I have weighed in a few times on Facebook regarding the suddenly controversial contraceptive mandate and wasn’t going to go into it here.
After all, it’s the same old story of politicians on the right scrambling for a wedge issue to bash Obama with.
However, having read the magnificent piece by elder-statesman of the press Bill Moyers on Salon.com, I have to say —
As Moyers details, Obama has responded brilliantly to the feigned outrage of the right by being — well — reasonable.
Now, Obama says insurance companies (not employers) will provide this coverage to those who want it for free. No employer will have sully their “conscience” by offering contraceptives to women in their health care plans.
This, of course, hasn’t satisfied the Catholic bishops, but the Republicans are mistaken if they think they have found in them a steadfast ally or a way to bring Catholic voters into their fold en mass:
But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side — not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore — and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has — the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.
Just to point out how deeply felt this principle of contraceptives and religious freedom is to the earnest members of the GOP, they recently held a press conference — with humorous results.
From Talking Points Memo:
The lawmakers called a press conference rolling out the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), a House version of the Roy Blunt bill. It’s aimed at making sure no objecting employer has to cover contraception in their health care plan (although it goes beyond that and lets them omit other services too).
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a GOP leadership member, warned that the mandate will “reach in and manipulate the conscience of Americans.” He accused the President of “trampling precious First Amendment rights.”
After about 10 of them took turns issuing similar missives against the mandate, while dismissing Obama’s religious accommodation as a gimmick, I put the question to them: Would any of you refuse to support a presidential candidate who enacted a similar mandate?
You see, when GOP front-runner (who oddly keeps trailing at the ballot box) Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he instituted RomneyCare, which mandates that ALL employers provide contraceptives as part of their employee plans.
If you couldn’t guess, none of these principled defenders of religious freedoms wanted to take a stand against Mitt, whose plan (following Obama’s recent modification) is now “worse” than the administration’s contraception provisions.
After pointing out that Republicans have already really lost this battle, and in a larger sense, the culture wars, Moyers brings it home:
So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share. Our practical solution is the one Barack Obama embraced the other day: protect freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. Can’t get more American than that.
- Contraception Hearing Excludes Women (newsy.com)
- May We Please Keep Talking About Family Planning Until November?: Garry Wills Smacksdown E.J. Dionne Watch (delong.typepad.com)
- Major Rick Santorum donor Foster Friess apologizes for ‘aspirin’ contraception joke (news.nationalpost.com)
- Does Obama’s Contraceptive Compromise Go Far Enough? (usnews.com)
I’ve heard this meme over the past three decades, and the emptiness of it never diminishes.
Paul Krugman apparently agrees:
If business and the free market really could meet all of our needs, government wouldn’t exist.
It is because government steps in to moderate the excesses of the market and set the rules and create a level playing field that capitalism can thrive.
Unfortunately, the idea that government should be run like a government is part of the conventional wisdom — of people who don’t think too hard about it.
But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.
Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.
In fact, running government as a business has some terrible consequences:
Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.
But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed.
He’s even tried to compare his actions at the now-infamous Bain with Obama’s bailout of the automobile industry.
Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.
But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?
In an era when huge private corporations have led to the largest economic calamity in our lifetime, you would think politicians would be leery of drawing comparisons.
The major problem with this mindset is that it misses the real issue:
We’re in the mess we’re in BECAUSE government got too cosy with business and let corporations remove regulations and determine government policies.
And if we are to learn from the example of Europe, cutting spending and jobs to save “the bottom line” is a self-inflicted wound to our economy and the stability of the nation.
- What Mitt Romney Learned From Killing Jobs (usnews.com)
- Ron Paul supports Romney on ‘vulture’ layoffs. Shame! (thehill.com)
- LAYOFFS WATCH: RBS Plans To Eliminate 3,500 Jobs Globally (businessinsider.com)
Here’s a nice, handy reminder at Visualizing Economics.
Originally published in July of 2009 in the New York Times, the graphic is a great illustration of how laissez-faire and trickle-down economics led to catastrophe yet again.
In summary, for policies alone, and not owing to economic downturns ($770 billion) and not even including Bush on policies he implemented but Obama later supported ($417 billion):
I am not the biggest fan of Barack Obama.
My leanings are more progressive, and his seem to be deeply rooted in the corporate boardroom.
That said, you have to give the man his due when it comes to the stimulus and job creation.
I am convinced by arguments by Paul Krugman and other Keynesians that the stimulus was much too small to have optimal effect, but the small package Obama was able to push through did create jobs.
This is, of course, the reality being mocked by the current meme being rolled out by the pack of jackals running for the presidential nomination on the Republican side.
Both Mitt Romney and Gingrich have calculated the number of jobs lost in the American economy from the date of President Obama’s inauguration and repeating that Obama’s policies have resulted in 1.9 million lost jobs.
In GOP-land, this proves that the stimulus was a complete failure.
Paul Krugman brings the inconvenient facts:
Start with the Obama record. It’s true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can’t be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?
The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s nothing like Mr. Romney’s portrait of job destruction.
The Economist points out that even if you used the Romney-Gingrich metric, if the economy continues to grow at the current pace (and the jobs report was actually better than expected at the time of this response) the argument will be weak by the time election day rolls around:
A lot can happen over the next year, but for the moment the current recovery looks likely to continue. On Friday, the Bureau of Labour Statistics will report the latest employment data, for the month of December. The consensus forecast is for a gain of 170,000 private-sector jobs and a loss of 20,000 public-sector jobs, for a net gain of 150,000. (In the year to November, the economy added an average of 133,000 net jobs and 157,000 private-sector jobs per month, so this would represent a slight acceleration.) If we extrapolate those changes out through the election, then Mr Obama’s opponent will only be able to claim net job losses during the Obama presidency of just 55,000. What’s more, the net figure will entail government job losses of 833,000 combined with net private-sector job creation of 788,000. Given steady improvement in state and local finances, continued loss of 20,000 government jobs per month seems too high, so there is a decent chance that the Republican nominee will be unable to claim any net job loss during the Obama presidency at the time voters go to the polls.
This is what is on offer from the modern right-wing — solutions to problems that don’t exist and a willful ignorance of real problems and what can fix them.
Unfortunately, the person likely to receive the GOP nod is a serial liar who has spent a career destroying jobs for profit.
The point is that Mr. Romney’s claims about being a job creator would be nonsense even if he were being honest about the numbers, which he isn’t.
At this point, some readers may ask whether it isn’t equally wrong to say that Mr. Romney destroyed jobs. Yes, it is. The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs.
When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class.
And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.
We are living in scary times, where it is obvious that the real lessons of the utter and absolute failure of trickle-down economics that are plain to most literate people will never be recognized by a sizeable portion of the American populace.
So you get candidates like Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum who willfully lie and distort readily-available facts on a level and scale so blatant and egregious that it beggars the imagination.
And on the other side, we have Obama.
- A message with a shelf life (economist.com)
- ‘Job Killer’: President Obama Guilty, or Innocent? (abcnews.go.com)
- GOP candidates give Obama little credit for improving jobs numbers (thehill.com)
If you aren’t regularly reading Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com, you should be.
He consistently hold’s our president’s feet to the fire over his seeming disregard or unwillingness to fight for our civil rights.
The latest atrocity is Obama‘s announcement that he will sign the detention bill — despite claiming for months that he would veto it.
The bill is, according to the ACLU and Human Rights Watch:
the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention).
Like Greenwald, I have detected a pattern in Obama’s decisions that show he is no defender of Civil Rights, and has done everything in his power to seize on and bolster the executive powers of the presidency:
Obama, as I documented last week and again below, is not an opponent of indefinite detention; he’s a vigorous proponent of it, as evidenced by his continuous, multi-faceted embrace of that policy.
Obama’s objections to this bill had nothing to do with civil liberties, due process or the Constitution. It had everything to do with Executive power. The White House’s complaint was that Congress had no business tying the hands of the President when deciding who should go into military detention, who should be denied a trial, which agencies should interrogate suspects (the FBI or the CIA). Such decisions, insisted the White House, are for the President, not Congress, to make. In other words, his veto threat was not grounded in the premise that indefinite military detention is wrong; it was grounded in the premise that it should be the President who decides who goes into military detention and why, not Congress.
This is indeed a dark time in America, and as I warned my Republican friends when George W. Bush launched the notion of the “unitary executive”, a dangerous one for democracy.
- Human Rights Watch calls refusal to veto detainee bill “a historic tragedy for rights” (americablog.com)
- Ron Paul: Defense Bill Establishes Martial Law In America (mountainrepublic.net)
Reich lays out a great plan to restore stability to the economy, fight the deficit and put people back to work:
- Raise the tax rate on the rich to what it was before 1981
- Raise capital gains taxes to the same level
- Tax financial transactions
- “Use the bulk of this money to create good schools, give our kids access to a college education, and build a world-class infrastructure, so all our children have a chance to get ahead”
- Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, that used to separate commercial from investment banking
- Cap the size of Wall Street’s biggest banks and break up the biggest
- Require the big banks that got bailed out to modify the mortgages of millions of Americans now under water, who owe more than their homes are worth
The top 1 percent has an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s wealth and income yet the lowest tax rate in 30 years. Meanwhile, America faces colossal budget deficits that have already meant devastating cuts in education, infrastructure, and the safety nets we depend on. The rich must pay their fair share. Income in excess of $1 million should be taxed at 70 percent – the same rate as before 1981.
I agree with Reich. If he even does half of these things, my support of Obama would change from hesitantly pulling the lever for the less of two evils to actually encouraging others to vote for him.
I’m less convinced than Reich that Obama is willing to take on any of these proposals and fight for them.
Click here for the chart.
Starting in 2008, the Bush economy steadily lost more and more jobs until in January of 2009, over 800,000 non-farm jobs were evaporating on a monthly basis.
Then something happened. Job losses started going down, and starting in March of 2010 the economy started adding jobs.
We are still digging ourselves out of the hole dug by the previous administration, but over 100,000 jobs on average are being added to the economy each month.
Yes, I know that there are a number of discouraged workers who are no longer seeking jobs, but the overall trend is crystal clear.
Obama’s policies have added jobs to the economy.
Her name is Spike Dolomite Ward, and she has written an apology to Obama about her previous stance on health care reform:
Ward is a 49-year old self-employed mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She could not afford health insurance:
Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.
It’s amazing what it takes for people to cut through the nonsense notion that America has the best healthcare system in the world.
There’s much to fault with the existing healthcare reform, but there are also a great many provisions that are essential and help a great many people.
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