* The myth of “no fault capitalism”: As you know, Mitt Romney suggested last week that we should only discuss inequality in “quiet rooms,” and refused to say whether any concerns about income disparity and Wall Street’s excessive influence are about anything but “envy.” Today Eugene Robinson labels this “no fault capitalism,” and does a nice job recapping the larger meaning of the argument over it, which will be central to the 2012 campaign.
“To the horror of radical free-market ideologues, the myth of no-fault capitalism is under scrutiny,” Robinson writes, adding:
...look at the results being produced by the radically deregulated, no-fault capitalism that has been practiced in this country since the Reagan revolution.
Overall, we’ve had tremendous growth and low inflation. But we’ve also seen rising inequality and falling mobility. Middle-class incomes have stagnated, upper-class incomes have skyrocketed, and rags-to-riches stories are now less likely than in most of the “European social democracies” Romney holds in such disdain.
We have failed to keep pace with other industrialized societies in public education, and rather than offer relevant retraining to employees displaced by innovation and globalization, we leave them to their own devices. As a result, we’re starting to lose not just basic manufacturing jobs but also high-value-added, knowledge-based jobs to countries where workers are more qualified.
Government has played a huge role in guiding the nation through previous economic upheavals — after World War II with the GI Bill, for example. It can and should play such a role now.
I’d add only one other point. While there’s a deep ideological divide between the two parties about the role government should play in times of economic crisis, there is actually something approaching bipartisan consensus on the question of whether any practice of capitalism at all, such as that practiced by Bain at its worst, is above reproach. On this question, Romney seems to have staked out a position to the right of many leading Republicans, and this is something that will be fully aired out during the campaign.
* Mitt the moderate? Not so much:Relatedly, Jonathan Cohn talks to budget experts and determines that for all the talk of Romney’s moderation, his budget plan would cut spending more deeply than even Paul Ryan’s proposal does, on programs that would impact the middle class as well as the poor. Must read.
Romney is getting a free pass as a “moderate” because of his temperament and because his rhetoric isn’t as crazy as that of his rivals. But the policies should be the real metric.
* Romney again alters his claims about Bain: As I’ve been noting here, Romney continues to move the goalposts on his “job creation” at Bain, at one point claming “over 100,000,” at another point claiming “tens of thousands,” and at a third point claiming “thousands.” At last night’s debate, Romney went back to something approximating the original claim:
“And four of the companies that we invested in — they weren’t businesses I ran, but we invested in — ended up today having some 120,000 jobs. Some of the businesses we invested in weren’t successful and lost jobs….. We invested in well over a hundred different businesses.”
As Glenn Kessler notes, this is more accurate than Romney’s previous claims, because he makes it clear he’s only talking about Bain’s successes, and that he’s factoring in jobs created after he left the company. Still, the latest wording is slippery.
* Romney campaign keeps misleading on jobs: Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom fires off a barrage of tweets that again evaluates Obama’s record on jobs by factoring in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost before Obama’s policies kicked in.
This claim is absolutely central to Romney’s entire case against Obama, yet it continues to skate by unchecked by major news orgs.
* Are attacks on Bain resonating? The new Post poll finds mixed evidence — there’s been a 14 point jump among Republicans in the number that view Romney’s business background unfavorably, though a majority see it favorably:
Most potential primary voters see Romney’s work buying, restructuring and selling companies in a generally favorable light, but since mid-December, there has been an increase in unfavorable views. Among Republicans, 34 percent have negative impressions of Romney’s private-sector work, up from 20 percent just a month ago.
Still, far more regard Romney’s private-sector work as doing more to create rather than cut jobs.
It will be interesting to see what this number is among independents. The question of whether the attacks on Bain are swaying GOP primary voters isn’t necessarily a good indicator of whether they will resonate among economically struggling moderate and independent swing voters in the Rust Belt.
* Another day, another Romney falsehood: According to Romney, Obama doesn’t have a jobs plan. Just wow.
* Conservatives ramp up push to unite behind Santorum: Top evangelical leaders met the other day and decided to unite behind Rick Santorum as the alternative to Romney. And now the president of the conservative group Let Freedom Ring vows that action will begin: “In the next day or so, several groups will be contacting hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people by e-mail and robocalls, encouraging them to support Santorum.”
The problem is that Gingrich — whose motives at this point appear to be out of control — continues to insist that he is the only candidate who can defeat Romney, which, if it continues, will only ensure a Romney victory by splitting the conservative vote.
* Santorum airing ad attacking Romney: The Santorum campaign is up with a harsh new ad in South Carolina that hammers Romney for creating the template for the hated Obamacare, a sign Santorum is intensifying his efforts to emerge as the only credible not-Romney as conservative leaders coalesce behind him.
Footnote: It’s still a mystery why Romney's rivals failed so miserably to exploit this vulnerability among GOP primary voters for so long.
* DNC attacks Romney over tax returns: The DNC is out with a new video hitting Romney for dodging the question at last night’s debate of whether he’ll release his tax returns.
This line of attack is a two-fer: It dovetails with the Dem strategy of painting Romney as the candidate of the one percent and with the Dem case that he is in some basic way not being forthcoming about who he really is.
* Romney reiterates hard line immigration stance: He doubles down, prompting this from Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama-allied Priorities USA: “The untold story of this primary is the irreparable damage Mitt Romney has done for himself with Hispanic voters.”
Latino voters may be particularly important this time, because they may enable Obama to hold western states like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, which could be central to his hopes of offsetting expected losses in the Rust Belt.
* White House warns the left: You’ll hate our budget: White House advisers are privately letting liberal and labor leaders know that they are not going to be happy about the spending cuts in its forthcoming budget, perhaps blunting the left’s enthusiasm even as Obama transitions into making an aggressive populist case for reelection.
* And Americans don’t hate taxes so much, after all: Despite all the GOP talk about tax cutting, new data from Pew Research indicates that a majority of Americans think they’re paying the right amount in taxes, and economics professor Jon Bakija explains why: “Right now, taxes are objectively very low. The lowest level since 1950.”