The second Presidential Debate was yet another fail for science

We have now had three hours of Presidential level debates and an hour and a half of Vice Presidential debates. And how much time was devoted to any serious discussion of any of the plethora of issues important to our nation and rooted in science have their been? By my estimation, diddly shit.

The closest we’ve gotten have been repeated, vague nods towards “green energy,” all of which were more concerned with the economy than with anything else. This, by the way, was only in the most recent debate. The first debate was devoted – to the extent that any particular focus could be considered present in the moderation – on economic issues. Most of which were so vague and wonky that I doubt anybody got much out of that debate besides the fact the Obama stunk the joint out.

We have one and a half hours of debating to go before America makes her decision. And that debate will focus on foreign policy. No where in this so far discussion has there been:

  • Climate change
  • STEM education funding
  • The space program
  • Our underfunded planetary science program
  • Technology, security and medical records
  • Cybercrime and terrorism
  • The Internet and Net Neutrality
  • Mobile bandwidth
  • The role of science and religion in public policy making
  • Vaccinations and public policy

What else have we missed out on? And for what? An hour and a half long, meandering debate primarily about the deficit neither man will realistically cut. And binders. Which, while nothing short of entertaining, aren’t exactly an exercise deep-delving public policy cogitation.

Hope you’ve all heard enough to make up your minds, people. Because this is pretty much all you get.


The magical Groupon thinking of Republican tax policy

We kept seeing it over and over again from Paul Ryan in his last Fox News interview. I thought he was dodging a question….

But no. In fact, it seems from the debate last night that the entire Romney Campaign has opted for the confused mish-mash of magical Republican tax “policy” as the rabbit hole they plan to hide their intentions down.

No, they say. All the cuts in taxes we’re making are “revenue-neutral.” This is based on the notion that, if you cut taxes, you’ll make up those tax revenues in spurred economic growth. That, and of course closing a few undisclosed tax loopholes that the millionaires who fund elections apparently won’t mind losing.

Let us, for the moment, set aside the fact that most professional scorers cannot seem to find a way in which the closing of loopholes closes the revenue gap. Lets focus on the idea that lowering taxes will increase revenues. Or rather, that without the slightest bit of accounting or math, we can just assume the money will come back in increased revenue.

The Groupon analogy

Think of this like you’re a restaurant owner using Groupon. You create a coupon that says “20% off your dinner,” and you hope people pick up the Groupon and come to your store. No matter how you slice it, every time someone walks into your restaurant with a Groupon, you lose 20% of your normal revenue. Whatever else may be true, that discount cost money.

You hope that, by offering the coupon, you get an increase in customers, therefore offsetting the loss: if every single customer that day comes in with the Groupon, you lose 20% of your revenue for the day. You hope to increase your sales by at least 20% to offset the cost. But there is – as many, many business owners have already discovered to their great chagrin – absolutely no guarantee that, because you’ve created the coupon, the resulting revenue will make up for it.

Republicans are making the same bet and hoping you won’t notice. The proposed 20% across the board cut in taxes will cost the government… 20%. They insist that cuts are “revenue neutral,” but what they’re really saying is, “we bet they’re revenue neutral,” because they’re betting we make more money from increased economic growth. That’s a much different statement.

Say it out loud: there is no guarantee that, because you’ve cut taxes, you automatically gain revenue.

There are lots of other problems with this magical tax cut policy. Like for example: just because you’ve had your taxes lowered, that doesn’t mean you’ll get more money from your boss, does it? How does lowering payroll taxes automatically mean increased revenue? Because of sales tax? Oh, right. There isn’t one of those.

The only people for whom this Groupon thinking (might) work is the vaunted “Job Creator®” class. Which by the way, is the only group of people Mitt’s actually talking to.


Romney, Iran, Libya and political theater no one watches.

Perhaps Mitt Romney should suspend his campaign to help address the growing geopolitical crisis(es) in the Middle East?

While the Netanyahu government plays a dangerous game of chicken with the Obama Administration over Iran and as protesters in Libya give way to rockets and bombs that take out one of our Ambassadors and three staffers, the Republican Party and the Romney Campaign have decided that it is time to foreign policy the center of the campaign through bluster. This after Mitt Romney’s utter lack of foreign policy gravitas was already laid bare by his failure to even mention the war we’re fighting in his RNC acceptance speech.

Setting aside the lack of patriotism displayed in choosing any other side but the American President in a time of geopolitical crisis (whoa. Who sounds Republican, now?), there is also the matter of what exactly this crass political stunt will accomplish. Certainly, the idea is to lower a national crisis to a political advert or two. Certainly, the idea is to take Barack Obama’s foreign policy chops away from him. But is that really what is going to happen?

As I alluded to at the beginning, so much of this Republican campaign reminds me of shades of light and dark of the McCain Campaign of 2008, this latest political stunt being only the most recent. A weak candidate picks a running mate that is stronger among his base than he is, but which proves to be a fact-checking and general election nightmare. Just wait: I promise that will get worse. Then in a time of crisis – the economic meltdown for McCain, Israel/Libya for Romney – the candidate declares the stage his only to find….

John McCain twiddling his thumbs among the people whose job has been made infinitely harder by his presence. John McCain may be a bellicose asshat, but many people listen to the old War Veteran™ on issues of national security and foreign relations. He does not, however, come to mind when I think of fiscal policy. Nor should he: John McCain is in no position to offer anything in the way of experience with banking, finance, or economics, macro or otherwise. He was the last person who should have been in those meetings and it showed. His next step was to have to restart his campaign with nothing solved.

Now we find that the merry-go-round has been stopped by yet another weak candidate and once again, he chose to stop it at the moment when it becomes clear to everyone that he has no policy experience or business “helping” the president with the current set of crises.

Even our overly pliant national media cannot help but ask Mitt Romney what he would do in Barack Obama’s situation? Would he accept an Israeli attack on Iran? Would he join in? Back them up? Whistle and walk in the other direction?

Would he drop bombs on newly liberated Libya? Would he declare the revolution an Evil Empire™?

And when does he get back to running the campaign he wants? The one where he ignores foreign policy outright and sticks to cranking about our shitty economy?


Romney 2012: its tough running on the Contrarian line

Mitt’s a moderate, this much we know. He’s proud of his single accomplishment in Mass, passing what would be the forerunner of the Obama Affordable Care Act, but he can’t acknowledge that without alienating his base. He isn’t a fire breather. All of this, we know. And it often appears as though his differences with the foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Obama wing of his party will be what does him in. Maybe that’s true.

But really, what possible politician was going to win on the Republican Party line, now that they’ve spent three and a half years legislating against Obama, even when they needed to chop their own noses off to do it? The problem isn’t that Romney and Ryan disagree on how best to handle health care and Medicare – the problem isn’t that they don’t know what to do with that $780bn from the Medicare Advantage fiasco – but rather that, when you run on the Contrarian line, sooner or later, you’re going to have to answer for your contradictions. Far from the Party of No so many people wanted to label Republicans as, they have instead spent the last 3.5 years becoming the Party of Nuh-Uh.

Tax cuts for the Middle Class? Nuh-uh. Tax cuts for everybody or nobody.

Tax cuts for the Wealthy? Nuh-uh. We wouldn’t do that.

Deep cuts to military spending in our “Financial Cliff?” Nuh-uh. That was Obama’s fault.

Cut spending? Nuh-uh, you can’t touch Medicare.

Keep spending? Nuh-uh, you’ve gotta control costs in Medicare.

Affordable Health Care Act a success? Nuh-uh. We’re gonna magically get rid of all the bad stuff and just leave all that sweet, sweet sugar.

To paraphrase my epitome of journalistic integrity, Roland Burton Hedley III, “when Republicans say they’re going to pay for Medicare, cut Medicare, lower taxes and increase military spending, third graders everywhere think, ‘that doesn’t add up!'”

To now send a politician in to try to make any of these positions make sense is the hight of folly. Which is not to say that, with enough money in the right districts, he can’t get elected. Beware, Democrats! But it is to say that it is increasingly difficult to see how the debates don’t end up being colossal drains on both the enthusiasm of Americans for Mitt and by extension, Mitt’s campaign wallet.


Just one thing: Romney’s anaemic, flaccid Super Tuesday is a warning, not a joke

We’ve all had fun, haven’t we? The gaffes, the hopeless out of touch statements, the painfully awkward exchanges with voters – or “little people,” as I’m sure most of us assume Mitt Romney refers to them outside of ear-shot. A parade of “surge candidates” have come and gone, each goofier and less-plausible than the next. And now finally on Super Tuesday, his opponent is the froth that rises to the top, Rick Santorum. And Rick picked up some seriously-conservative states, with more waiting in the wings.

Its been fun watching Republicans and especially the Tea Party (remember them?) alternately spitting in his direction and making lame attempts to support him in the face of that boogeyman, President Obama. Its been fun watching Fox News try to deal with what may be the first-ever legitimate primary fight in the Republican Party in a generation. Who, oh, who should the Fox News team fellate?

But if you think it’s all fun and games, consider this: Romney’s party clearly does not want him, but they’re getting him. What does that say about how the general election might go?

The obvious observation of the Republican primary season is that each challenger to the Romney nomination has been more conservative than the last. Clearly, the fire-breathers in the Republican Party do not like Mitt at all. But the extremes of either party do not win elections. It is hard – very hard – for a Republican to win the general election without their base. But it’s not impossible, and with each challenger seeming less palatable to the wide swath of Middle America that  does win pols elections, Romney’s actually seeming more sane than ever.

The other obvious observation – and really, the one that ought to have the Obama Campaign up at night – is that if nearly the entire Republican Party is against Romney and he still wins, there is a reason. What is that reason?

Money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money.

And so forth. Sleep tight, Dems.


Clutch the Pearls! Here Come the Evangelicals!

James Dobson declared not long ago that if John McCain became the nominee to the Republican Party’s nominee to the presidency, he would seeka third party candidate to run instead.  Guess where that declaration went to?

So, you can imagine the thunder, shock and awe when Evangelicals pronounce Mitt Romney unfit for the vice presidency, threatening to remove their troops from the field in the event he gets the nod.  This is one even John McCain can’t fuck up.


Romney “Surely Must Be Stopped.”

It turns out that the Concord Monitor in N.H. has some issues with the Mitt Romney campaign.  Go figure.