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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 06/12/2012

The Morning Plum: The Romney mythology

For some time now, Mitt Romney has been claiming that if Obamacare is not repealed, government will ultimately “control” or “reach” half the economy. The assertion has been completely debunked. Romney cheerfully continues to make it, anyway.

Today the Post’s Glenn Kessler offers a definitive takedown of the assertion. Read the whole thing, but this is key to the absurdity of it:

In essence, Romney has taken a debatable assertion — that government “consumes” 37 percent of the economy — and then hyped it with a nonsensical non sequitur — that the health care law extends the “reach” of government to 50 percent of the economy.
Clearly the Romney campaign does not want to abandon this claim, despite the poor reviews it has received from various experts. But it makes little sense and is frankly a bit foolish — especially for a candidate whose signature legislative achievement as Massachusetts governor was to enact a health care law that at the state level included insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion, an individual mandate and other provisions that he now claims extends the “reach” of government.
Romney should drop this line from his speeches.

He won’t, of course. And that’s because this claim is of a piece with a much larger falsehood, a narrative that’s central to Romney’s campaign: That Obama is attempting a radical transformation of our free enterprise system into something no longer recognizably American — and that this is what’s holding the recovery back.

That falsehood has taken many forms, whether it’s Romney’s insistence that Obama favors “equal outcomes,” that Obama wants a society in which everyone gets the “same rewards,” his assertion that we are on the verge of ceasing to be a “free enterprise society,” or the latest claim, that Obamacare means that government will “reach” half the economy, whatever that even means.

In this mythology, government is solely to blame for the economic crisis; roll it back, and the recovery, released from Obama-bondage, will roar foward. That’s why Romney tells us that firing 145,000 government workers will put Americans back to work. And yet, Romney’s narrative is the inverse of the truth. Government jobs have declined, and that’s proven a key drag on the recovery. Some economists believe Romney’s vow of more austerity would make the crisis still worse.

Romney’s political strategy may work. Perhaps the experience of the last three years has (understandably) left swing voters so disillusioned with government and the failure to fix the economy quickly enough that they’ll be receptive to any alternative explanation of what’s gone wrong and how to fix it, without paying close attention to the details.

The true nature of the relationship between government and the economic crisis should be central to the presidential campaign. In the wake of Obama’s gaffe about the private sector “doing fine” in relation to the public sector, and in the wake of Romney’s subsequent claim that we don’t need any more cops, firefighters or teachers, we really need more serious scrutiny of the core questions that this presidential race is about.

* Obama campaign again hits Romney’s jobs record: The Obama campaign is out with a new ad hitting Romney’s record as Governor of Massachusetts, claiming that the state was number one in debt and 47th out of 50 states in job creation.

The spot, which will air in nine swing states, is the latest effort by the Obama campaign to undermine Romney’s aura of economic competence by pointing out that he is offering a sales pitch — corporate “Mr. Fix It” who will apply his skills to the public sector — that he has already offered us before.

* Today’s special election all about Medicare, Social Security: As Aaron Blake notes, if Dems win today’s special election for Gabrielle Giffords’ House seat, as one poll has suggested, it will be seen as a sign that tarring the GOPer as anti-Medicare and anti-Social Security trumped efforts to tie the Dem to Obama.

* Bipartisan negotiations over “fiscal cliff” continue: Senate leaders continue insisting that negotiations are progressing over the Bush tax cuts and other looming threats from “taxmageddon,” but it’s still unclear how we are going to get passed this fundamental sticking point:

Republicans have also urged eliminating deductions to create a simpler, flatter tax code. But they insist revenues should be entirely put into lower rates. Deficit reduction, they maintain, should come from spending cuts and entitlement reforms alone.

As always.

* Yep: government cutbacks are driving the crisis: Paul Krugman on Romney’s claim that we don’t need any more cops, firefighters or teachers:

some commentators wondered, couldn’t he have chosen different professions to ridicule? And the answer is no. When we talk about public workers, that’s pretty much who we’re talking about. When we look at the unprecedented public austerity in this recession, we’re basically looking at cutbacks on education and public protection.

In chart form.

* Can Obama win GOP cooperation on jobs? Michael Tomasky has a suggestion for Obama: Offer Republicans a one year extension of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for their support for infrastructure spending and aid to states to create jobs:

Obama would have the Republicans over a barrel. He will have offered a huge concession on the high-end tax rates, which the media will note. If the Republicans say no, which of course is likely because the infrastructure bank is socialism and no one wants teachers anyway, then it becomes manifestly clear to swing voters that Republicans are the true obstructionists. Voters will get that Obama will have made a major concession here. They’ll see that the GOP fail to respond in kind, and most of them will draw the logical conclusion.

It’s still unclear to me that voters will care why Obama has failed to get his policies past determined GOP opposition, but it’s definitely an interesting idea.

* Deadline looms for student loans: It’s unclear whether people are focused on just how big a financial hit the expiration of the low rates would mean for young voters, and the political fallout that would result.

* Why Obama caved on national security isses: Kevin Drum says Obama deserves much of the blame for failing to match his rhetoric on civil liberties and other war-on-terror issues, but also notes one of the untold stories of the Obama era: He got virtually no support from craven Congressional Dems who were afraid to engage the right.

* And will inequality-wracked America change course? Joseph Stiglitz on the soaring inequality in America today, why it’s stifling growth, and why this election is a referendum on whether the country will do what it has done after other, similar periods of inequality in its history — change course.

What else?

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 06/12/2012

 
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