Jamelle Bouie

A Fight Over Fairness

A few weeks ago, Amanda Marcotte described the Romney team as running an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” campaign, where—instead of addressing the claims against him—the former Massachusetts governor turns them around on his opponents. It’s a brilliant formulation that neatly captures a dynamic that—if Romney’s riff on “fairness” is any indication—will become a defining feature of his presidential campaign: “We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “And we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.” It is all part of a concerted strategy to try to reverse perceived campaign weaknesses for Republicans as the general election campaign launches. I doubt this will convince anyone other than true believers, but that’s not the point; the idea is to muddy the waters when it comes to coverage of Romney’s message. By attacking Obama on...

Bipartisanship Was Never Part of the Plan

(White House/Flickr)
This hasn’t received enough attention: As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington. […] According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz. For several...

We Won't Destroy Society If We Raise Taxes on the Rich

Over at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Chye-Ching Huang has written a massive review of the evidence and literature on the relationship between taxes on high-income earners and their effects on economic growth. Her key findings are surprisingly straightforward, and important for how we approach current debates over tax reform and economic policy: Taxable income and revenue. Opponents of raising the taxes that high-income households face often point to findings that high-income taxpayers respond to tax-rate increases by reporting less income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as evidence that high marginal tax rates impose significant costs on the economy. However, an important study by tax economists Joel Slemrod and Alan Auerbach found that such reductions in reported income largely reflect timing and other tax avoidance strategies that taxpayers adopt to minimize their taxable income, not changes in real work, savings, and investment behavior. While such strategies...

The Only Reasonable Response Is Alarm

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
I’m not surprised that Michael Gerson, architect of “compassionate conservatism,” has convinced himself that this generation of Republican leaders is carrying on in his footsteps (via Mike Allen ): Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction – a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan … Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner. The reform movement … looks for ways to achieve the ends of the welfare state both through more private means and more efficient public means. … Speaker John Boehner has adopted Ryan’s reform approach as the de facto ideology of the House Republican majority. [Emphasis mine] The Ryan budget does a lot of things. It flattens the tax code and dramatically cuts taxes for high-income earners. It caps federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, and it calls for higher military spending. It turns Medicaid into a block grant for the states, and gradually shifts Medicare to...

This Station is Non-Operational

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. Let’s see if I can keep it going. Why are people from the future not traveling to our time period ? A fascinating Quora thread. At a certain point, you just have to accept that some people don’t believe in college education for those who can’t afford it. Maybe Marco Rubio should invest in some teleprompter training. Homicide and The Wire scribe David Simon has a blog ! It’s really, really good. A nice look into the Marvel movie version of Black Widow, and the role she plays in The Avengers :

Unearned Privilege as the American Way

(Gossip Girl/Internet Movie Database)
In the second part of his take on Mitt Romney’s speech last night, Jonathan Chait makes a key observation about Romney’s message for the campaign: Romney has to couch the implications of his argument carefully, but the underlying logic is perfectly clear. He believes that fairness is defined by market outcomes. If Romney earns a thousand times as much as a nurse in Topeka, it is solely because his character, education, or hard work entitle him to that. To the extent that unfairness exists, it is solely the doing of government: clean energy, laws permitting union dues, overpaid government employees, and so on. Aside from unfairness imposed by government, poverty is attributable to the bad choices or deficient character or upbringing of poor people. Everything about Romney’s campaign is centered on this basic idea. His domestic policy plan—a repurposed version of the Ryan budget—calls huge tax cuts and a huge reduction in the size and scope of the social safety net. If passed in its...

Obama and Elitism

The Obama campaign has decided to put a bit more emphasis on the candidate’s biography: As he heads into a faceoff with Republican Mitt Romney, President Obama’s speeches are revisiting parts of the life story that helped propel his rise. There are nods to his humble beginnings, his hardworking grandmother and the stresses of debt — in short, stories that best connect with the middle-class voters his reelection may depend on. “Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes,” the president told students Tuesday at the University of North Carolina as he called on Congress to extend a break in school loan interest rates. “Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.” This comes as Mitt Romney has done the same. As Ezra Klein points out , the first nine paragraphs of his speech last night were pure biography, and the entire text was peppered with references to his personal life. It will be interesting to see if this pays off for the Obama campaign. A return to the context of his youth—...

Obama Is Corrupt!

Back in 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa called Obama one of the most corrupt presidents in history, and pledged to investigate his administration. After a year’s worth of hearings and investigations, Issa has come out empty-handed. Of course, when has lack of proof stopped anyone from making ridiculous accusations in politics? To wit : Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told Bloomberg TV that the Obama government is “proving to be” the “most corrupt in history.” Said Issa: “We are busy in Washington with a corrupt government, with a government that I said perhaps because of the money, the amount of TARP and stimulus funds, was going to be the most corrupt government history and it is proving to be just exactly that. This money going though the hands of political leaders is corrupting the process, whether it is Solyndra, GSA, or a number of other scandals.” Solyndra is a bugaboo of the right wing (that’s been roundly dismissed by mainstream outlets), and the GSA scandal has little to do with the Obama...

Mitt Romney's Fantasy World

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife, Ann, take the stage at an election night rally yesterday. In a sane world, Mitt Romney would be laughed out of politics for the speech he gave celebrating his final wins (Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York) in the Republican nomination contest. The centerpiece of the address was a riff on the classic formulation, “Are you better of now than you were four years ago?” Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump? What’s frustrating about this is the fact that it ignores the last four years of political history in an attempt to put Barack Obama at the center of the country’s economic troubles. But that’s ridiculous. Here’s what we know about the last four years. In 2008...

Neither Obama nor Romney Do Much to Help Students

It seems that this is the week when both candidates turn their attention to the young. Yesterday, Mitt Romney argued that Obama would be terrible for their futures in a second-term, and today, Obama made his pitch for policies to relieve the burden of student loan debt. His main focus was on a measure to extend the current interest rate for federal student loans. At the moment, students pay a 3.4 percent rate on Stafford loans. In the absence of additional action, this will jump to 6.8 percent, and effectively act as a tax hike on young Americans. The White House is going on hard on this, and has scheduled two other visits to college campuses to press it’s case. Likewise, Mitt Romney believes that the low rates should be extended, and campaign has issued statements to that effect. It should be said that this is an incredibly small-bore measure; the size of student loans has exploded over the last decade, and millions of people are stuck with obligations they can’t afford. What’s more...

More on Romney and Young Voters

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
For further proof that young voters are still supportive of President Obama—and that Mitt Romney will need to do better if he wants to make inroads—look no further than the latest poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics, which shows wide support among “Millenials” for Obama over the former Massachusetts governor: Over the past four months, Obama’s job approval rating among America’s 18- to 29- year-olds has risen six percentage points to 52% (46%: Nov. 2011). Among Hispanics specifically, Obama’s job approval increased by fourteen percentage points from 52% in November to 66% in April, a level consistent with pre-Fall 2011 levels (68%: Feb. 2011; 62%: Oct. 2010; 69%: Feb. 2010). In a potential 2012 general election match-up with Mitt Romney, Obama leads among Hispanics by 39 points (50%–11%). If this poll is any indication, there is room for Romney to grow; white Millenials have a 41 percent approval rating for Obama, and Millenials are still sour about the job market and the...

With Rubio or Without Him, Latinos Don't Like the GOP

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Despite his constant claims that he isn’t seeking a spot on the presidential ticket, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was in Pennsylvania yesterday, campaigning with Mitt Romney: Marco Rubio took the stage with Mitt Romney and delivered what the presidential candidate wanted — a jolt of energy aimed at an uninspired Republican base and a message of inclusion to Latino voters, who have drifted away from the party in droves. Monday’s appearance by Rubio, a Florida senator and possible vice presidential pick who has become one of his party’s most prominent Latino leaders, drew cheers and applause from the crowd. But it was also a reminder of competing imperatives facing Romney after a combative primary season in which he moved far to the right on illegal immigration, a key concern for many Latino voters. I’ve said this before, but as vice-presidential speculation heats up, it bears further repetition: Marco Rubio might be a talented politician, and he might even be a good vice president, but...

Romney Shifts His Target to Young People

(Merrimack College/Flickr)
Mitt Romney’s recent rhetoric on student loans is a sure sign that we’ve moved to the general election. In addition to distancing himself from the congressional GOP on student loans—like the president, he wants interest rates to stay low—Mitt Romney has adapted his overall message for the under–30 set, blaming President Obama for high unemployment among young people and a poor job market for recent college graduates. Here’s how he presented the issue at a press availability in Aston, Pennsylvania yesterday: When you look at fifty percent of the kids coming out of college today can’t find a job or can’t find a job which is consistent with their skills, how in the world can you be supporting a president that’s led to that kind of an economy? […] “I think this is a time when young people are questioning the support they gave to President Obama three and a half years ago. He promised bringing the country together; that sure hasn’t happened. He promised a future with good jobs and good...

Competitive Districts Produce Better Politicians

Demographic change in Harlem has turned a historically black congressional district into one where black politicians have to actually compete for votes. As The New York Times reports , some members of the city’s black political establishment are unhappy about this: [W]hoever wins this year, some black civic leaders worry that a black candidate would not be a lock to win the seat whenever Mr. Rangel leaves office. "It certainly jeopardizes the future of this great tradition,” Mr. Paterson said, “not only for the greater Harlem community, but for all of the many around the country who look to that venue for leadership on key issues.” As someone who would prefer to see more African Americans in elected seats outside of the House of Representatives, I can’t say that I see this as a bad thing. Yes, when it comes to running for statewide office, there are still the disadvantages associated with representing a small, liberal district. But black politicians who have to compete for votes in...

Core or No Core?

(Mitt Romney/Flickr)
The most noteworthy part of this Politico story on the Obama campaign’s attempt to define Mitt Romney comes at the end, when Glenn Thrush and Jonathan Martin quote a reporter’s reaction to the claim that the “real Romney” is a right-winger: The aide’s argument — which can’t be recounted here because of the strict no-quotes, no names ground rules the White House imposes on such sessions — set off alarms among the White House press corps, political cadaver dogs paid to sniff nearly imperceptible changes in tone and language. Reporters, who can be quoted under the rules, harrumphed. “He has a core now! You said he didn’t have a core — are you saying he has a core now?” asked an incredulous TV network correspondent. As Thrush and Martin point out, the Obama campaign has had three messages when it comes to Mitt Romney: he’s a core-less flip-flopper who can’t be trusted, he’s a conservative ideologue who will bend to the will of the Republican base, and he is—in the words of Rick Perry—a...