Republican Compromise Turned Out To Be Too Good To Be True

Realistically there was one sure sign that we would not see a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff–it is not the last minute. It appeared there might be some hope of a quick compromise when Representative Tom Cole suggested that Republicans accept Obama’s position of continuing the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while raising rates on the wealthiest tax payers. John Boehner has already shot down that proposal (which doesn’t mean the Republicans might not compromise on this at the last minute).

Republicans, in their usual display of dishonesty on fiscal matters, claim that they are refusing to go along with this in order to protect small business. However, only a tiny percentage of small businesses would be affected by the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. The real motivation is not protecting small business, but protecting the ultra-wealthy and avoiding confrontation with Grover Norquist. While a few Republicans have recently said they would put their country before a pledge to Grover Norquist to never raise taxes, most Republicans fear the political consequences of facing a Tea Party fanatic in their next primary battle.

Some Republicans are looking for a way to raise taxes on the wealthy, knowing that this is necessary, while pretending they are not. Mitt Romney ran on the idea of reducing tax rates and deductions, but there aren’t enough deductions to eliminate for his plan to add up. Recently I heard a really absurd idea floated of raising taxes on the wealthy by keeping the same rates but having the top rate apply to all income. While this might satisfy the desire to raise taxes while telling Tea Party members that they did not support a higher rate, the consequences of this could be a disaster.

Republicans often falsely claim that higher rates will prevent investment in the economy as businessmen will stop working to avoid the  higher rate. This does not actually happen because of how marginal tax rates work. If there is a three percent higher rate on incomes over $500,000, income up to $500,000 will still be charged at the same rates. Paying three percent more only on income over $500,000 would not deter anyone from doing more business which increases income over $500,000. The situation would be completely different if earning over $500,000 meant paying the current top rate on all income. In this case, going over the income threshold would mean that all income would be taxed at a higher rate, not just income over $500,000 and someone earning $500,001 would be paying substantially more in taxes than someone earning $499,999. This would really lead to people having an incentive to make less money if their income would otherwise be over $500,000 (unless it would be substantially more). I doubt this idea will go anywhere.

Hopefully when pushed by a deadline Congress will find a meaningful compromises at the last minute. It is important to avoid the fiscal cliff which will lead to both automatic tax increses and spending cuts. I’m finding some liberals expressing views such as John Cole’s: “Ending the Bush tax cuts and big cuts to defense? Sounds good to me!” Perhaps, but the automatic cuts to Medicare and many domestic programs don’t sound as good.

Winning the Post-Debate: Potentially The Best of Both Worlds For Obama

After last night’s debate, there is a lot of talk of a change in strategy for Obama.  There will certainly be changes in how Obama debates after he failed to adequately respond to Romney’s lies last night, and missed many opportunities to demonstrate the flaws in Romney’s policies. Debates of this type are not scored based upon how well the specific questions are answered. The debates are won in the media by using every moment a candidate has to speak to present their arguments and debunk the arguments of the opponent.

Some discussion of changes in overall campaign strategy misses the point. Buzzfeed writes that Obama has changed the strategy from criticizing Romney for being too conservative to being inconsistent. They are half right. Today Obama did highlight the inconsistency:

“When I got onto the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama told a crowd of some 12,000 the morning after the contest. “But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country the last year promising 5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage said he didn’t know anything about that.”

Obama also accused Romney of “danc[ing]” around his positions; he hit him on taxes as well as outsourcing jobs; and claimed that Romney didn’t support teachers.

“The man on stage last night does not want to be held accountabilty for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what’s he been saying for the last year,” Obama said, suggesting Romney had switched his positions for political expedience. “And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the past year.”

The change is really not as drastic as Buzzfeed suggests. Earlier in the year Obama had a choice of criticizing the hard line conservative positions Romney adopted during the campaign or to attack him for flip-flopping by raising Romney’s past different, but more moderate, positions. Attacking Romney’s “severely conservative” positions was the more effective choice as it would not help Obama to raise the possibility that maybe Romney is more moderate than he now appears. However, once Romney made statements in the debate which were more moderate than the positions he has been campaigning on, it was consistent with their overall strategy to point out these differences. Obama will continue to tie Romney to the positions he has campaigned on for the past year, and prevent him from shaking the Etch-A-Sketch.

As long as Obama responds effectively (which is likely in the days beyond the first debate), this could be the best of both world for Obama. He can now justifiably attack Romney for both being too conservative and for being a dishonest politician who will say whatever he believes will help him politically, regardless of the truth. Plus Obama can be the candidate who defends Big Bird and Elmo.

The mainstream media crowned Romney the debate winner based upon the stylistic criteria usually used in these events, but some did realize the bigger trap which Romney has fallen into. First Read pointed out how Obama can win the post-debate:

Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Jonathan Bernstein further described the hole Romney dug for himself:

… Romney’s policy positions are even more of a shambles now than they were previously. Romney’s position, over and over again, is to simply bluff it on policy. His tax plan continues to be the most obvious one, but it really happens across the board. Romney insisted tonight more than once that his tax plan will keep taxes the same for the wealthy, cut them for everyone else, and not add to the deficit. Forget about the Tax Policy Center; just that much is obviously incoherent and impossible. And, more to the point, it’s clear he’s going to keep on insisting that it adds up, no matter how clearly it doesn’t. But it’s not just that; on every policy, he’s just going to insist that the consequences of his plans that anyone might not like simply don’t exist, so that he’s for sweeping spending cuts but insists that no particular program that anyone brings up might lose any funding, or that he’s for repealing Obamacare but those with pre-existing conditions will magically be protected.

Any benefits Romney did receive by winning the debate were tempered by a day in which the news centered around how Romney was dishonest and his tax proposals did not add up. Jonathan Chait described Romney’s successful debate plan–lying:

Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.

Tim Dickenson summarized Mitt Romney’s Five Biggest Lies. Unfortunately he left out Romney’s false claims regarding Medicare cuts, but plenty of others have responded to that. The Medicare cuts come from subsidies to insurance companies which cost more to treat patients than under the government plan and cuts to hospitals to reimburse for treating the uninsured as there will be far fewer uninsured people. Paul Ryan includes the same cuts (and more) in his plan. Obama’s cuts do not reduce benefits to either Medicare beneficiaries or to doctors. In reality, Obamacare provides additional benefits to Medicare patients and increases payment to primary care doctors to care for Medicare patients.

Think Progress didn’t attempt to narrow the list to five, pointing out that Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes. I wonder if this is part of Romney’s strategy. He tells so many lies that it is difficult to keep up and present the evidence on all off them.

I am confident that Obama will do a better job of holding Romney accountable in the next two debates, but regardless of how Obama handles the debates, we have further evidence as to the weakness of Romney’s arguments, and a clear example of how Romney will say anything, and contradict anything he has said in the very recent past, for political gain.

How Jed Bartlet Would Handle The Debates

Jon Stewart and Bill Maher on the Debate

Initial Thoughts On The First Debate

Initial Thoughts On The First Debate

Obama appears to have gone into the debate  looking to protect his lead and take no chances. As a result he came off too wonkish. He responded to some Romney lies but allowed many  others to go unchallenged. Romney better understood how these “debates” work in ignoring the actual questions and ignoring the facts. The debates are not about actually answering questions or about giving the most scholarly answer. Romney will be awarded the win by the pundits, but it is doubtful anything he said will really convince many people to vote for him. John Kerry beat George Bush far more decisively than Romney won tonight but still lost the election.

On taxes, Mitt Romney decided to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and ignore everything he has supported to date. While Romney has told many lies, he was at the most dishonest on health care. Obama did a fair job of responding to Romney’s lies about a board which will be making health care decisions but Obama failed to respond to Romney’s distortions about Medicare cuts.

Romney was the far better bullshitter while Obama was the one up on stage who was able to give serious answers. Unfortunately the television debate format is not a good place for such professorial explanations. I am tempted to say that this was the most boring debate I have watched but realistically if there were boring ones in the past I wouldn’t recall them for comparison. I was waiting for them to debate which state has the trees which are the right height or whether planes should have windows. I am now worried that Romney plans to tie Big  Bird to the top of his car.

Obama generally had the wrong strategy for this debate, but at times did effectively challenge Romney, such as in asking for specifics of which deductions Romney would cut. My bet is that Obama will take on Romney more forcibly in the next two debates.

The post-debate coverage is often more important in influencing opinion than the actual debate.  Romney won the debate on style but as the fact checkers are looking at the debate Romney is losing points. Further discussion of topics such as Romney’s tax plan, the actual facts about Medicare, and health-care reform could wind up benefit ting Obama more than Romney.

Update: Or, as wound up happening, the media could concentrate on simplistic stories about who won (based upon style) and ignore the issues.

Paul Ryan’s Unexplainable Tax Math

Republican economic plans are primarily about cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy and coming up with arguments to con the gullible into believing that this is good for the economy. This does not mean that they are willing to cut spending for their pet projects. While they might claim that the tax cuts will bring in more revenue, this does not work when taxes are relatively low as they are now, leaving the middle class to pay for Republican fiscal irresponsibility. Paul Ryan was asked how his tax plan would add up, buts said he didn’t have the time to answer:

… it would take me too long to go through all of the math, but let me say it this way. You can lower tax rates by 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care.

Catherine Rampell explained why there was not enough time, beginning with:

There’s a reason why it would take too long — infinitely long, you could say — to go through the math that holds this policy proposal together: because math will never hold this particular policy proposal together.

Perhaps Ryan thinks he needs time as long as John Galt’s speech to explain this. Like this portion of Atlas Shrugged, his explanation would be fiction.

Today Bloomberg News asked Ryan about his tax plan, offering him all the time he needed to explain it. Ryan still couldn’t explain it. The math just does not add up.

Romney Unable To Shake Etch A Sketch On His Candid Opinions

The secretly taped comments from Mitt Romney continue to dominate the political news today. Romney’s comments were wrong on so many levels. Beyond the obvious problems of his attack on nearly half the country and on those who legitimately need assistance, he is so out of touch that he doesn’t realize he is actually attacking Republican voters. Despite the right wing myth that they are the job creators and Democrats are welfare leaches, a large percentage of those not paying income taxes are Republican voters. This includes the low-information white male voters who make up a huge percentage of GOP voters–many of these pay payroll taxes but don’t make enough to pay income taxes. Many are also elderly Republican voters who no longer have an income to pay income tax on. Those not paying taxes also include students (who might become job creators after completing their education) and members of the military (who might also be future job creators).

Many low income voters do vote for Democrats, but a tremendous number also vote Republican. The biggest recipients of federal government aide are the red states, not the blue states. While Obama now receives the vast majority of all Democratic constituencies, his greatest support has come from upper middle class Democrats and independents  (in contrast to the less affluent Democrats who backed Clinton in 2008). In offending all the Obama supporters who pay a larger percentage of their income than Romney does,  Romney’s comment might help Obama keep the portion of the independent vote which has drifted away.

On the other hand, if Mitt Romney had his way, he would be joining those who pay no income taxes.

Another irony is that the increased number of working Americans who do not pay federal income taxes is largely a consequence of GOP tax cuts. In order to cut taxes on the wealthy they have had to reduce income taxes on others. It was George Bush and Ronald Reagan who pushed policies which led to many lower income working people not paying taxes, while also cutting taxes on the wealthy.

If things weren’t already bad enough, another video was released in which Romney showed hostility towards the peace process and two-state solution in the middle east. He already showed during his trip to Israel that he will not be able to be an honest broker in a peace settlement. This video further shows his inability to handle foreign affairs.

The Choice This Year Is Between A Center-Left Democratic Party And Far Right Republican Party

If Democrats are to have a chance at retaining the White House and possibly controlling both houses of Congress, it is necessary to get out the message to voters who have voted Republican in the past that this is not the same Republican Party. It has moved so far to the extreme right that it is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Rather than being the party of William F. Buckley, Jr., the Republican Party is now dominated by the type of far right wing extremists that Buckley once fought to exclude from the conservative movement. Today two columnists who often push for a centrist agenda discussed the extremism of today’s Republican Party.

Barack Obama has called the Republican economic plan Romney Hood, or Robin Hood in reverse. Matt Miller has another name for the GOP: Drawbridge Republicans:

Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-of-a-billion dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm) reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and inheritances from his and his wife’s family.

Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.

Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon…

Today’s Drawbridge Republicans can’t be bothered. Yes, when their political back is to the wall — as Romney’s increasingly is — they’ll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it “a plan for the middle class.” But this is only under duress. The rest of the time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, “As a general matter, it’s a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose in the Olympics.”

Contrast conservative Prime Minister (and heir) David Cameron’s decision to defer his plans to lower the top 50 percent marginal rate in the UK. “When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions,” Cameron said, “you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair.” As his spokesman added: “We need to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute the most.”

Now that’s a conservative ruling class with a conscience! Can anyone imagine Romney and Ryan saying the same?

Thomas Friedman’s column is about the need for a conservative party, quoting some conservatives who hold reasonable conservative positions as opposed to the extremist positions now held by the Republicans. Friedman, who often calls for centrist policies, now realizes that he is far more likely to see centrist policies from Barack Obama than the current Republican Party, with the extremism of the GOP preventing the government from passing reasonable solutions to today’s problems:

We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the G.O.P. were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.

This is an important message to get out. This election is not a choice between a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. It is a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and an extremely far right Republican Party. The middle of the road is not somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans–it is near where the Democrats stand on most issues and far from where the Republicans now are. Those who seek centrist, or even old Republican ideas, are more likely to find their views represented by Democrats than Republicans if they go beyond all the misinformation being spread by the far right.

Paul Ryan Ensures Mitt Romney Remains Tied To The Far Right

It is now official. Choosing Ryan solidifies the Republican ticket among rich, healthy, male voters who don’t give a damn about anyone else, including their children and future generations–not that Romney has any problem with that demographic. Falling in the polls, Romney found that he cannot win by doing nothing but telling lies about Obama and twisting quotations. Initially Romney wanted the election to be purely a referendum on Obama, trying to avoid saying anything specific and hoping that anyone unhappy with the state of the economy would vote for Romney by default. Apparently too many people realize that the problem is Republican policies, not Barack Obama. Besides, despite the best efforts of Republicans to prevent this, there are signs the economy may be recovering. Choosing Ryan now means that Obama gets what he wanted–an election based upon a choice between two competing policies

Romney had hoped to keep his taxes and business experience off the table, but making such demands only makes him look like a cry baby. This might be a fair deal provided that Romney  stop making stuff up and stop trying to place the blame for the Bush Recession and Bush Deficit (which Ryan voted for) on Obama. Announcing the choice of Ryan (even if calling him the next president in error) will change the topic of discussion briefly. Unfortunately for Romney it might change the conversation in ways which do not help him. With the announcement of Romney/Ryan, Goldwater/Miller is no longer the most far right ticket in Republican history–and may they suffer the same fate. This ticket is also unique in not having a candidate with military or foreign policy experience, and in not having a Protestant.

As is usual for Romney, he has both backed the Ryan budget on several dates and has tried to distance himself from it. Now there will be no more successful shaking of the Etch-A-Sketch. Romney is attached to the Ryan budget and plans to destroy Medicare as we know it, regardless of his campaign talking points.  Ryan’s earlier attempts to privatize Social Security, which went beyond those of George W. Bush, may further harm the ticket. Florida, which has only been leaning slightly to Obama n recent polls, might wind up to be out of reach for the anti-Medicare boys.

Choosing Ryan calls into question any claims of having a running mate who is qualified to take over from day one. It also makes it difficult for Romney to continue to attack Obama for a lack of experience in the private sector. Ryan’s private sector experience is limited to summer jobs such as driving the Weinermobile as an Oscar Mayer salesman. He does have experience working as a Congressional aide, including for Sam Brownback. He also shares many of Brownback’s reactionary views.

Choosing Ryan might help Romney keep the election about the economy as opposed to other issues. There are even some on the left who, while disagreeing with Ryan, do say he is serious. James Fallows explained just how unserious Ryan’s economic proposals really are.  While Romney would prefer to keep the election centered on the economy, Ryan’s far right views will further alienate the ticket from women, as well as with reasonable individuals regardless of gender. For example, Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which declares that a fertilized egg “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood,” effectively banning abortion and some forms of contraception. While in theory this should shore up the vote from the religious right, the ticket could also have problems with them. Ryan is a strong follower of  Ayn Rand, an ashiest who has written many things which would greatly offend the religious right.

Ryan’s major strength is that he does have the ability to make very bad ideas sound palatable. Democrats will be forced to respond with ideas of their own, defending what is necessary from government without the out-of-control spending which Republicans accuse them of. This could be an exercise which is good for the Democratic Party.

Obama Plans Strong Attacks on Romney and Having Republicans At Democratic Convention

I think the biggest mistake made by John Kerry in his campaign against George Bush was to insist that all the speakers at the Democratic convention be positive without attacking George Bush. Needless to say, the Republicans did not follow the same policy. Kerry was leading during the summer, but fell significantly behind Bush after the Republican hate-fest. I’m glad to find that Barack Obama will not be making that mistake:

Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who “would devastate the American middle class,” Democratic sources tell POLITICO.

According to convention planning documents, the three-night convention in Charlotte, N.C., early next month will seek to “[e]xpose Mitt Romney as someone who doesn’t understand middle class challenges” while also burnishing “the President’s image as someone whose life story is about fighting for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class.”

It is fun to watch the Republicans whine when Obama hits them with critical but generally honest attacks considering that Republicans have been running far harsher attacks on Democrats for years which also are notable for their dishonesty. There is nothing coming from Obama (unless you believe this story in The Onion)  which compares to Republican lies that Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States, that he is a socialist, that he is bringing about a government take over of health care, that he raised taxes when he actually cut them, or blaming him for the Bush deficit.  There’s no Democratic comparison to the all the recent noise misquoting Obama, falsely claiming he said that businessmen did not build their business or the lies about Obama’s welfare proposal. Same is true of several other misquotations Republicans have campaigned on. There’s nothing coming from Obama which compares to the Swift Boat Lies, which have been tied directly to Karl Rove and the Bush White House. There’s no Democratic 24-hour cable channel which spends the day promoting partisan talking points and lies disguised as news.

It will be interesting to see which Republicans will be included. Will they be individuals from outside of government who have voted Republican in the past and are now backing Obama, or will there be former Republican office holders? There certainly are a lot of moderate Republicans, and even some conservatives, who are no longer welcome in this far, far right wing GOP. I’m hoping for a seance in which Barry Goldwater repeats his old warnings about the religious right taking over the party and Ronald Reagan explains how the party has moved far to the right of him.

Earlier in the week there was reason to hope that the most entertaining Republicans of this election cycle, the Huntsman daughters, might be convinced to change parties. Abby Huntsman did say she was joining the Democrats but later said she was kidding. She also remains unsure as to who she will be voting for, so there is still hope of seeing videos from the Huntsman daughters backing Obama. It might be a family affair. There is speculation that Jon Huntsman, Sr. is the source for Harry Reid’s questionable claim that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years. Who knows, maybe Jon Huntsman, who already served as Obama’s ambassador to China, might show up at the Democratic Convention to back Obama.

Finally A True Word From Mitt Romney

Unfortunately he will raise taxes on almost everyone else to pay for his tax cuts for the ultra-rich.

Today Mitt Romney Picked Welfare For The Topic Of His Lies About Obama

Another day and another attack from pathological liar Mitt Romney which is purely fictitious. Today Romney launched a blatantly dishonest attack claiming Obama will “gut welfare reform” when actually Obama is supporting policies supported by Mitt Romney and many other Republicans. For those tired of going through all the details of all the lies from Mitt Romney the key thing to know is that it is not true that Obama is eliminating the requirement to work. For those who want more, Steve Benen provided this explanation:

Romney’s lying. He’s not spinning the truth to his advantage; he’s not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he’s just lying. The law hasn’t been “gutted”; the work requirement hasn’t been “dropped.” Stations that air this ad are disseminating an obvious, demonstrable lie.

All Obama did is agree to Republican governors’ request for flexibility. That’s it. Indeed, perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of this is that Romney himself, during his one gubernatorial term, asked for the same kind of flexibility on welfare law that Obama agreed to last month. Romney, in other words, is attacking the president for doing what Romney asked the executive branch to do in 2005.

The entire line of attack is simply insane.

And that brings us back to the test for the political world.

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.

The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.

Ed Kilgore discussed the issue further, concluding:

Wonkery aside, it’s no mystery why the Romney campaign and its supporters are pursuing this dishonest and deeply hypocritical tack. In a “memorandum” released to support the new ad’s claims, Romney campaign policy director Lanhee Chan accuses Obama of inflicting “a kick in the gut to the millions of hard-working middle-class taxpayers struggling in today’s economy, working more for less but always preferring self-sufficiency to a government handout.” It’s the old welfare-queen meme, which Republicans have already been regularly reviving in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act, on Medicaid, on food stamps, and in their much broader and horrifyingly invidious claims that poor and minority people deliberately taking out mortgages they knew they couldn’t afford caused the whole housing market collapse and the financial crisis that followed.

The claim that Obama is quietly bringing back the old welfare system is perfectly designed to bring back the old politics of the 1980s, when Republicans constantly (and often successfully) sought to pit middle-class voters against the poor while distracting attention from the vast welfare system supporting corporations and the wealthy.

Unlike ACA, Medicaid or even food stamps, there’s very little public support for the pre-1996 welfare system. So Romney and conservatives can go absolutely wild with this attack line, hauling in every racial innuendo imaginable with relatively little fear of blowback. As a bonus, I am sure Team Mitt is abundantly aware that many progressives disliked the 1996 law intensely and/or thought Clinton “caved” to Republicans in signing it (and I can confidently say that even those Democrats who approved of Clinton’s action were for the most party deeply conflicted about it; I certainly was). So they probably hope their attacks spur some internal recriminations within Obama’s own party and voting coalition.

All in all, this development in the campaign is a very nasty piece of work that I hope, but do not expect, Republicans come to regret.

An election campaign should be a debate between the different ideas of each party. If Republicans have objections to Obama’s policies and beliefs they should criticize these–not repeatedly attribute beliefs to Obama which he does not have and lie about the policies he has supported. The problem that the Republicans face is that a majority of  Americans, and often a majority of Republicans, support the positions promoted by liberals when polled  based upon positions and not party. In order to pursue policies which are actually only supported by a tiny minority of Americans, Republicans such as Romney must resort to lying about Democratic policies and beliefs to scare people into voting for them.