Fortitudine et Prudentia

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The Real Empty Chair: Mitt Romney

In News and Opinion on September 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

A new series of polling data from last week shows President Obama has significantly increased his lead over his republican challenger, Mitt Romney. The common analysis of The President’s significant five point bump in the polls is that it is a positive effect in wake of the successful DNC convention in Charlotte but many people are missing the negative effect the RNC Convention in Tampa had on Mitt Romney.

The conventions in Tampa and Charlotte were showcases of the political parties’ platforms, assessments of the present policies and their ideas for the future. The Democrats showcased their ideas well but really showed nothing new from the path for the future the President has been on: Education and job training, saving the auto industry, a more focused and strategic foreign policy, women’s rights, etc. The Republicans on the other hand showcased their party’s lack of ideas that has become indicative of the Romney campaign.

In the first night of the Democratic Convention President Obama’s name was mentioned 250 times compared to Mitt Romney’s name that was mentioned 213 times in all three nights of the Republican convention combined. The idea circulated that the Republican Party was disjointed during its convention because they are not totally united behind Romney, and that may be true, but another reason may be that they had no ideas and specifics to grab on to of Romney’s to promote and educate America on.

Romney went into the convention suffering from lack of specifics and left more exposed as an incompetent policy maker. Mr. Romney’s plans for America have not been properly thought out. Take for instance his stance on Medicare, he would like to keep it the way it is for seniors age 55 and older, and then change the program to a premium support voucher. But in conjunction with his stand on repealing “Obamacare” Mr. Romney’s plans for Senior’s healthcare turns disastrous in the very near future.

By repealing “Obamacare” and the $716 billion dollars in savings in the plan Mr. Romney shortens Medicare’s solvency by eight years. So if Mr. Romney gets his way Medicare will be bankrupt by 2016 meaning there is no possible way he can keep Medicare the way it is for seniors age 55 and older, he comes up six years short.

Another area Romney and his campaign failed to think through is his tax proposal. Romney would like to lower tax rates across the board for all tax payers and pay for it by eliminating “loopholes” in the tax code. The problem with this poorly thought out proposal is “loopholes” are deductions and credits many middle class Americans use to lower their tax burden.

This weekend conservative stalwart, George Will, echoed what democrats have been saying about Mitt Romney’s tax proposal. On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, of Romney’s tax plans Mr. Will said,   “There is uncertainty surrounding the Romney-Ryan tax cut plan, because they have not specified the deductions that will be closed. And we know where the big money is: mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions, taxing that’s compensation, which it is, employee-provided health insurance, and state and local taxes. All of those, you either hit only the rich, in which case you don’t get much money, or you hit the middle class.”

This was a damning critique of the Romney tax plan because the two possible scenarios under Romney’s thinking would either cause America’s total debt to grow by almost $3 trillion needlessly or raise taxes on middle class while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Moving from Romney’s vapidly inconsiderate plans for the future of America another area he came up empty on was the war in Afghanistan and the troops. Completely failing to mention Afghanistan or the troops in his acceptance speech during the Republican Convention begs the question, does Romney fully understand the job of President of the United States?

Romney is slumping in the polls after the conventions but not because of anything the democrats did, it’s because Romney and his team haven’t been thinking through their policy proposals. They unwittingly have been promoting ideas that are detrimental to the middle class and the nation as a whole. The reason why Romney’s support in the polls has waned after the conventions is because his flawed ideas reached a larger audience.

Perhaps calling Romney an empty chair isn’t fair, after all he does have plans, but the unfortunate thing is they are as poorly thought out as Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech.

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Hollywood Wows, Obama Changes and Jobs Report Disappoints

In News and Opinion on September 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

The Democratic National Convention was hitting on all the right notes until The President took the stage. By acclamation and consensus the DNC was a well-choreographed production worthy of the highest world standards that Hollywood can create but as the famous rapper Jay Z once said, “this ain’t a movie.”

Michelle Obama showed in very real language President Obama’s empathy for hurting Americans and expressed his “common man” values compel his decision making. Bill Clinton gave a lights out rebuttal to the attacks against President Obama by his political foes. In an amazing display of mental jujitsu former President Clinton, now known as “The Secretary of Explaining Stuff”, dismantled Republican claims item by item in one of the most factually correct speeches given at either convention.

All was going very well for Democrats. Point by point they were in lock step defending Medicare, advocating women’s rights, touting foreign policy, promoting education, and, of course, saving the American auto industry. The liberals found their voice; they were speaking to their base and beyond pushing their core belief that growth and prosperity comes from the middle class out and from the bottom up – that government can be a tool good.

But when President Obama took the stage the energy flattened. Like leaving a darkened movie theatre after watching an exciting Hollywood production, the bright lights of the lobby tend to set in and minds leave the fantastical and adjust to the true light of reality. Obama was humble and gracious in his acceptance delivering a “workman” like speech more in the fashion of a stoic statesmen interested in checking off boxes rather than the fresh “A list” celebrity on the scene with a new catch phrase.

Declaring that he’s “changed” The President remained steadfast and resolute in his progressive vision for the future. Invoking President Franklin Roosevelt as the standard for his re-election Obama warned, “if you turn away now… change will not happen.” Citing the possibilities of Medicare going bankrupt and being changed into a voucher system, the protections “Obamacare” holds for sick children and uninsured adults could be repealed, and higher education opportunities would most likely be cut by his opponents. Obama pushed that this election is a choice between two vastly different ways forward. Obama has to make this election a choice between visions rather than a referendum on the economy to win because in the back of his mind, while he was giving the acceptance speech, was a disappointing jobs report.

Federal jobs reports are released to the public the first Friday of every month but the President gets the jobs numbers at 4pm the day before they are released. The August jobs report that was in the back of the President’s mind showed a mere 93,000 jobs created which isn’t enough to keep up with the amount of jobs that needs to be created to keep up with population growth. To add insult to injury over 350,000 Americans left the labor market lowering the unemployment rate from 8.3% to 8.1%. In August the job market was on the wrong side of flat. Of the August jobs report the Romney Campaign said, “Yesterday was the party, today is the hangover.”

The convention put on by the DNC was well produced and well directed. The Democrats put on a show that was unified, on message and totally behind President Obama. They set the stage as best they could for the serious tone of Obama’s acceptance speech as he sought to recast his role before the American people. President Obama is now what screen writers would call a dynamic character, one who changed or evolved in some manner but as the August jobs report reminds voters this “ain’t a movie” – This election is about jobs and the economy.

Why Didn’t Paul Ryan Fight to Save the GM Plant in Janesville?

In News and Opinion on September 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

People put their hopes and dreams into politics because politics is a forward looking vision and we all want to be on the best path going into the future. But arguments for the future should not be based on misrepresentations of the past.

Recently, the Republican national Committee put on a fairly good convention showcasing a series of Romney supporters and future leaders of the party. The Republicans put out their best and brightest and made their case for the future.

Ann Romney and Marco Rubio stood out at the convention and gave grand slam speeches that pulled you into their lives and explained why they believe what they believe and why they believe Mitt Romney is the better choice in this upcoming presidential election.

Mitt Romney did a fairly good job at “humanizing” himself which was the bar he had to get over. Romney did a fine job. He didn’t need to swing for the fences he just needed to play it safe and he did that well.

Clint Eastwood was something else and truly something to see. But when it comes to Paul Ryan’s speech exuberance turned into exaggeration.

The Vice Presidential hopeful delivered a full throated and impassioned speech making his case for why Mitt Romney and himself would be the better choice going forward. The only problem with the speech is it was fallacious at times. Among the false accusations and misleading stands Mr. Ryan took were misrepresentation of a work requirement to receive federal welfare benefits and a half-truth of Ryan’s support of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission’s suggestions. But nothing was more contentious as Ryan’s assertion that a General Motors factory, that was shut down in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, was the president’s fault.

According to Politifact The General Motors plant in contention was built in 1918 and has produced tractors for farming, automobiles commuting, and army tanks for war but most importantly that factory produced well-paying middle class jobs for Americans. That factory produced the American Dream – A means to owning a home, raising a family, sending your children to college, and retiring with dignity and security. In essence Ryan was pinning the crumbling American Dream on the President and using the Janesville plant as a metaphor. Which would be fair play except for the fact that that plant began closing before President Obama took office and was running a skeleton crew filling the last orders for light duty trucks when Obama assumed office.

Ryan laid the responsibility for the plant’s closing and subsequent jobs loses on Obama because in 2008 the then Senator Obama visited the Janesville plant while campaigning for president.

While at the plant Senator Obama stated, “And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president.”

And this is the basis for Ryan’s fallacious claim: Because Senator Obama believed if the government was there to support the auto industry in 2008 that plant would be there for another hundred years. Mr. Ryan was part of the government in 2008 and was the congressional representative for Janesville during that year. Why didn’t Mr. Ryan use the government to support the workers of Janesville and fight for the funds to retool and retrain the workers of his hometown’s GM factory?

If Ryan cares so much about auto workers now why didn’t care about them in 2008?

As president, Obama did fight for the future of the auto industry and auto workers. President Obama battled against Republican opposition and against Paul Ryan himself to save auto manufacturing in the Midwest. Obama pushed for a bail-out for the auto industry in 2009 and won and America won and American manufacturing won and auto workers won. But for all the efforts and struggles of the 2009 auto bail out it was too late to save the Janesville plant that produced its last Tahoe and laid off the majority of its work force on December 23, 2008.

At the eight minute mark in the video below Congressman Ryan states in 2008 that the Janesville Plant will be closed by December 23rd.

The video below is of the last Tahoe  built in Janesville being raffled off by Fagan Chevrolet with a dated banner from December 23, 2008.

Of this video Fagan Chevrolet wrote – We were lucky enough to have the last Chevrolet Tahoe built at the Janesville, WI assembly plant. Fagan Chevrolet Cadillac would like to thank all the workers that put their hard efforts in day in and day out to make these great vehicles. We sure will miss having G.M. here in Janesville.

-Ray Reilly

Medicare – Ryan’s Vouchercare & Why You Should Care

In News and Opinion on August 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

If you’re an American and you’re planning on living until you’re 65 then this election is very important to you.

For the eternal optimists among us retirement is something far off into the future that we don’t consider daily but as sure as birthdays add up retirement is coming and with retirement comes healthcare needs. Coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical devices, and therapy is not cheap. In 2010 The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated it costs the government $11,743 per enrollee for annual coverage in Medicare. That covers Jazzy scooters, home health aides, and enough prescription drugs to fill a fisherman’s tackle box for all of America’s retired population.

Currently Medicare is funded by the tax payers who aren’t retired yet. Tax payers pay into the system until they retire then when they retire the younger tax payers pay for the Senior’s coverage. Taxpayers pay a whopping 1.45% of their income toward Medicare that their employers match dollar for dollar. That should be spelled out to dispel any notion of a typo – Medicare is taxed at one point four five percent of income.

For retirees Medicare is not a free ride. Currently there are monthly premiums for Doctor and prescription drug coverage but overall retired citizens are very happy with their Medicare and the system as whole. As a matter of fact they are happier with their healthcare coverage than people with employer based insurance.

It’s a good deal. Pay a measly 1.45% of your income during your working years and retire secure with great insurance you are most definitely going to need.

But there’s an onion – Medicare is going broke.

But Medicare has always been going broke. According to Patricia A Davis of the prestigious Congressional Research Service the current solvency projection of Medicare extends until 2024 which is in line with the average insolvency projections of 11.8 years historically.

This isn’t Medicare’s first rodeo with solvency. Just like any other health insurance coverage, public or private, if changes aren’t made the solvency outlook deteriorates. Healthcare companies raise premiums and change copayments as needed to stay solvent but not Medicare. Medicare slogs along like a dinosaur and this static notion of Medicare as not being adaptable leaves it open to the unfounded hysteria of inevitable extinction. Medicare is perceived as a lumbering dinosaur slogging its way off of a cliff because our government mismanages it.

Paul Ryan, now the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, is the latest opportunist to pull the proverbial fire alarm. Mr. Ryan came up with a plan to “fix” Medicare in 2010 as part of his budget entitled The Path to Prosperity. Nice name. Ryan didn’t want to fix Medicare like they do in the private sector or like as was done under Ronald Reagan’s Presidency; Ryan decided the best course of action is to hand over – the most popular and successful government program ever – to the private sector. His current boss, Mitt Romney, said he would sign Ryan’s plan into law if he became the President.

The Path to Prosperity has already passed through The House of Representatives and would surely be passed through budget reconciliation if Republicans get the majority after this election then it would be on Mr. Romney’s desk for his guaranteed signature by Spring 2013.

For a man who claims to be an “actuary wonk”, Ryan’s numbers get scary – very scary – if you plan on retiring. Under Ryan’s Plan ten years from now Medicare turns into “Vouchercare”, a system that issues American retirees coupons they can use toward the purchase of health coverage that’s similar to employer based coverage. The out of pocket costs for senior citizens would sky rocket according to the Congressional Budget Office. In 2012 the current out of pocket expense for seniors is 25% with traditional Medicare under Ryan’s “Vouchercare” the cost for seniors would rise to 68% or roughly $6,200 per year. That should be spelled out – six thousand two hundred dollars per year senior citizens would have to pay out of pocket under Ryan’s plan.

Ryan’s Medicare plan puts an unconscionable extra $400 per month expense on all retried American citizens – If you’re under the age of 55 today that means YOU and if you’re over the age of 55 today that means your children and grandchildren.

And there are unknowns with Ryan’s plan too. It’s not clear what happens to the Seniors who will not be able to afford the extra premium. Do the indigent seniors get dropped from their coverage or do they get forced into bankruptcy, nobody knows. Then there’s the question of what will be the minimum standard of coverage if Medicare gets handed over the insurance companies? What will be covered and what won’t be covered? What about Doctor and Hospital choice? Currently Medicare is accepted by most Doctors and Hospitals. Can a 93 year old navigate an HMO effectively?

There are many things that can be done rather than handing over Medicare to the insurance industry. Taxes can be raised 0.5%, the retirement age can be increased, coinsurances and deductibles can be raised, fraud, waste and abuse can be cracked down on. The practical options are almost endless. What shouldn’t be an option is giving seniors a voucher and wishing them good luck during what should be their best years of life.

-Ray Reilly

With Ryan Pick – Everyone’s a Winner Except Mitt Romney

In News and Opinion on August 14, 2012 at 1:20 am

President Obama’s Campaign of attacks on Mitt Romney this summer took a toll. Going into August the Romney Campaign found itself on their heels from the relentless attacks coming from the left and of course a “gimme” goodwill foreign policy trip that turned into a gaffe filled comedy tour. Romney returning stateside found Harry Reid ratcheting up the tax attack, UK newspapers calling him “Mitt the Twit”, and a Bain pain that would not go away. With President Obama leading a government running trillion dollar deficits, presiding over an anemic economy growing at a measly 1.5% and a stubborn unemployment problem that will not go below 8%. Mitt Romney probably envisioned tickertape parades for him by November. But that dream was fading fast. Romney found himself answering attacks rather than narrating the attacks, the polls were saying that America doesn’t like him, and he was in danger of falling too far behind to ever catch up to Obama. So what to do if you’re the Republican nominee going against Barack Obama? Get “Maverickey” of course.

Enter Paul Ryan, a congressional “young gun” who can articulate himself as well as President Obama and better than Mitt Romney. Choosing Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate Mitt Romney excited both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans felt a sense of relief that one of their own was on the ticket and Democrats were glad to have a sharp contrast that will distract voters away from the economy.

Romney was never truly trusted by the right because of his left leaning days as Governor of Massachusetts. He was attacked vigorously by his fellow Republicans in the primary election and still presents the scars to show it. The Realclearpolitics average of polls has Romney losing to Obama 47.7% to 43.7% and Romney’s unfavorable rating of 45.4% is higher than his favorable rating of 42.9%. Simply put – Mitt Romney is not getting enough Republican support. Paul Ryan solves the Republican support problem, for now.

The immediate difference was noticeable on the campaign trail with Ryan on the ticket. The crowds got bigger and were more enthusiastic, even Mitt Romney was more enthusiastic. At a Wisconsin campaign rally ten thousand people showed up and Romney laid out a five point plan to restarting the economy while eviscerating Obama at the same time. The Republican base is rallying with Ryan on the ticket.

Rachel Maddow quipped on a Sunday talk show, effectively, now that Ryan was on the ticket with Romney the democrats could spend the rest of the campaign season drinking margaritas because Ryan’s Budget takes the focus of the election off the economy and onto an extreme Republican agenda. If you want to get Democrats riled up threaten Medicare or Social Security.

The cartoons circulating facebook show Paul Ryan pushing old ladies in wheelchairs down the steps of Capital Hill and the Obama campaign released a ready to go internet ad tying Romney to the Ryan Budget. Today at Ryan’s first solo event on the ticket he was welcomed by left wing hecklers shouting “stop the war on the middle class.” To Democrats Paul Ryan’s a bad guy they love to hate.

Democrats are happy and Republicans are happy, it seems like everybody is a winner with Paul Ryan on the ticket except, maybe, Mitt Romney. Romney may have made the fatal mistake of picking a guy that outshines him but that’s the price you pay for being dull and falling behind. At the very least there has been a respite from the tax attacks, the gaffe-fest foreign policy trip, and the Bain attacks of the summer that had Romney slumping. He is now actually able to get an offensive message out and that is a good thing. But if this so-called “America’s Comeback Team” goes the wrong way Romney could have a rogue running mate on his hands a la John McCain and that didn’t end well for Republicans last time.

Romney/Ryan and the Road Map to Ruin

In News and Opinion on August 11, 2012 at 7:58 am

According to The Associated Press Mitt Romney is ready to roll the dice and name Paul Ryan has his VP pick today at 9am in Norfolk, Virginia. Ryan is a 42 year old career congressman who has represented Wisconsin’s first district for 6 terms and is currently considered the conservative fiscal whiz kid. Ryan, a republican, chairs the House Budget Committee and also sits on the ways and means committee. As far as money men go, Paul Ryan is it.

The pick of Ryan is a considerably bold choice by Romney because of his unconventional budget entitled, “The Path to Prosperity.” Romney has fully embraced the Ryan budget that Newt Gingrich famously called, “Right-wing social engineering.” This budget is rife with policies that go well beyond the normal bean counting people associate with budgets as it seeks to make fundamental changes in the so-called social contract of America.

At the center of the Ryan Budget are the usual suspects, healthcare and taxes. Guaranteed to  rile democrats at their core and rally the republican base this budget is the republican equivalent of “ObamaCare.”

The first cries from the left will undoubtedly be about the changes Ryan wishes to make to the government health insurance for retired Americans known as Medicare. Ryan has claimed that his budget doesn’t seek end Medicare as we know it but the changes are undeniable. Under the new guidelines of the Ryan Budget Medicare will still cover healthcare services for American Senior Citizens but with a few catches. Ryan envisions the government issuing coupons that Seniors will use toward the purchase of their health coverage and any additional costs for coverage will come out of pocket for senior citizens. In a complicated twist to this years version of the Ryan Plan a Senior Citizen can keep traditional medicare but any additional cost over 0.5% of the plan would have to be paid for by the subscriber. Bottom line – Out of Pocket expenses for Seniors will become more expensive.

Then there’s the Ryan Budget’s promise of broadening the tax base to reduce tax rates. Broadening the tax base is a simple idea, get more people to pay taxes and lower the rates. But like with the  proposed medicare changes there’s some catches. When the bipartisan Tax Policy Center looked at Ryan’s Budget they found it came up $4.6 trillion short of the current Bush tax rates over ten years. Unless Ryan addresses eliminating or reducing many deductions and credits within the tax code many middle class tax payers enjoy like the child tax credit and mortgage interest deduction the plan comes up about $6.2 trillion short of the 18% revenue of GDP the government has traditionally raised. The Ryan Tax Plan leaves a big hole and if the base isn’t broadened it will be an even larger hole.

The Path to Prosperity will be as front and center as Romney and Ryan will be from now until November. It carries with it a serious choice for the American voter and the contrast now between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama has never been more stark. To embrace the Romney/Ryan ticket is to embrace the Ryan Budget and its fundamental changes in much of the American social contract. Each voter now has a choice of whether the Romney/Ryan ticket will be a path to Prosperity or a Road Map to Ruin.