Posts Tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

Lessons for Today From Anne Braden

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

When we think of prisons the images that usually come to mind are of barred cells, armed guards, and barbed wire. But Anne Braden, who devoted her life to the causes of civil rights and social justice, offered another perspective. Braden, who died in 2006 at age 82, observed that society builds prisons around people. She said she was born privileged in a class society and white in a racist society. And it was hard to break out of those prisons.

“The hardest thing was class,” she said. “I don’t know that I ever could have broken out of what I call the race prison if I hadn’t dealt with class.” The comment appeared in an article I read recently but it was the sentence that followed that really hit home as a reflection of life in the United States today. “It’s that assumption that is so embedded in you that you don’t realize it’s there—that your crowd is supposed to be running things.”

That was surely Mitt Romney’s assumption and that of those who paid $50,000 for dinner to hear his infamous “47 percent” speech deriding government “entitlements.” What other explanation can there be for the vehement opposition of millionaires to a modest increase in the minimum wage? It explains how people like Charles Krauthammer and Fox News (sic) commentators can ask what all the fuss was about when speaking of the sequester. They simply don’t know anyone affected by it.

And now that the Voting Rights Act has been gutted by the Supreme Court of the United States, it is how they can proclaim that racism is a thing of the past. We have a Black president don’t we? In reality the provisions of the Voting Rights Act should have been extended to include states it had not covered before (i.e., all states in which voter suppression plans were authorized by state and local legislatures). Again, words spoken by Anne Braden in 1980 ring true: “The real danger comes from people in high places, from the halls of Congress to the boardrooms of our big corporations, who tell white people that if their paychecks are eaten up by taxes it’s not because of our bloated military budget but because of government programs that benefit black people. If young whites are unemployed, it’s because blacks are getting all the jobs. Our problem is the people in power who are creating a scapegoat mentality. That is what is creating the danger of a fascist movement in America.” Today the scapegoat mentality has expanded to fuel right-wing extremist organizations and armed militias targeting undocumented immigrants.

Last year the Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 1,360 right-wing militias and anti-government groups, an eight-fold increase over 2008, when it recorded 149 such groups. The explosive growth that began in 2008 was sparked by the election of President Obama and anger about the poor economy, according to a report issued earlier this year by the center. And that growth is likely to continue as the groups recruit more members with a pro-gun message, the center’s senior fellow Mark Potok told USA Today.

“This country was built on white supremacy,” Anne Braden said in 2004, explaining that she prefers using the term “white supremacy” to “racism” because “it’s more what we really mean—you don’t have to get into endless arguments about whether Blacks can be racist.” And if you understand that the original wealth of this country came from slavery and the slave trade itself was based on the assumption of white supremacy, you can see how white supremacy was “built into the institutions, including the courts, from the beginning.”

“Anne pointed out that as long as race could be used to get a majority of white Americans to oppose efforts for a more just society, there will be no hope of ending poverty, homelessness, environmental destruction, inequality, or of making the kind of transformative change imperative if democracy is to be real in our nation,” wrote Janet Tucker in a review of Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, a documentary film about Braden’s life. Southern Patriot was the name of the newspaper Anne edited during the many years she and her husband Carl worked for the Southern Conference Educational Fund.

The Bradens are probably best known for a 1954 incident in which they purchased a house in an all-white neighborhood of Louisville and, in a pre-arranged transaction resold it to a black family. A cross was burned on the lawn, the house was bombed, and the buyer, Andrew Wade, decided to move his young family out of the house because of fear for their safety. Instead of going after the whites who planted the bomb, the Bradens were tried—and Carl jailed—on charges of sedition, attempting to overthrow the government of Kentucky. The conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anne encouraged white Americans to become active in the civil rights movement but not simply as “something we’re called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because, in truth, they do.” Many, however, still need to break out of their prisons.

Michael can be reached at

Some Entitlements in Need of Reform

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

I am always amazed when I hear some millionaire or billionaire (or their spokespeople in Congress or Fox News or talk radio) proclaim, “We’re broke!” According to them, our government no longer has the means to continue safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

They themselves are not broke, of course. They’re doing just fine. And if you ask them, everyone in this country is pretty well off too, so we don’t really need the safety net anymore. They’re just symptoms of the “nanny state” anyway and that’s what’s wrong with this country by golly: all those people looking for handouts (you know, like retirees, veterans and disabled folks). You’ve probably heard statements of this sort (either on Fox News or on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart shows clips of the dumb things they say on Fox News):  “Poor people never had it so good as they have it now in the U.S. They have refrigerators, air conditioners and television sets. How bad off can they be?”

The Wall Street Journal published an article recently that even tried to make the case that the “middle class” in this country has not been harmed by the fact that real wages (adjusted for cost of living changes) have not gone up in decades as wealth has ballooned for a small percentage of people at the top of the economic ladder. According to the writer, wages aren’t a good measure anymore because of all the advances that have taken place that make life better for us all, as in healthcare, for example. (I’m not making this up.)

Another article in the WSJ a while back suggested that income disparity is good for everybody. The writer used Michael Jordan as an example. See, when Jordan was leading the Chicago Bulls to championships, his mediocre teammates got paid better, the arena was packed, which meant more people were hired to prepare and serve food and show people to their seats. Talk about a win-win. But a two-hour drive from Chicago would have taken the author to Freeport, Ill., and the shut down Sensata plant. Sensata, which manufactures sensor parts for the auto industry, is owned by Bain Capital, the private equity company founded by Mitt Romney. Despite a profitable 2011 Sensata laid off all the workers in Freeport last year and moved manufacturing to China—but not before forcing the American workers to train their replacements. Ironically, the plant was shut down the day before Election Day.

As described by Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America’s Future, “Bain’s business model is to purchase companies using ‘leveraged buyouts’ that borrow huge sums using the purchased company’s own assets as collateral, uses the borrowed money to immediately pay itself, then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages.”

Bain is “entitled” to do this under the current laws of the United State of America. I think it’s about time we had some entitlement reform to stop this kind of thing from happening. If a U.S.-based company making good profits in this country wants to move to China, it should be allowed to do so only after providing extended health benefits and severance packages to each and every person who will lose a job as a reult of the move–or not be permitted to move at all.

Another entitlement in need of reform is the one that permits the underachieving or none-too-bright sons and daughters of wealthy people to attend great colleges and universities simply because a relative went there before. These “legacy students” are taking up space that might otherwise be given to hard-working students who have earned admission but whose families cannot afford the steep cost of sending them to a place like Yale or Harvard, for example. A worthy reform might be to require those who can readily afford it to pay for the education of one of those deserving people in addition to that of their own family member. The deserving individual would be selected at random from a pool of worthy candidates regardless of their race, creed or color. All they would have in common is that their families can’t afford to send them to the school. This would avoid the usual complaints about “reverse discrimination” that accompany affirmative action measures, while still advancing the goals because a disproportionate percentage of minority community members will be represented.

Why is someone who inherits a large piece of land “entitled” to sell it to developers for commercial use? Why is the concept of “private property” more important than preservation of the earth and the health of its inhabitants? Now there is some fertile ground for entitlement reform. Feel free to add your own. And for goodness sakes, let’s not allow them to take away the safety net:  Hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid!

Michael can be reached at


Two More Farewells

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

I really want to stop writing about Mitt Romney but he won’t let me. He’s like a character in “The Night of the Living Dead;” every time you think he’s done, he rises zombielike and presents himself all over again. Some people scream when he does this.

Some of Romney’s recent remarks suggest that it was fortunate he lost the election because he is either exceedingly cruel or exceedingly stupid, not a person most decent people would want making decisions in the Oval Office.

Example: Will you ever forget his informing us that he was dismissing nearly half the population as a bunch of crybabies always wanting something for nothing from the government – health care, food, housing and “you name it.” Then he said, “My job is not to worry about those people.”

That was then and you might have dismissed his bombast as the work of a desperate candidate. But with Romney it never stops, and his placing the blame on the other guy never stops either. Romney still doesn’t understand that one reason he wasn’t elected was that a majority of Americans simply didn’t trust him to represent their interests.

This week, he informed some big-money contributors that he had lost because President Obama offered certain “gifts” to African-Americans, Hispanics, and young people. Gifts? That would include such frivolity as forgiveness of college loan interest as a generation tries to find meaningful work. Only someone like Romney, whose income last year was about $22 million, would dismiss this deal on loan interest in the same breath as free contraceptives. Oh, that was another “gift” from Obama, Romney said, noting “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-age women.”

Still one more “gift” was young people being able to remain on parents’ health insurance to age 26, something else you might now understand when your income is $423,077 a week.

Of course, he never mentioned the “gifts” he offered to some of his supporters such as making permanent the Bush Era tax breaks to people like himself – millionaires and billionaires – and fighting like hell against any new tax. That “gift” is all right; health insurance is not.

Gifts from Obama? How about young people not headed for college, but wishing to follow their parents into the American auto factories of the Middle West? Obama said we had to save the industry in order to save the economy; Romney said the hell with the car makers, let them go. That was $22 million speaking.

Mitt, I can’t write about you anymore, so please don’t say anything else stupid enough to get me started.

* * * * *

All right, the happy news out of Florida this week was that Congressman Allen West, a first-term Republican with a big mouth, had finally accepted the fact that he lost the election after waiting two weeks for a miracle that never came.

West is the member of Congress who delivered the dead-on impersonation of Joe McCarthy.

In 1950, McCarthy said he had a list of 205 State Department employees who were communists. (In a letter to President Truman two days later, McCarthy referred to his list of 57 Reds at Foggy Bottom, and never said what had happened to the missing 148.)

In April of this year, Allen West announced that 80 Democratic members of the House were communists.

Whoa! Then it turned out that West didn’t exactly know they were communists. Instead, he said he “heard” that they were communists. But Brave-Heart West, always alert to a possible communist conspiracy, declined to name any of these enemies of the state or turn their names over to the FBI. Nor did he call for an investigation into how these 80 scoundrels had reached the floor of the House.

And finally, he said the 80 people he had in mind were members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and oh yeah, they aren’t communists after all.

This is the same Allen West who said that President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should “get the hell out of the United States of America,” the same Allen West who said, “I will not allow President Obama to take the United States and destroy it,” the same Allen who said the president is a Marxist.

Now all the votes have been counted and Allen West, this national embarrassment, believes that no recount could do him any good, and come January, he’ll be gone.

A Few Final Questions

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

There’s a fact about the results of this election that baffles me and which I haven’t been able to put aside. According to a story in The Times, exit polls indicated that Mitt Romney won 52 percent of the male vote, faring seven points better than President Obama. So men went for Mitt even with Mitt answering as few questions as possible.

Is there some logic in this? Are men just dumb enough to allow themselves to be hoodwinked by a snake oil salesman who wants to be big boss of earth so badly that he won’t be specific about anything, and whose convictions are about a half-inch thick?

Why would any demographic group – least of all, the second largest in the country and therefore one that can demand answers – come out in large numbers to support a silent candidate? Men argue about everything, about work, politics (usually), sports, movies, their favorite beers, the best pizza place in town, Beatles vs. Stones. Why would they give a candidate a free ride on their futures and the futures of their families and their nation?

Mitt Romney switched on just about everything. Consider the question of abortion. In the years, months and days leading up to the election, I knew that at one time Romney was prochoice. Then, with the emergence of the Tea Party, Romney, with the grace of a metallic pancake, flipped.

Reasonable people will agree that anyone has the right to a change-of-mind. The problem with Romney of course is that he changed his mind on abortion, and other matters, several times.

This is a terrible and dangerous way for candidates to act. It gives voters no information and lets the candidate off the hook when we don’t raise a stink about non-responses. It can’t make Tea Partiers happy. It surely can’t make pro-choice people comfortable.

So blatant were his vacillations that if flip-flopping were an Olympic sport, Romney would have been a medalist. Not only did he vacillate on abortion, sometimes he did it with breathtaking speed. Here’s a story that deserved much more ink than it received:

Bloomberg News reminded readers that Romney’s message in the period leading up to the Republican convention in late August, was that he opposed abortion in most cases. He also blasted Barak Obama, saying the president was way out of line in forcing religious organizations to provide contraception in their employees’ health coverage.

Then, about 40 days later, Romney said: “I think I’ve said time and again, I’m a pro-life candidate. I’ll be a pro-life president. The actions I’ll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget.”

And then, about three weeks after that – just before the election – Bloomberg reported that the Romney campaign ran a TV ad in the three battleground states of Virginia, Florida and Ohio noting that Romney “doesn’t oppose contraception at all” and “thinks abortions should be an option” in certain situations.

To cast an intelligent ballot, we need information. Here’s an example of how Mitt Romney thwarted curious Americans. It’s another story that was not widely reported. Late in the campaign, Romney granted a five-minute interview to a local TV reporter in Colorado, and then proceeded to dictate the rules of engagement.

The reporter had to agree to ask no questions about abortion and no questions about Todd Akin, the genius who believes a woman’s body is somehow designed not to get pregnant as the result of “a legitimate rape.”

All right. This wretchedly long presidential selection process is over for now though there already is talk about Hillary Clinton’s plans for 2016, and we are all relieved of robo calls, endless radio and TV commercials, and tons of campaign material in the mail.

But the question remains: What were the men of America thinking?

Obama’s Varied ‘American Family’

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

President Barack Obama walks on stage with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to deliver his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place in Chicago. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

By Emily Theroux
Why did Mitt Romney lose the 2012 election he was so certain he could win by appealing almost entirely to angry, aging white men?

America, it turns out, isn’t nearly as uniformly white as its white residents have long imagined it to be. Women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians (as well as young voters of both genders and all ethnic groups) had a much larger say in this election than the Romney campaign calculated. Barack Obama’s “noisy, messy, complicated” democracy of 300 million people bears what he called, in his brilliant victory speech, “a mark of our liberty” in the very contentiousness that so polarizes us.

“The story of this election is that the Republican Party has not kept up with the changing face of America,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd proclaimed just after the nation’s first black president won reelection.

The improving economy played a part in Obama’s stunning victory, as did the success in Midwestern states of his auto bailout, his foreign-policy experience, and his quick, effective, and compassionate response to Hurricane Sandy. Romney’s consistently high negative ratings (over everything from his obvious mendacity and persistent flip-flopping to his unsavory “vulture capitalist” career, obsessive secrecy about both his wealth and his taxes, refusal to provide any substantive details about the policies he might pursue as president, and repellent, robotic personality) certainly made voters less likely to trust him or view him as “presidential.”

“But make no mistake,” Todd opined. “What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces.” The white portion of the electorate dropped to 72 percent, Todd noted, and the president won only 39 percent of that vote. Among other demographic groups, however, Obama rode the crest of an unstoppable wave of change.

  • Obama carried 93 percent of black voters  (now 13 percent of the electorate).
  • Obama won 71 percent of Latinos (10 percent) nationwide; about 70 percent of the Latino vote in Colorado and Nevada; and 60 percent in Florida, despite the large number of Cuban-American Republicans in the state’s population.
  • The president won 73 percent of Asians (3 percent of the electorate).
  • Despite predictions that youth turnout would be depressed because young voters were believed to have become disillusioned with the president’s policies, voters in the 18-29 demographic represented 19 percent of the 2012 electorate (up from 18 percent in 2008); Obama won 60 percent of that age group.

The American people won this election, fair and square. Despite a GOP strategy of blatant racism and xenophobia, a broad-based voter suppression machine that put Jim Crow to shame, the “caging” of targeted groups from voter rolls, actual election fraud committed by a shady voter-registration firm used repeatedly (and under different names) by the Republican National Committee and various GOP candidates (including Romney) since the 2004 election, and a coordinated voter intimidation effort in swing states, Democrats and left-leaning independents toughed out enough attempts to thwart their votes that they were able to outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and, thus far, Florida — every other battleground state but Indiana and North Carolina.

There simply weren’t enough white voters remaining in the electorate to dominate the vote in the nine swing states. A working coalition of single women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and young voters collaborated to defeat Romney and Republican Senate candidates in state after state.

Twenty years ago, said Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, “an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney would have trounced Obama.” As bigoted and uncharitable as O’Reilly was about the black, Latino, and female voters who “feel that the economic system is stacked against them” and “feel they are entitled to things,” O’Reilly had a point.

Romney won 61 percent of the white vote last night, said Todd. The last candidate to win with that high a percentage of the white vote was George H.W. Bush in 1988. Since then, the share of the white vote in the general electorate has shrunk, and 61 percent of a shrinking slice of the electoral pie no longer puts GOP candidates in the White House.

“The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly lamented. “The demographics of the country have changed. It’s not a traditional America any more.”

An anonymous comment following the Daily Beast’s story about Mitt Romney’s “bust” of a “victory party” elaborated on the point:

“The most telling aspect of Romney’s election night gathering is (that) just about every single person in the audience was white. The GOP is going to have to learn that they will not win if they do not court our racial minorities, and to court them means to give up on their racial bias. It’s politics, people; you are supposed to represent your constituency, and if you do not do that, you are going to continue to fail.”

This country’s been way too white for way too long. It was engendered as a melting pot, but an unequal one. Now, with the reelection of America’s first black president, the path that leads away from a government of, by, and for old, wealthy white men is well on its way to being leveled. This societal upheaval has inspired a great, ragged cry of protest from the privileged few who are being inexorably replaced — not by revolution or the “reparations” they’ve imagined being expected to pay, but by the births of “non-white” children (whose “right to life” remains the near-universal obsession of the very people who most resist immigration, integration, and assimilation).

I call them “world children.” The urban block I live on is a virtual “United Nations” of racial and ethnic backgrounds. My neighbors’ son, Sir William, 7, is French-Canadian and African-American. Becky, 8, who adores my dog, Zoe, and dresses her up in costumes, has a Mexican mother, Remedios, and a Honduran father, Jesus. Amanda, 10, is Afro-Caribbean and Dominican. MacKenzie, 6, and Natalia, 4, are Irish, Portuguese, Cherokee, and black. Jovaughan, 9, and his little sisters, are Haitian; while Elijah, 5, and Joelle, 2, have an African-American father and an Irish mother.

My baby grandaughter, Dulcinea,1, is Italian, Scotch-Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Palestinian. My husband’s two grown children, Kailey, 26, and Alexander, 23, are French-Canadian, Irish, and Jewish.

These children are the future of an electorate that, by 2040, will cross the invisible threshhold from “majority white” to “majority other.” No longer “illegal” or “alien,” their varied and blended ethnicities may one day succeed in eradicating the scourge of racism from a country where everyone, after all, is originally from somewhere else.

‘Which Mitt’ Would Preside Over FEMA?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Ssshh! A moment of silence, please.  Turn down that racket from incessant campaign ads and warring TV pundits (if you didn’t already lose your cable service to a gargantuan maple tree toppled by Hurricane Sandy, as I did Monday afternoon).

You wouldn’t want to miss the sound of one hand clapping, a paradox that developed when poor Mittens had no one to play partisan patty-cake with. His good buddy from New Jersey abandoned the Tea Party games that MittWit had talked him into playing. The frivolity got too preposterous and infantile for Mitt’s BFF to stomach, so he ran off to join the grown-ups who had finally reached across the aisle to begin solving the country’s problems.

In the eerie hush of an early Halloween twilight — without lights, heat, and background noise in the millions of households without power — you could almost hear Mitt Romney fuming, all the way from Ohio, over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s treachery.


Obama & Christie emerge  as politics’ strangest ‘power couple’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, praised President Obama for his bipartisan collaboration with the GOP leader on disaster relief, after Hurricane Sandy devastated Christie's state. (Photo: Associated Press)

The news teemed with post-disaster anecdotes about “Sandy’s political odd couple,” Christie and his unlikely ally President Barack Obama, who worked in tandem to coordinate the relief effort and flew together in Marine One to tour parts of New Jersey devastated when the hurricane made landfall there. And just look who’s green with “envy” now, absorbing the spectacle of political polar opposites patting each other on the back, a freaking mutual admiration society!

“Seeing him with Chris Christie is tearing me apart,” satirist Andy Borowitz imagined a steamed Mittster venting. (The nerve of Mitt’s own convention keynote speaker, defecting to the enemy camp just one week before Election Day to call a truce in electoral hostilities over a freaking windstorm!)


Storm of the century sidelines Mitt from headlines

“Frankenstorm” is over, leaving a grim tally of casualties and destruction in its wake: 94 reported dead thus far, millions without power, countless families homeless, 9 out of 23 subway lines still closed in New York City, and as much as $50 billion in property damage, extra living expenses, and lost business. The president admirably rose to the challenge to oversee disaster relief endeavors by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Christie, doing likewise, even signed an executive order “rescheduling Halloween” because the streets in his state weren’t yet safe for trick-or-treaters.

Mitt Romney

Marooned in my silent living room sans Internet access, I could still easily discern from my cell phone connection that Mitt Romney didn’t have a lot to say about how he would handle disaster relief if he were in the president’s coveted shoes.

Granted, Mitt’s got several tough acts to follow. Even though Obama was bashed for reacting “prematurely” to the hurricane threat by stunningly inept Katrina-era FEMA head Michael Brown (of  “Heckuva Job, Brownie” fame), the president smoothly coordinated a truly bipartisan storm response with fellow executives like Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The GOP  contender, as New Yorker columnist John Cassidy opined, “has a FEMA problem and a Chris Christie problem.” The “unemployed” multimillionaire challenger finds himself cast in the unenviable position of odd man out in a venue tailor-made for incumbents. Obama shines by simply doing his job (and gleans a 77 percent approval rating among likely voters on his overall response to the storm). Romney, on the other hand, has no official tasks to perform and doesn’t feign empathy very well. He’s limited to phony photo ops that reveal him to be the cynical, calculating, and purely political android that he really is.

"Donations" to Mitt's fake storm relief event were actually purchases from Walmart. (Photo: BuzzFeed)

In the aftermath of the superstorm that flooded city streets, swamped the New York City subway system, and flattened homes, businesses, amusement parks, and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, the sidelined Romney campaign staged a bogus “storm relief event” offering faux “donations” of granola bars, diapers, and canned goods purchased by staffers from an Ohio Walmart for $5,000. People who showed up for what was originally billed as a “victory rally” were encouraged to pick up Walmart merchandise and hand it to Romney in front of the cameras. When skeptical reporters began questioning him about whether he would ax FEMA, as he had suggested during a 2011 primary debate, Mitt clammed up and ignored them as if they were a bothersome swarm of gnats.

Sharron Angle, AP photo

Like Tea Party whack job Sharron Angle, who ran for Harry Reid’s Nevada Senate seat in 2010, Mitt traded his mirthless, chiseled mug for a Halloween mask just days before the 2012 election, dodging questions he didn’t want to answer by pretending the people asking them were as ephemeral as  “Invisible Obama.”


As Massachusetts governor, Mitt vetoed flood prevention bill

After watching Barack Obama “palling around” for days with Christie, Romney was finally goaded by his campaign staff to respond to the anti-FEMA rap that his own past positions had pinned on him. The craftily constructed switcheroo issued by the Romney campaign late Halloween night read as follows:

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

While insisting that Romney doesn’t intend to eliminate or defund FEMA outright, this “Mitticism” relegates the federal agency to “play(ing) a key role” in working with states and localities. Like every other vague policy proposal that the GOP’s Obfuscator-in-Chief has released to date, this statement is as flimsy and mutable as Mitt Romney’s word. He could change it tomorrow, next month, or next year.

If he wins next week’s election, what would Romney really do? His record as governor of of Massachusetts offers an ominous prologue. In 2004, after Peabody’s downtown had been repeatedly flooded by heavy spring rains, Romney vetoed a $5.7 million flood control bill. His longtime spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, claimed that Romney had asked Peabody officials for more information but “none was forthcoming” — a charge that local residents vehemently disputed.

Then-Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a flood control bill passed after the downtown district of Peabody, Massachusetts, was repeatedly 'submerged' in 2004.

Two years later, the area flooded again. “Massachusetts is sitting on millions in unspent emergency funds from Hurricane Katrina and more than $1 billion in cash reserves, yet Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation’s requests to discuss additional aid for victims,” the “conservative-leaning” Lowell Sun commented.

“When you’re dealing with a candidate as sketchy and shifty as Romney, his brief record as an elected leader is perhaps the most telling guide you have,” wrote Paul Constant in Seattle’s Slog blog. “Romney has demonstrated an inability to prepare for the future, and then an inability to face the consequences of his actions when the future arrives.”


Privatized disaster relief would put profits before victims

The day after Hurricane Sandy decimated the East Coast, The New York Times published an editorial titled, “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” Without FEMA’s “war room,” the National Response Coordination Center, the Times argued, relief efforts for a multistate emergency would be virtually impossible to coordinate. When Romney expressed his position du jour at the September 2011 New Hampshire GOP primary debate, he went beyond saying that disaster management should be “returned to the states. … If you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Jeb Bush

Romney the “vulture capitalist” has given us no reason to doubt that he really does believe privatization of many government functions would be optimal. Privatizing disaster relief, however, would be, well — “disastrous.” If Romney wins the election, private disaster response companies (including one headed by Dubya’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) are waiting in the wings to profit from disaster victims’ misery. Stephen D. Foster Jr. of the blog Addicting Info calls this playbook “a recipe for fraud,” as for-profit response companies could hold both disaster areas and individual victims hostage until their asking price is met. Foster cites a frightening recent example:

“Remember the home in Tennessee a couple years ago that was allowed to burn down by the local for-profit firehouse because the residents failed to pay the fee? Well, you can bet that same scenario will play out across the country and on a more sickening scale.”


Christie says he doesn’t ‘give a damn’ about Election Day

Pundits have speculated about whether Christie is simply sucking up to Obama because he won’t be able to run for president as the GOP candidate in 2016 if Romney wins in 2012. Democrats, however, aren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so most are taking Christie at his word.

That word, as usual, is devastatingly blunt when you’re on the receiving end of it, as Fox flunky Steve Doocy found out after wondering aloud when Romney “was going to get some of the same benefits from the hurricane with a photo op in disaster-stricken New Jersey towns,” in the words of the blog Raw Story’s David Edwards. “[W]e hear that perhaps Mr. Romney may do some storm-related events. Is there any possibility that Gov. Romney may go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?”

Christie minced no words in his response:

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could [sic] care less about any of that stuff. … I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power, I’ve got devastation on the shore, I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

That nonpartisan approach could be just the ticket for an Election Day rejection of the mendacious, divisive politics embodied by the Mitt Romney wing of the Republican Party.

Keep Women-Hating Men from Office

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

By Jean Webster

The 2012 election could have the greatest impact on American women since Roe v. Wade in 1973. But this time the impact would be negative.

If the Romney/Ryan duo wins this election, they could pull in more Republican Congressmen on their coattails. And, I’ve heard enough from these politicians to be convinced that if they are in the White House with a majority in the Congress, the clock will be turned back decades for women.

Just as a reminder, here’s what has already happened, and what Romney’s minions have said in recent months.

This year the great State of Texas cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and other services to about half of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in the program. The service includes cancer screenings, but not abortions. The reason? The Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to any organizations that are linked to abortion providers, even though no state money goes to pay for abortions.

It does seem that Republicans cannot think about women without their insulting and inflammatory remarks. For starters, there’s Todd Akin, seeking a Senate seat in Missouri, and his “legitimate rape” quote, in which he declared that “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

That remark has now been trumped by the Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who said that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God” and what “God intended to happen.”

And how did Romney respond to Mourdock’s assertion? He doubled his endorsement of Mourdock’s campaign.

Then there’s Joe Walsh, who is running against Tammy Duckworth for a House seat in Illinois. In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs while serving with the Army in Iraq. Walsh compared her negatively to John McCain, who – he said – never used his military career in his political campaigns. On top of that, he’s accused Duckworth of not being “a true hero.” So, she’s not a hero, just a woman who has made her military service central to her campaign.

Then, Walsh said about Duckworth, “What else has she done? Female? Wounded veteran? Ehhhhh.”

“What else has she done?” “The female body has ways to shut the whole [rape] thing down?” “The child as a result of rape is a gift from God?”

The contempt for women – women like their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters – is evident in every one of these remarks.

And, it’s pretty clear that Romney and Ryan are on the same side of the fence. Ryan has been very vocal about his own opposition to abortion and Planned Parenthood. Obviously, Romney chose him for his stand on these issues. Let Ryan talk about it, so the presidential candidate stays clear of these difficult topics.

There’s more.

Earlier this year, Roy Blount, another Missouri Republican, sponsored an amendment that would allow employers to refuse to provide any insurance coverage that went against their beliefs or moral convictions.  When Romney was asked where he stood on Blount’s measure, he said, “Of course I support the Blount amendment.”

Romney later said he doesn’t believe that businesses or bureaucrats should decide whether businesses must offer coverage for women’s contraception. But, that sounds like he’d leave the decision up to business.

And, where does that leave women who need this coverage?

Out in the cold. Without insurance coverage. Without the help of Planned Parenthood.

And, if Romney had his way, without equal pay for equal work, women wouldn’t be able to afford their own coverage.

The choice is clear. Vote them out.


Citizens United: Threat to Democracy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

The threat to democracy embodied by the United States Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case extends way beyond the oft-discussed issue of campaign funding. Perhaps even more ominous is the way corporations have interpreted the decision to mean they can pressure employees to vote a certain way. After all, as Mitt Romney put it, “Corporations are people too my friend.”

As reported last week in an article in In These Times, Romney himself suggested the idea in a June 6 conference call posted on the website of the National Federation of Independent Business:  “Romney was addressing a group of self-described ‘small-business owners.’ Twenty-six minutes into the call, after making a lengthy case that President Obama’s first term has been bad for business, Romney said: ‘I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.’”

He also reassured them of the legality of doing so: “Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.” Forget the last part of that sentence.  Of course it was never illegal for business owners to try to influence the vote of their family members. But the Citizens United decision overturned previous Federal Election Commission laws that prohibited employers from political campaigning among employees. Now, as the first presidential election campaign since the Citizens United ruling enters its final days, the ramifications are clear.

The Nation magazine reported last week that CEOs for Murray Energy, Koch Industries, ASG Software, and Westgate Resorts “have pressured their employees to vote for particular political candidates, like Mitt Romney.” Further, “the phenomenon appears far more wide-ranging than previously known.” At the same time, “lobbyists in Washington are working furiously to encourage more corporations to adopt these tactics.” Lobbyists for the National Mining Association, produced a voting guide website called “Mine the Vote” for its 325-member companies, to encourage employees to vote for Romney and other candidates favored by the mine owners.

The article quotes Cleta Mitchell, described as a “prominent Republican attorney,” who maintains that Citizens United opens the door for businesses “to educate their employees, vendors and customers about candidates and officeholders whose philosophies and voting records would destroy or permanently damage America’s free enterprise system.” Mitchell’s advice was picked up by lawyers for Koch Industries, which began pressuring its employees to vote Republican in the midterm elections two years ago.

Last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign to have employers stuff payroll envelopes with explicit campaign propaganda, according to The Nation. The first political mailer, now being distributed in Massachusetts, proclaims, “Defeat U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren.”

According to The Nation, DDC Advocacy, the company that helped develop Koch Industries’ campaign to pressure employees to vote for Romney, is led in part by Sara Fagen, former deputy of Karl Rove.  DDC Advocacy and similar firms “specialize in helping businesses activate their employees and customers into-mini lobbyists.” Current DDC clients include Boeing, Aetna, Altria, Humana, Ernst & Young, and other Fortune 500 corporations.

“The real concern here is…the inherent power dynamics between employees and their employers,” said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel with the BrennanCenterfor Justice, in a recent interview on Current TV. An official e-mail from the boss saying something like “your job could depend on who wins the race” could be interpreted as coercion or intimidation. Could be? Countless workers all over the country are being told by their bosses that their jobs will be in jeopardy if President Obama is re-elected. How much more intimidating can it get?

We may soon find out. “Corporations are people too my friend.”

Michael can be reached at


















More Questions for the Candidates

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

I’m glad the president showed up for the second debate. At the first one he reminded me of a boxer approached by a mobster before a big fight and told to go in the tank or else something terrible would happen to his children.  (I’m not joking: For the first time in years I thought of the chilling book Weigh-in: The Selling of a Middleweight  [1975 ] by former middleweight contender Fraser Scott.) Most people think Obama won this one, which is fine by me.  Romney’s bully-boy tactics, which served him well in the first debate, fell flat when Candy Crowley—unlike Jim Lehrer—refused to roll over and play dead.

I like the “Town Hall” format that allows audience members to ask questions directly to the candidates. I’m not sure how they decide who gets to be in the audience and who gets to ask the questions though. Some sort of screening takes place beforehand, which makes things a lot less interesting.  I would have liked to see an audience member ask Romney why he is afraid to show more of his tax returns, for example. What doesn’t he want voters to see?  Then the president might say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

And I would have liked to see someone ask the president why on earth he is waiting until 2014 to bring the troops home from that futile and murderous war in Afghanistan? Have we learned nothing from history?

Surely someone should have asked Romney about the Sensata employees (and their families, friends, and neighbors in Freeport, Ill, now dubbed “Bainport”)  who don’t understand why Bain is closing the plant after a year of record profits and, yes,  moving production to China. Is this what you call job creation, Mr. Romney? How does this square with all your complaints about China’s “cheating” and “not playing by the rules?” Would you consider using your influence with your pals at Bain so they keep the plant in Freeport?

Mr. President, I liked your explanation about eliminating the “middle man” (private banks) so  student loans can be offered at a lower interest rate and at payoff terms more favorable to hard-pressed borrowers. Why not call for doing the same thing with health care? Eliminate the middle man (private insurance companies) and have a single payer system that comes out of the general tax fund? Healthcare costs will be lower and the onus will no longer be on employers, large and small, to provide health insurance to employees. Speaking of which, why do you let Romney get away with the spurious argument that “Obamacare” is responsible for the rising health costs that deters businesses from hiring fulltime people? This trend has been going on for all the years that healthcare costs have been skyrocketing. That’s why Walmart hires so many part-time workers; it’s a major cause of outsourcing.  You are right when you say that the cost has gone up by a smaller percentage since passage of the Affordable Care Act—but it was already too high, so  that isn’t exactly going to impel companies to start hiring again. (Don’t worry about being called a socialist: the opposition already has you pegged as a non-citizen, secret Muslim, Black militant reincarnation of Joseph Stalin anyway.)

Mr. Romney, how can you say you want to create “good paying” jobs when you and your fellow Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage? It is so low now that anyone working full time for those wages cannot support a family. Won’t raising the minimum wage help achieve your goal of reducing the the number of families who have to rely on food stamps?

I can think of many more questions for the candidates between now and Election Day. But now, dear Zest readers, it’s your turn. If you were to have an opportunity to ask a couple of questions of the candidates, what would they be?

Michael can be reached at





Romney’s Struggles (cont’d)

Monday, October 15th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

There he goes again. Mitt Romney, who never allows the truth to stand in the way of what looks like a lethal blow against an opponent, told a whopper at the Tuesday night debate. But he was caught. And I am left wondering what it is about the protocols of presidential politics that seems to require a debater to say, “Governor, that’s not true” rather than “Governor, that’s a damned lie.”

This time, the issue was Romney’s shameless – and ultimately fact-less – politicization of the attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Romney smelled blood in the water. He would nail President Obama for not responding quickly enough to the attack and specifically for failing to label the assault – in which four Americans including the ambassador to Libya were killed – an act of terrorism.

For weeks before the debate, he hinted that Obama somehow had dismissed the incident as the spontaneous actions of demonstrators enraged by the making of the 14-minute movie “The Innocence of Muslims,” which maligns the prophet Mohammed, rather than as a planned act of pure terror.

Now, the fact is that you know the truth about Obama’s behavior after the attack, I know the truth, the president certainly knows the truth, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows the truth, and anybody who was paying attention on Sept. 12 knows the truth. Maybe even Romney knows the truth, or maybe he’ll say anything, do anything, suggest anything – anything at all – to get elected.

It took too long for Obama to conclude this was an act of terror?

As it turns out, President Obama and Secretary Clinton appeared in the White House Rose Garden the day after the attack on the Libyan mission to express their sorrow to the families of the dead, their anger at the killers, their concern for American-Libyan relations, and their resolve to bring the killers to justice.

And there it was. “No acts of terror,” Obama said, “will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” Poor Mitt.

At the debate, Romney was flabbergasted when the question of what the president said and when he said it, was raised. “I think [it] interesting the president just said something, which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.”

Obama: “That’s what I said.”

Romney couldn’t believe it: “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?”

A moment later, Romney, still confounded, said: “I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

Obama: “Get the transcript.”

In stepped Candy Crowley, the moderator: “He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take – it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea [of] there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.”

This wasn’t good enough for Romney, or else he didn’t care about the veracity of his criticism of Obama. Or maybe it was Romney’s secret message to the American people in which he revealed his personal pathetic inadequacy. It’s Mitt Romney who has sworn that on his first day in office as president he would label the Chinese as “currency manipulators.” First day leaves little time for discussion and reasonableness.

The first debate revealed a lot about Romney. Tuesday night’s meeting confirmed it. There’s his casual relationship with the facts and the truth. There’s his constant smirk. There’s his contempt for authority, such as his interrupting the moderator to try and set his own rules of engagement. There’s his dismissal of the rules of the game. There’s his continual attempt to get the last word even when the last word is not his to get.