Mitt Romney slipped Tuesday and said something sensible. Don't worry, his campaign did a little repair work later:
Mitt Romney said Tuesday that cutting spending slows growth in the economy -- a rhetorical slip more akin to an argument a Democrat might make than a Republican.
Speaking in Shelby Township, MI, the former Massachusetts governor took a question about the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission empaneled by President Obama to address the nation's deficit and debt issues. In his response, he said that addressing taxes and spending issues are essential.
"If you just cut, if all you're thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you'll slow down the economy," he said in part of his response. "So you have to, at the same time, create pro-growth tax policies."
That sort of comment was sure to raise the eyebrows of fiscal conservatives in the GOP, who have long preached a message of fiscal restraint as a path to economic growth.
"It's hogwash. It confirms yet again that Romney is not a limited government conservative," said Andy Roth, the vice president for government affairs at the fiscally conservative Club for Growth. "The idea that balancing the budget would not help the economy is crazy. If we balanced the budget tomorrow on spending cuts alone, it would be fantastic for the economy."
[...] **UPDATE*** Romney spokesman Ryan Williams commented on the comments:
The governor?s point was that simply slashing the budget, with no affirmative pro-growth policies, is insufficient to get the economy turned around. However, he believes that budget cuts ? especially in the context of President Obama?s unprecedented spending explosion ? are a step in the right direction. As he made clear in his economic plan, he believes that spending cuts that reduce the size of government and balance the budget are crucial to economic growth and job creation.
Whew! A grateful nation heaves a sigh of relief.
The Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee has passed an amended version of the GOP-sponsored ultrasound bill that will require women who are considering abortion to undergo an ultrasound 24 hours before having the procedure. The bill was revised on the House floor Wednesday at the request of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who withdrew his support of the original measure amid public uproar and national media attention. The amended bill requires only an external, trans-abdominal ultrasound, as opposed to the original language that would have mandated pregnant women undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasound imaging without their consent. The vote was 8-7 along party lines, with eight Republicans voting to send the bill to the full Senate. The amended bill passed in the Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday by a vote of 65-32, though it is expected to die once it returns to the Senate as the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jill Holtzman-Vogel (R), has said she will strike it. — Fatima Najiy
There’s essentially no information about the Harry Potter author’s next project: it’s untitled, has no publication date, and the announcement that she’d closed a deal to write it contains no information about the plot or characters or genre. But given Rowling’s long-standing opposition to torture and indefinite detention and support for the dignity of the poor and those who need public assistance?themes she explored extensively in the Harry Potter novels?it’d be wonderful to see her carry some of those same themes into her next work.
by Daniel J. Weiss
Americans are rightly concerned about rising oil and gasoline prices. On February 21 oil closed at $106 per barrel, while the average gallon of gas in the United States cost $3.59. Bloomberg reports that prices could continue to rise:
While gas prices tend to rise through the first half of the year, this is the earliest the average price per gallon has breached the $3.50 mark. If this pace continues, the national average should hit $4 a gallon by May, if not sooner.
This is not good news for consumers or for the economy. High oil and gasoline prices slow economic growth and take a real toll on families? already-strained budgets. They are difficult to lower in the short run because it is very hard to promptly increase oil supplies. Meanwhile, demand for gasoline does not decrease even as prices increase because most people cannot quickly and significantly reduce the amount they drive.
There is one proven tool for temporary reductions in oil and gasoline prices that can forestall reduced economic growth and help middle-class families: selling oil reserves from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
President Barack Obama plans to speak about high oil and gasoline prices today in Florida. He will remind Americans that oil production is up and consumption is down, which means that families are saving money on fewer gasoline purchases even though prices are rising. The payroll tax cut extension will provide an average of $40 more per paycheck and will also help ease some of the strain of higher gasoline prices. It is unlikely the president will announce the sale of reserve oil during the speech, but it remains an option if prices continue to climb.
Oil and gasoline prices are rising now for a myriad of reasons. Growing demand from China and India has boosted consumption, and Libyan production has yet to return to its prewar level of 1.6 million barrels per day. Pat Garofalo of ThinkProgress reports that the price is going up ?despite lowest [U.S.] demand [for oil] since 1997.? He cites Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, who says that speculators are helping to drive up oil prices:
Much of the increase is due to speculative money that?s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. ?We?ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,? [Kloza] says. ?Each of the last three weeks we?ve seen a record net-long position being taken.?
Another major source of high prices is Iran?s threat to cut off oil exports to Western nations that are pressuring it to abandon its nuclear weapons program. On February 19, for instance, Iran announced that it would stop sales to England and France. Although these two nations buy very little Iranian oil, fear that Iran would stop supplying other, more dependent countries boosted the spot price for oil by $3 per barrel overnight. This was also partly driven by speculators taking advantage of fears about future production cuts. And since the price of oil accounts for nearly 80 percent of the price of a gallon of gas, this cost jump will boost gasoline prices too.
There are very few policy measures that can rapidly reduce oil and gasoline prices, but selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to oil companies can help. The reserve was created in 1975 as a hedge against serious oil supply disruptions such as the Arab oil embargo of 1973?1974. It has a capacity of 727 million barrels of oil and is currently 96 percent full with 696 million barrels.
Presidents have the authority to sell reserve oil under the following circumstances described in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act:
Drawdown and sale of petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve may not be made unless the President has found drawdown and sale are required by a severe energy supply interruption or by obligations of the United States under the international energy program.
(2) For purposes of this section, in addition to the circumstances set forth in section 3 (8), a severe energy supply interruption shall be deemed to exist if the President determines that -
(A) an emergency situation exists and there is a significant reduction in supply which is of significant scope and duration;
(B) a severe increase in the price of petroleum products has resulted from such emergency situation; and
(C) such price increase is likely to cause a major adverse impact on the national economy.
There have been reserve oil sales under every president since 1991.
Reserve oil sales reduce oil and gasoline prices. (see chart below) For instance, last year the administration announced its sale of SPR oil on June 23 with completion on September 30. The IEA sale occurred during this time too. From the time of the announcement to the time of final sale, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil dropped by 17 percent, while the price of gasoline fell by 6 percent. Such a decline would reduce $4 per gallon gasoline to $3.76 per gallon.
There is also a legitimate concern about adequate oil reserves in case of a severe Iranian supply disruption, but we have ample supplies in the SPR to withstand it. Iran exports 2.2 million barrels of oil per day worldwide, and none of it comes to the United States. The United States could replace these Iranian exports to other nations for 60 days, and our reserves would still be 80 percent full. And after completely offsetting a 180-day disruption in Iranian oil supplies, the SPR would still be 40 percent full.
Iran has also threatened to cut off the Strait of Hormuz through which 17 million barrels of oil travel every day. This is about one-fifth of worldwide consumption. There is enough oil in the SPR that the United States could replace this oil for three weeks, and its reserves would still be half full. The bigger challenge in that scenario is that the SPR can release no more than 4.4 million barrels per day.
In response to rising oil and gasoline prices, conservatives will trot out a number of tired measures that could benefit Big Oil but won?t provide relief to consumers such as:
President Obama has overseen a growth in oil supply and a reduction in demand?both of which can reduce prices. Since 2009 there has been a significant increase in U.S. oil production. It now produces a majority of its oil for the first time in 15 years. The Houston Chronicle reports that:
The number of rigs in U.S. oil fields has more than quadrupled in the past three years to 1,272? Including those in natural gas fields, the United States now has more rigs at work than the entire rest of the world.
This domestic production improved our energy security and reduced the amount of money we send overseas for foreign oil. But the aforementioned factors have kept prices high.
As significantly, the president modernized fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles for the first time in more than two decades. By 2025 cars and light trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas and will save more than 2 million barrels of oil per day. The improved standards will also save drivers $8,200 in lower gasoline purchases over the life of their vehicle compared to 2010 standards.
High gasoline prices impose real costs on middle- and low-income Americans. President Obama?s plans to increase oil production while improving fuel economy for vehicles will provide real relief. For immediate relief from high gasoline expenses, however, history shows that selling a small amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will lower prices.
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress. This piece was originally published at the Center for American Progress website.
TUCSON, Arizona — In a speech yesterday at a Tea Party rally, Rick Santorum attempted to strike a populist tone, telling an audience that Democrats, not Republicans are the party of large corporations.
As members of the audience applauded and one woman screamed out that the Democrats are “hypocrites,” the former senator said:
You hear this mantra, oh that Republicans are the party of Big Business. No, we’re not. No, we’re not. Look at where all the Big Business and Big Wall Street money goes. Not to us. To them. Why? Because they like big. Big government’s great for them. Because it crushes the little guy who can’t hire another guy in the compliance department to deal with the new regulation, can’t hire another person in the tax department to deal with the complexity of the new tax law. It’s the little guy that gets crushed.
Watch the video:
The facts, however, do not remotely back up Santorum’s claims. Even after the Citizens United ruling, businesses cannot donate directly to federal candidates, but corporate political action committees and executives give millions to political candidates — predominantly Republicans. The political action committee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which calls itself “the world?s largest business organization,” has given 78 percent of its donations this cycle to Republicans — down from 88 percent in 2010. And another arm of the organization is currently orchestrating a $10 million “issue ad” campaign aiding almost exclusively Republican incumbents and candidates.
According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, contributors from the financial sector have given over $182 million so far this cycle: 52.8 percent to Republicans, 32.5 percent to Democrats. Of those, the ones identified as part of the securities and investment sector — the very “Big Wall Street” donors Santorum referenced — have favored Republicans by about a two-to-one ratio. Other sectors, including health (54.8 percent GOP), energy (70.1 percent GOP), and defense (61.1 percent GOP) similarly contradicted Santorum’s premise.
And these figures do not include any of the millions of dollars big business tycoons and billionaire investors have given to Republican-allied super PACs — including two million dollar donors to the pro-Santorum Red, White & Blue Fund.
The truth is that businesses interests tend to give some money to each party and their donations tend to coincide partially with who controls the most seats in Congress (currently, the Republicans). But with Wall Street and the business community likely to spend record sums to stop President Barack Obama’s consumer protections, the Republicans may be more the party of Big Business than usual.
Of course, Rick Santorum should know all this; as the Senate Republican Conference Chair in 2001, he oversaw the party’s outreach to the business community and its K Street lobbyists. And at the time, Frederic A. Nichols, political director for the National Association of Manufacturers, praised the his efforts, saying “It’s clear that there needed to be more outreach to the business community from the Senate side. Santorum sees that it should be a major priority of the Conference.”
Some GOP lawmakers in Michigan have been spending their time recently explaining why the man that they’ve backed for President — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — is all wrong about the federal rescue of the auto industry. “There was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who has endorsed Romney.
Meanwhile, several of Romney’s other endorsers have had to explain their disagreements with him on foreign policy, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has campaigned with Romney, saying that Romney is wrong about whether the U.S. should be negotiating with the Taliban.
Adding one more issue to the list, as the Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston reported, Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) — who has also endorsed Romney — explained at a town hall this week why Romney is wrong on housing policy:
Mitt Romney and I don?t agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them. When you look at what is going on here in Southern Nevada, you can?t say you got to let the housing market hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the fact is we have to do everything possible to, one, keep people in their homes and, two, get people who are out of their homes back into their homes.
Previously, Heck has said that Romney has a “plan to put Nevada on a path to prosperity once again.” Romney, of course, said that his solution to Nevada’s housing crisis would be to “let it run its course and hit the bottom,” with the government doing nothing to help keep people in their homes. (He later flip-flopped on the issue, calling for the government to step in and force banks to implement mortgage modifications.)
Romney’s initial position on Nevada’s housing crisis earned a rebuke from several of Nevada’s Republican lawmakers, including Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV), who said that Romney doesn’t “fully understand” foreclosure prevention.
As a whole, the Republican presidential field is clueless on housing. But one has to wonder how Romney is picking up so many endorsements from people who don’t agree with him on the most pressing issues in their respective states.
Last weekend, after a comedown in Knicks guard Jeremy Lin’s performance after a spectacular series of breakout games, Anthony Federico, an editor for ESPN’s mobile site, working a late shift, published a headline about the game that included the phrase “chink in the armor.” Shortly thereafter, ESPN pulled the headline, and Federico was dismissed. He’s since issued a pained apology. A week earlier, in reference to Lin’s strong performance, Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock (who is African-American), tweeted ?Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight,” a crude joke that played on stereotypes about Asians and penis size. He’s since apologized, saying:
I’ve cried watching Tiger Woods win a major golf championship. Jeremy Lin, for now, is the Tiger Woods of the NBA. I suspect Lin makes Asian Americans feel the way I feel when I watch Tiger play golf. I should’ve realized that Friday night when I watched Lin torch the Lakers. For Asian Americans and a lot of sports fans, his nationally televised 38-point outburst was the equivalent of Tiger’s first victory in The Masters. I got caught up in the excitement. I tweeted about what a great story Lin is and how he could rival Tim Tebow. I then gave in to another part of my personality ? my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature.
But Fox hasn’t suspended or censured him.
To an extent, the difference between Federico’s punishment and Whitlock’s lack thereof makes sense. Federico was an editor writing headlines that spoke for the entire ESPN team, while Whitlock is an analyst who was speaking only for himself. Federico’s error called into question both ESPN procedures and his own ability to follow them, and it was in contravention of a memo ESPN had sent out earlier asking staff to be considerate of how Lin was portrayed. Fox may have internal Twitter policies, but staff feeds are outside of the Fox editorial process.
But I tend to think Whitlock’s sin is worse. Federico was using a common phrase that would have been appropriate, if cliche, in other circumstances, but happens, when applied to Lin, to be racist. It’s bewildering to me that in this day and age that anyone wouldn’t know that “chink” is a racist epithet for Asian people, but if the term is really so uncommon that it’s new to folks, that’s a good thing. Whitlock, on the other hand, reached for one of the stupider, more immature things he could possibly say in the course of providing analysis, the thing he is theoretically paid to do. If we’re going to condemn people for being cliche as well as racist, Whitlock’s sins on both counts seem graver. But brand name commentators will always be harder to remove than editors working the late shift.
As further proof that conservative efforts to paint President Obama as the enemy of religion are a red herring, nearly two dozen leading Catholic nuns filed a brief in the Supreme Court last week supporting the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. The Catholic sisters who joined the brief include the leaders of many prominent religious orders providing health care and other services to the needy. As they explain in their brief:
Amici curiae represent the leadership of Catholic women?s religious orders from across the United States. Amici and the orders they serve have a long history of public service in healthcare in America dating back to the 1700s. These services include founding hospitals and free clinics and providing free healthcare to the underprivileged and uninsured. The work by Amici gives them a unique perspective on the unmet healthcare needs of the poor, as well as on the positive impact that will result from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (?ACA? or the ?Act?). . . .
Amici have witnessed firsthand the national crisis that prompted Congress to pass the ACA. In particular, Amici have seen the devastating impact of
the lack of affordable health insurance and healthcare on women, children, and other vulnerable members of society.
Amici believe that a civilized society must ensure the provision of basic healthcare to its citizens regardless of their ability to pay for it. They further believe it is a moral imperative that all levels of government institute programs that ensure the poor receive such care. They believe Medicaid expansion under the Act is critical to the communities they serve.
These nuns have unique stature to explain why their support for the Affordable Care Act flows from their faith, given that so many of them have devoted their lives to providing care to those most in need. Nevertheless, their views are hardly unique within their church’s hierarchy. Pope Benedict XVI called health care an ?inalienable right,? and added that it is the ?moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens.?
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who will retire at the end of his current term, sat down with Jimmy Kimmel last night to talk about his upcoming nuptials with partner Jim Ready. Frank said the wedding will be bipartisan, but “there will be no bigots at the wedding.” He also joked about the Republican presidential contenders, saying, “I think we can beat Rick Santorum even if the devil stays out of it.” Watch the interview: