05/25/2012 09:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Economic Messaging

We're going to open with what we'll call "Constitutional Tomfoolery, Part One" (you'll note that this implies, through a technique known as "foreshadowing," that the Republicans have exhibited some sheer silliness in reference to our country's founding governmental compact more than once in the past week). John Brunner, Republican candidate for the Senate from Missouri, made an extraordinary statement this week in a radio interview: "When I'm in the U.S. Senate, I'm going to tell my scheduling guy, 'Here's how we're going to work it here: I'm going to have a pile of Constitutions on my desk, I'm going to have a can of yellow highlighters. Anybody who wants to have a meeting with me, you grab that yellow highlighter [and] mark it in the Constitution and we'll have a meeting. If it's not there, no meeting.' "

Um... Ohhh... kayyy. So let's see... the head of the United States Air Force tries to schedule a meeting, but Senator Brunner turns him down because military force in the skies is not mentioned in the Constitution? Really? The list of things which simply were not around back then is indeed a long one: the Internet, automobiles, telephones, television, radio, nuclear weapons, drug laws, labor laws, Social Security and a whole host of other important legislative subjects. But anyone desiring a meeting with the senator will just be out of luck, one supposes. The good news? The senator's door will likely be open for lobbyists on the burning issue of letters of marque and reprisal.

OK, we understand that this is garden-variety election pandering to the Tea Party base and all of that, but we feel duty-bound to offer up a little garden-variety ridicule to go with it. Which brings us to "Constitutional Tomfoolery, Part Two." Some New York Republican state politicians feel it's a good use of their time to attempt to ban anonymous online comments. No more cute login names, sorry folks. No more pretending you're someone you're not. Name, rank and serial number will be required (OK, not really, but we just couldn't resist). I wrote about the sheer idiocy of this legislative elevator-fart earlier this week, and my prediction that, in the unlikely event that the bill passed and is signed into law, it will soon thereafter be laughed out of court by a federal judge. Seriously, all you Republicans -- have you guys actually read the Constitution? The whole thing? Amendments and all? Because from where we're sitting it really seems you need a quick remedial course on the basics.

The Senate just gave a very serious finger-wagging to one of its own... well, no, they didn't, really. They certainly didn't give Republican Tom Coburn anything approaching a smack on the wrist. But then, politicians are notoriously bad at policing their own ranks.

Speaking of which -- a right-wing icon has apparently taken to likening Senator Chuck Schumer to Nazis, for pushing a bill to lay a tax on people who give up their American citizenship to make a few more bucks. Because, um, the Weimar Republic (and then Hitler) taxed the Jews or something? It's hard to follow such logic, and Schumer showed some righteous outrage in response. The entire Republican Party was, of course, silent on the matter. Maybe they're afraid of losing the vote of those who think Democrats are Nazis... at this point, it's just hard to tell what the Republican Party is thinking.

Liberals are apparently being mean to the Supreme Court, which (as we all know) Republicans would never in a million years think of doing... (pause for extended laughing fit)... (wipes eyes)... seriously, you guys just crack me up sometimes.


President Obama, a few weeks back, offered up his support for gay marriage. Since that time, it seems he's changed a few minds in the African-American community. The NAACP announced its support. The polls are even more startling -- in Maryland, support among African-Americans for gay marriage went from 39 to 55 percent in two months. In a national poll, support jumped from 41 to 59 percent. There's a word for this sort of phenomenon, and that word is "leadership." We already issued a special "Most Impressive" award for Obama when he made his announcement, but we did want to update the positive effects of his stand.

But this week, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, for reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen federal law on paycheck equality for women. She was joined in this effort by fellow senators Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow, Dianne Feinstein, Ben Cardin, Al Franken, and Barbara Boxer, who are all hereby awarded Honorable Mentions for their support.

Republicans can keep howling at the monstrous unfairness of those mean Democrats using the term "War on Women" against them, but American women are smarter than they think. Because most women pay much more attention to what you do rather than what you say -- and time after time, Democrats are on the side of legislatively helping women, while Republicans are either against such laws or are instead trying to actively hurt women with their own legislation. Mikulski's bill is an excellent example of this, and you had better believe we'll see this issue highlighted out on the campaign trail of more than a few Democrats.

Which is why Barbara Mikulski is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week -- for her attempt at shaming the Republicans into doing the right thing. Well done, Senator Mikulski!

[Congratulate Senator Barbara Mikulski on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


We simply must hand out at least a (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week to Ted Vick, a South Carolina Democrat (currently in state government) running for a U.S. House seat. Vick was arrested for suspected drunken driving and speeding. Oh, and he had a handgun in his pocket. And by the way, a 21-year-old college student was reportedly in the car with him, because he had "offered the student a ride home" -- after he met her at a local bar.

You just can't make this stuff up, folks. Sigh.

Ted Vick would have been the clear winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, however his award status was downgraded -- because he immediately did the right thing and withdrew from the House race.

Instead, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Newark mayor Cory Booker. Last Sunday, Booker made news on one of the political chatfests by stating it was "nauseating" what the man he was ostensibly appearing on the show to support -- President Barack Obama -- was doing. This stomach-churning on Booker's part was apparently caused by the Obama team being mean to Mitt Romney about Bain Capital. Booker was immediately featured in a Republican ad, crowing about how Obama's got a real "with friends like these..." type of problem. Booker then tried to walk his comments back, not very convincingly and not to any noticeable effect.

Booker would have been better advised, in the video he released walking his own comments back, to have spoken the truth: "I am planning on running for higher office soon, and I have a lot of buddies on Wall Street who might just give me piles of money to achieve this ambition. I was very sad that Obama was so mean to them, and I thought it was in my own self-interest to say what I did, in the hopes of furthering my career as a politician."

But since he didn't say anything remotely like that, he has more than earned his Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Note to Obama campaign: maybe a little better vetting is called for, in future, for your surrogates on Sunday morning? Might be worth a thought...

[Contact Mayor Cory Booker on his official Newark contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 212 (5/25/12)

We're going to take a week here to focus on economics here in the talking points portion of the program. It's the economy, stupid, and all of that sort of thing. While still exhibiting a healthy amount of distrust for any sort of "conventional wisdom," as is our wont, this election may indeed hinge on one overarching issue -- the American economy. Democrats need to start making their case in a broader way, heading into the election.

Fortunately, Mitt Romney has provided a wonderful opening to this conversation. Enjoy, as always, and feel free to use these suggested talking points either around the water cooler or on the set of your favorite Sunday morning chat-a-thon.


   Government spending equals jobs and growth

Once again, when Mitt's handlers let him loose on a non-conservative journalist, Mitt opened his mouth and went off-script.

"I notice in a recent interview with Time magazine, Governor Romney pretty much admitted that the Republican Party's plans for all-austerity-all-the-time would destroy the American economy. The Governor said, and I quote: if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. Unquote. Mitt also said he was 'not going to do that, of course.' Really? Does anyone think if the Republicans took over Congress and sent him a bill which slashed the budget in a seriously-destructive way, that Mitt Romney would stand up to his own party and essentially say, 'hold on there, guys, ending all this government spending would kill jobs, growth and the GDP, so I'm going to have to veto this bill'? Does anyone really believe that? Mitt Romney just committed what is known as a 'Washington gaffe' -- he accidentally spoke the truth about the economy and the budget, and admitted that the Republican austerity-only plan for the future would be devastating, and would cut growth."


   This goes beyond the Pentagon

Which brings up another point, on the same subject.

"I notice that the House just passed a military appropriations bill which spends us even further into debt. They are ignoring budget cuts they previously agreed to, which will increase the federal deficit -- but, somehow, because it is going to the Pentagon, that's supposed to be OK. Republican hypocrisy on the subject of government spending simply could not be clearer. Republicans are for increasing government spending because it brings jobs to their districts even when the money has to be borrowed -- which runs counter to pretty much every single thing they've said for the past three or four years. You can't have it both ways -- either government spending creates jobs and grows the economy, or it doesn't. Whether the money cycles through the Pentagon or not. Republicans trying to straddle this issue simply look foolishly inconsistent, in my opinion."


   Tax cuts do not pay for themselves

This used to be a Republican go-to talking point, but you just don't hear it much anymore. So point out why!

The link in this one is to an excellent article this week by Bob Cesca, which has many helpful charts that I'll be referring to here. For this particular one, please see Bob's first two charts.

I remember decades and decades of Republican leaders trying to sell the American people the line that 'tax cuts pay for themselves.' They had some voodoo economics which said the more you cut taxes, the more money comes in to the government. Well, you know what folks? It"s just not true. The biggest reason -- by far -- for the explosion in the deficit is the Bush tax cuts. Tax cuts cost the government money. It's just common sense. And yet Republicans continue to advance their tax-cutting ideas, but absolutely refuse to pay for any of them. For anyone who can do elementary-school math, this leads to one inescapable result: the deficit goes up when you cut taxes. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves, and it's about time Republicans just admitted they've been wrong all these years.


   Some Republicans are waking up

A glimmer of light dawns in a very dark place.

"I see that fewer and fewer Republican candidates for office are willing to sell their soul to Grover Norquist and his pledge. Maybe some of them are finally waking up to economic reality, who knows?


   Investors do better under Democratic administrations

We turn to Alan Grayson's fine article to make this point.

"The New York Times showed, back in 2008, how much better investors do under Democratic presidents than under Republicans. If you had invested $10,000 in the stock market during the years Democrats had been president since 1929, you would now have $300,671. The same money invested under Republican presidents would have only left you with $11,733. Democrats in the White House are good for business. Barack Obama's term has been no different -- the stock market is booming once again, after falling off a cliff just before he was elected. As Alan Grayson put this, 'No wonder Republicans hate government -- they're so bad at it. Particularly when it comes to preserving national wealth.' "


   Reagan and Bushes hiked spending, not Obama

This has become a Republican mantra, but that doesn't make it the slightest bit true. Once again, we cite Bob Cesca, and his third and fourth graph (particularly the fourth).

"Republicans are lying to you when they tell you that spending has 'exploded' under Barack Obama. Ronald Reagan hiked spending by almost nine percent his first term in office, and five percent his second term. George W. Bush saw spending jumps of over seven percent and eight percent in the budgets he signed, and his father saw a climb of over five percent. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has kept spending increases in the federal budget down to less than two percent so far. It'd be nice if journalists stopped just repeating Republican falsehoods, and looked up these simple facts when discussing the issue."



Sigh. The continuing "let's put -mageddon or -pocalypse at the end of everything to because it sounds so cool" fad apparently has not yet gone away. Yes, this is actually what Beltway types are calling it, so expect to hear this saccharine term through December. You have been warned.

"The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a stark report this week, which shows what will happen if Congress fails to act on the austerity measures already built into the budget by past agreements -- many of which are scheduled to take place at the beginning of next year. This 'Taxmageddon,' as it is being called, needs to be dealt with, because the C.B.O. is giving us the choice between a growth rate for the American economy next year of 4.4 percent, or -- if Congress does nothing -- 0.5 percent. The C.B.O. says we will enter into a recession due to going over what they call a 'fiscal cliff.' Congress should begin working on this problem now, instead of pushing it off until after the election."


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