far the quality of a Dark Ages ritual for choosing a king, while lacking the...

The Clean-Election State

While officials in other states struggled to balance their budgets in 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly closed a deficit of historic proportions one month early, agreeing on a mix of tax hikes and union concessions. That topped a list of unmatched legislative accomplishments: Connecticut passed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, a transgender-rights bill, a major genetic research initiative, a bipartisan job-growth package, and the nation’s first paid sick-leave mandate. In a year of reactionary politics and partisan gridlock nationwide, what made Connecticut so different? One-party control over both the governor’s office and the legislature for the first time in 21 years played a role. But the secret behind the Democrats’ success was sweeping campaign-finance reform enacted six years earlier. Reeling from the embarrassment of a corruption scandal that landed a governor in federal prison, Connecticut legislators grabbed the national spotlight in...

Paul Revolutionaries

ADEL, IOWA —Caucus chair Jon McAvoy faced an awkward situation right before his townsfolk were set to vote. Surrogates for each candidate—save still-on-the-ballot Herman Cain and Iowa absentee Jon Huntsman—had stepped up to the microphone for one final pitch. Michele Bachmann’s campaign had sent some star power in the form of her 21-year-old daughter Elisa; though her mom faded fast and left the race the following day, the younger Bachmann won praise for her eloquence from the caucus voters. She was the closet thing to a celebrity at this site 23 miles west from the heart of downtown Des Moines, with locals stumping for the other candidates. McAvoy introduced each of the speakers, an easy task when it came time for Perry: McAvoy was that designated supporter. The proceedings went in alphabetical order, so a Rick Santorum supporter would be the final one to pitch his man before the vote began. But when McAvoy called Santorum's representative forward, he was met by silence. A few...

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