Home > Economics, Election 2012, Right-Wing Hypocrisy > The Heckler on Via Dolorosa

The Heckler on Via Dolorosa

July 7th, 2012

So, Romney flip-flopped yet again. Initially faced with having to admit that he was the biggest tax hound in Massachusetts history, he coweringly sent out a flunky to say it wasn’t a tax, causing a huge uproar among the right wing who were salivating at the prospect of beating Obama to death with the word “tax.” Sensing that he had to jump on the bandwagon, Romney joined the chorus and called it a “tax.” He knows that he won’t pay much for the hypocrisy; he didn’t “tax” the whole country as governor of Massachusetts, and the media almost never calls out politicians for lies or rank hypocrisy anymore.

Of course, it’s not actually a tax in the usual sense, unless the money you pay when you evade taxes is a “tax,” or the money you pay when you get caught driving without insurance is a “tax.” The most onerous “burden” will actually be the fact that you have to get insurance–which is mostly onerous to those who want to get the best out of the system without paying full price for it.

Not that the penalty-versus-tax meme lasted long; the economic report came out, and it’s a lot less than we need right now.

Yes, Obama’s job numbers are lackluster. But that doesn’t mean that Romney will do better–quite the opposite, in fact.

Romney is, as predicted, having a field day with Obama’s numbers–but hypocritically so.

Never mind that it is the 21st consecutive month of growth following an economic catastrophe which ignited a depression–all caused by Obama’s predecessor.

Never mind that we are now adding more than 800,000 more jobs per month than when Obama came in to office.

Never mind that despite being handed a far less difficult economy, Bush took two and half years to return to stable job growth, while it took Obama only one year.

Never mind that at this point in his term, again despite far better conditions, Bush had only 12 months of growth, only four of those being over gaining 150,000 jobs.

And never mind that Obama has had to deal with the most extreme opposition in living memory, a Congress actually dedicated to sabotaging his attempts to repair the economy in order to make him fail.

That last is a key point. Yes, Obama could have done better–but not because he acted liberally, rather because he did not stand up the the Republicans to do what he should have known was right.

It is a key point for two reasons: first, as Obama was trying to carry the nation back up, Republicans were grabbing his heels and pulling him back down. And second, had we done what Republicans were clamoring for–more tax cuts for the wealthy, higher taxes on the poor, and less spending on infrastructure and other ways to get the economy pumping again–we would be in far deeper shit than we find ourselves today. As is only sometimes observed, Obama’s poor ratings are not just because he’s more liberal than the right is comfortable with, but also because he’s not as liberal as those on the left want him to be.

Romney, unconcerned with facts, likes to wave around “his record” as governor of Massachusetts:

Romney takes credit for vetoing more than 800 spending items passed by the Legislature, saying he wiped out unneeded programs, cut taxes 19 times, built up a $2-billion rainy-day fund and balanced the budget four years in a row. All of that, he says, shows he can stop overspending. “We can balance our budget and live within our means,” he recently told supporters in Ohio.

He leaves out a few tiny details, however:

But Romney’s telling omits key facts that clash with the agenda of his campaign for president:

• The Legislature overrode most of Romney’s spending vetoes.
• State spending rose by 22% on Romney’s watch, nearly double the rate of inflation.
• Romney increased corporate taxes and state fees by $750 million a year, outstripping his tax cuts.

In short, everything had to get past the Democrats, just as Obama has to now get everything pat the Republicans. And while the Democrats shot down a lot of Romney’s ideas, it was not to sabotage the economy–quite the opposite, it was to help the economy, to improve it. Directly the opposite of Republican’s in Congress during Obama’s term. Romney and the Mass. Dems may have been at odds, but it was a constructive rivalry.

In the end, Massachusetts increased spending and it raised taxes on the wealthy–this is what Romney is celebrating, despite his claims to the opposite. Furthermore, it is not what he would do as president.

The primary moves initiated by Romney that helped Massachusetts improve their economy were fee increases and closing corporate tax loopholes. As president, Romney would not be able to raise funds with fee increases, and he wants to slash corporate taxes, not close their national loopholes.

But that was not the main reason Massachusetts’ economy improved–it was because, at the time, the country as a whole was finally coming out of the recession.

So, Romney’s record as governor really reflects a Democratic agenda being pushed over his vetoes, tax and fee hikes he cannot or will not implement as president, and improvements in a more general economic environment which Romney will definitely not have to benefit from as president.

Just the other day, I got a belated comment to a blog post from April 2010. In that blog post, I pointed out that Democrats should run on a chart showing where Bush and the Republicans had been leading us versus where Obama had taken us.

That is very important, yet something that goes virtually unrecognized because it is the proverbial dog that didn’t bark–despite the economy being shitty, instead of focusing on what Obama could have done, imagine what would have happened had McCain won and Republican had control over Congress.

Anyway, the commenter linked to this chart:

7454295280 2E6894D993 B

It appears to be a chart the commenter made himself–and seems to be pretty bogus. The claim of measuring jobs by the “percentage of jobs lost or gained vs. 1st month in office” is misleading; this chart does not compare each successive months’ performance to the first month, thus showing performance against the initial benchmark (which would be a fairer way to judge).

Instead, it simply shows the number of existing jobs with starting number keyed to zero. The author pretends fairness by changing Romney’s numbers somehow so the nadir matches Obama’s, but it is far from accurate, for several reasons. For example, it is easier to recover from a stumble than it is to reverse direction when falling at terminal velocity. Obama was handed an economy in freefall and immediately set upon by an opposition bent on making him fail against the backdrop of a sputtering world economy. Romney was handed a state in mild trouble with a Democratic legislature trying to fix things their own way, against the backdrop of an improving national economy. So, yeah, “Apples to Apples” my ass.

Curious as to what the real picture was, I got the numbers on my own and ran them through a comparison that used the initial state as a benchmark against which you could compare future results, and got this result:

Screen Shot 2012-07-07 At 4.02.20 Pm

The “100%” mark means that you are gaining jobs as opposed to losing; 200% would mean that you are gaining as many jobs as you were losing at the start. Again, a huge advantage for Romney, as gaining 9500 jobs in Massachusetts is a hell of a lot easier than gaining 750,000 jobs at the national level.

As you can see, this shows a pretty different story than the ginned up chart above. As one might expect, Romney’s numbers show greater month-to-month variation due to the fact that he’s presiding over a smaller workforce. Whereas Obama deals with changes in the tens or hundreds of thousands, Romney was dealing in changes of no more than 15,000 in a single month. To smooth that out, I added a trendline–and interestingly, it tracks pretty much exactly with Obama’s performance.

Which means that Romney, in Massachusetts, got just the same level of job growth as Obama despite (1) starting off with a far less catastrophic situation; (2) having a far lower bar in order to claim accomplishment; (3) having a legislature that’s trying to help you instead of hurt you; and (4) getting buoyed by a greater economic environment. In short, he did exactly as well as Obama despite lacking virtually every great disadvantage that Obama had to face.

Imagine what would have happened if Massachusetts were imploding, were Romney pressed to create impossible numbers of jobs, had the Democrats been pitted against him, resolved to sabotage his recovery attempts, and the nation as a whole been in serious decline. Massachusetts would have been crushed under Romney’s governance.

Faced with that challenge at a far greater level, Obama has done passably well instead of impossibly great, for which Romney blasts him for being an abject failure. Kind of like a guy who directed a community theater play, which got good reviews on account of a great cast, heckling Steven Spielberg for not winning the Oscar.

If Romney becomes president and Republicans maintain control of the House, with Republicans blocking or even controlling the Senate, we can expect (a) even more and bigger tax cuts for the wealthy; (b) mild (obligatory) tax cuts for the middle class, offset by (c) tax hikes for the poor and the middle class in various forms, including forcing the poor to pay or pay more; cutting federal aid, thus forcing either tax hikes at state and local levels or reducing local services which essentially forces individuals to pay more, hitting the poor the hardest; and a much more antagonistic environment against the worker–less pay, fewer benefits, less union protection, less regulation against unfair pay and other worker abuses, etc. etc.

This along with spending austerity measures which Krugman points out is poison to an economy like ours right now.

So, yes, Obama’s job numbers are lackluster. But that doesn’t mean that Romney will do better–quite the opposite, in fact. Only in American politics is it the case where the voters are stupid enough to vote for the Penguin just because Batman hasn’t stopped the Penguin’s minions from wreaking havoc.

  1. kensensei
    July 8th, 2012 at 02:33 | #1

    Finally, a political topic I can sink my teeth into…
    Clearly, it took some time to digest all that political data in order to create this post, including an original graphic chart. Kudos for that!

    I have had a similar impression watching Romney whine and blame Obama for a lackluster economic recovery. The real question is not ‘what has Obama done for us lately?’, but ‘what exactly is the Romney economic recovery plan?’ On that point he is decisively evasive.

    Romney is likewise silent about the state of affairs left by the previous administration, ostensibly because as president he plans to implement those same failed policies that brought about the enormous wealth gap and unemployment freefall we have at hand.

    And yes, your comments about a GOP-controlled House which is hell-bent on breaking the economy and blaming it on Obama are spot-on. Someone from the media should raise this question to Romney; ‘..and what would YOU do, as President, if all of YOUR policies to get Americans working again were repeatedly blocked and filibustered by a do-nothing Congress, as is the case for our current president?” I for one would love to see Romney’s deer-in-the-headlights reaction…He still fails to have a realistic grasp of our current, broken political system.

    Lastly, I disagree with with your metaphor describing the GOP ‘pulling back Obama’s heels’. Actually, it’s closer to having their foot on his neck!



  2. Troy
    July 8th, 2012 at 04:58 | #2

    I’ve talked about this Romney vs Obama thing before, and, oddly enough, I just made a pretty good graph to explain what has happened, 2002-now.

    Romney served 2003-2006.

    You know what happened 2003 through 2006?

    The mother of all consumer debt bubbles.

    And, here it is:


    Annual (year-on-year) net consumer debt take-on is pink in that graph.

    Yellow is monthly job losses (right scale, up is bad).

    I’ll get to the red, green, and blue lines in a bit.

    But first, let’s compare MA per-capita income to CA:


    See the Romney difference?

    The national economy was not being driven by Romney’s strong, guiding hand 2003-2006. What was driving it was SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS OF CONSUMER DEBT TAKE-ON.

    Dividing annual consumer debt take-on by wages:


    we see that lending rose from 10% of wages in the mid-90s to 20% of wages 2003-2006.

    2003-2006 — the magical Romney years.

    Anyhoo, back to the red, blue and green lines in my first graph.

    Red was the Fed printing money and giving it to the government to spend. Aka QE.

    That’s over for now.

    Blue was the Fed printing money and buying mortgage backed securities for some reason. That ended a long time ago.

    Green is increased government spending (year-on-year). That’s also over — government spending has been GOING DOWN since 2011.

    Another way to look at things is the total systemic debt:


    This shows the Reagan boom was just a debt-fueled boom.

    And it shows the Bush boom was also a debt-fueled boom.

  3. Troy
    July 8th, 2012 at 05:05 | #3


    The Republicans are in fact utter liars on everything these days.

    If Romney wins this November, I will be on a plane to Japan before his inauguration.


  4. Troy
    July 8th, 2012 at 05:44 | #4

    Then again:


    hmmm. Japan too is facing political showdowns wrt borrow-and-spend policy.

    I can’t escape!

    And what’s worse is that if Obama even wins he’s still going to be stuck with a Republican-led house (and, who knows, maybe they’ll boot Crybaby Boehner and put a real hardass in charge there).

    Further confrontation is in the cards, UNLESS Romney wins. Then the House & President can ram their agenda through, just like they did 2001-2002 when the Dems had a very weak control of the Senate (after Jeffords’ defection soon into the term).

    Dems losing the Senate would only be a marginal bad change. The Senate is one place for horse-trading as bills move through the system, but Obama can just veto everything coming out of Congress and I think he’ll have the 40 votes to block any overrides.

    Best bug-out plan might be to just move to Bellingham and hang out in Vancouver every day : )


  5. Tim Kane
    July 8th, 2012 at 07:49 | #5

    The Republicans were able to take the House in 2010 after campaigning on a theme of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs – and it succeeded. This was pretty disheartening, because Republican policies created the mother-of-all-craters in 2008.

    People were fricking stupid to vote for these morons.

    The Republicans got in and have not done one fracking thing on jobs. Nothing. Zilch, Zero. Why? Because they want the Presidency and they can blame the lack of jobs, this time, on Obama.

    This is why Obama’s in deep doo-doo.

    If the Republicans could gain the house in 2010 on a bad economy after destroying the entire country and nearly all of global civilization with it in the run up to 2008 simply because of bad jobs numbers, what chance does Obama have?

    Not much I should think.

    Obama screwed the pooch in 2009: too small of a stimulus and throwing all his political capital on health care. Had he thrown all his political capital on a proper stimulus, he’d have trounced in the 2010 elections and could have implemented health care reform at that point. He’d be walking into a second term, and the Republicans would be dipping their toes in the water at Avignon.

    The president’s first job is ensuring there are jobs for the rest of us. Quite frankly, I don’t see how he gets around this in November. Too many Americans are stupid. And, they know one thing – they need a job or are one pissed off boss away from falling out of the middle class. That’s all they know. And the Republicans will make sure they know nothing else.

    I don’t disagree that Romney is cryptonite for the economy – though there is about a 10% chance that the republicans, upon gaining power, would turn around and do the right thing and stimulate the economy, if they had all branches of government in their control. Governing a real country with real problems, and all of their ideological solutions having already been attempted, and having moved into the diminished returns quadrant for those policies, if they want to keep the power they get, they’ll have to go Keynesian – just as Cameron in England will have to do the same to keep his office beginning 15 months from now (and it appears, thanks to Krugman, they are already moving away from austerity). But they won’t do it right away – only when the 2014 elections are staring them in the face. Likewise, I don’t believe they’ll withdraw Obama care, though they might do some superficial stuff to say that they did, otherwise, it’s medicare-for-all in four years or less.

    Face it. The American people are stupid. They got the government they deserve in Bush, he destroyed the economy, irreparably it turns out. Obama was the one and only chance we had of fixing that for a generation, and he dropped the ball. Now the republicans are coming back and America is going to turn into a sess pool. We may be dumb now, but we’ll be even dumber four years from now.

    I can’t forgive Obama’s lethargy on the economy. South Korea, in early 2009 implemented a full Keynesian response, equal to about 25% of their GNP over a four year period, in response to the Bush Depression. They were the only 1st world country to have positive growth in 2009, they had 6% growth in 2010 and 5% there after. Unemployment dropped to 3% in the first quarter of 2010. In June 2010, I read articles in the Korean times that spoke of the recession like it was ancient history. That’s what Obama coulda and shoulda done. I can’t forgive him for that. Yeah, I’ll vote for him. Sure. But I don’t think he’ll lift a finger for the working class after November 2012. With two daughter’s and 40 year life span in front of him to think about, He’ll be angling for the Clinton post Presidency treatment ($100 million in four years time, and a job working for a hedge fund for his daughter, the most lucrative position on the planet in the all history of the planet, and who only had a bachelor’s degree in history).

    I think working people are screwed no matter who gets elected, which is another reason why they may go with the Republicans. Given a choice between Republican light and real Republican, they public goes with the real Republican every time.

    Obama campaigned on Democratic meme’s in 2008 and that got him elected. He NEVER intended to rule as he campaigned. And so he didn’t. Now he can’t hide from his track record. People are going to say: “what’s the difference? I’m unemployed – I’m voting for change until I get a job – That means I’m voting republican – if they don’t get me a job I’ll vote against them too four years hence.” If Republicans simply increase government employment and implement a decent infrastructure bill, we’ll be stuck with Republican majorities for at least one generation, maybe two.

    So, I’m angry with Obama. Yeah, I’ll vote for him, but I hate what he’s done while in office. I really wish Hillary had been elected. She, at least, is a fighter. She would have not been afraid to fight for a big stimulus. I even think we’d have been better off if McCain had won. The country would be truly screwed up and the Republicans would be done and out of office for fifty years. Anyway, I’m just blowing steam here, but obviously, I’m whooping mad at Obama.

  6. Troy
    July 8th, 2012 at 08:41 | #6

    It’s easy to say O should have “fought” for a stimulus looking back from 2010 or 2012.

    But back in 2009 it wasn’t clear that we would be able to borrow so much money at so low rates.

    It was the CONGRESS — specifically the Senate — that was gating things. They didn’t want to sign off on a trillion dollar + stimulus and then have the Republicans run against them as “borrow & spend Democrats”!

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    And getting into a fight with Congress is not the optics a new President wants starting out.

    We HAVE had a 25% of GDP stimulus, btw.

    Total public debt is $15.9T now.

    Four years ago it was $11.5T.

    That’s $4.4T of deficit spending in 4 years, 30% of the 2009 GDP.


    compares GDP to debt held by the public (which doesn’t count the 2% FICA cut, another $250B of stimulus thus far).

    The idea that Obama “expended his political capital” for PPACA is, sorry, bullshit, too.

    He’s not a dictator, and he got through the Democratic Congress what the Democrat coalition wanted to get through, nothing less and nothing more.

    Again, Obama can’t look like a 10 year old trying to tell Congress what to do. He was a nobody 10 years ago and not yet a teenager when people like Sen Baucus entered politics.

    Hillary had her own baggage coming into office and her trying a HillaryCare Take 2 would be dubious at best.

    I even think we’d have been better off if McCain had won.

    Would Stevens and Souter stuck on for another 4 years?

    The thing is, the economy doesn’t need “stimulus”. It needs fundamental perestroika.

    I agree that if the Republicans take over everything they’ll do something stupid to get things looking better than they are now.

    Speaking of which, here’s a whimsical diagram I made:


    This is annual consumer debt take-on. We were net-borrowing $300B/yr in 1997 and that rose to $1.25T in late 2006 (Romney’s last year in office, natch).

    But the funny thing I noticed about that chart is how freakishly close it matches the south route climb of Everest.

    I labelled the features that match. Between the S Summit and the summit is the “Hillary Step”, and that’s there too, LOL.

  7. Troy
    July 8th, 2012 at 16:07 | #7

    Part of the problem is that experts apparently didn’t even understand the problem.

    Maybe they did, but their public writing did not show it.

    This is from the Obama team’s initial PR on the stimulus, from Jan 2009:

    “First, the likely scale of employment loss is extremely large. The U.S. economy has already lost nearly 2.6 million jobs since the business cycle peak in December 2007. In the absence of stimulus, the economy could lose another 3 to 4 million more. Thus, we are working to counter a potential total job loss of at least 5 million.”


    And they made this idiot chart:


    diagramming their idiot belief that the recession was “cyclical” and things would just return back to normal on their own.

    As I mentioned above, what they — everyone — didn’t understand was that the only reason we had a Bush recovery was that seven trillion of consumer debt take-on — we were borrowing our way to prosperity, 2002-2006!

    Maybe they’re not really this stupid, but understand that “we can’t handle the truth” per that Jack Nicholson movie scene.

    Is it incumbent on the Democratic establishment to try to burst everyone’s bubble and break some very, very hard news?

    That thanks to the tax cuts and war, and the upcoming baby boomer retirement, taxes basically have to be doubled from here?

    That we’ve got to somehow cut our usage of petroleum by 50% or whatever, and also double the price we’re paying for Chinese and Mexican imports?

    That’s asking for across-the-board sacrifice, to save the system and our economy as a going concern.

    The Republicans, on the other hand, offer something different. A fantasy that by favoring the 1% “job creators” and punishing the 20-30% of the country utterly dependent on government aid, the muddled middle can avoid all that pain.

Comments are closed.