Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The number of politicians calling for real banking reform are insignificant. The banking industry has captured Congress and regulators alike. The banking oligarchy is so intertwined with the political and economic establishment at this point that real reuglaory change cannot happen until the system itself is transformed from belovw, by a POWERFUL SOCIAL MOVEMENT.

May 27, 2012 by Common Dreams

Can Obama Stop Casino Capitalism?

by Shamus Cooke

The recent JPMorgan scandal where billions of dollars were lost in risky bets has re-ignited the move to properly regulate the U.S. banking system.

Among those asking for new regulations is Robert Reich, former labor secretary to Bill Clinton. Recently Reich made a plea of sorts to President Obama, whom he wishes would take the commonsense approach to bank regulation by re-installing the depression-era regulation, the Glass-Steagall Act.

Reich's first sentence places him among those who naively hope that Obama would listen to reason and act boldly, instead of merely putting forth populist catch phrases while obsequiously serving corporations:

"I wish President Obama would draw the obvious connection between Bain Capital and JPMorgan Chase."

This quote alone proves that Obama's vilifying of Mitt Romney's former business venture is hypocritical, since Obama has been simultaneously protecting and praising JPMorgan. Obama's populist-style attacks on Mitt Romney are cynical election campaigning.

Reich's article also points out Obama's incredible lack of action against the banks that happened during the post financial crisis, assuring that such a crisis will emerge yet again, as the recent JPMorgan scandal has foreshadowed:

"As a practical matter, the Volcker Rule [Obama's still incomplete regulation attempt] is hopeless. It was intended to be Glass-Steagall lite — a more nuanced version of the original Depression-era law that separated commercial from investment banking. But JPMorgan has proven that any nuance — any exception — will be stretched beyond recognition by the big banks."

Reich goes on to admonish the banking system's dominance of the economic system in general, partially the result of the lack of financial regulations:

"It’s the substitution of casino capitalism for real capitalism, the dominance of the betting parlor over the real business of America, financial innovation rather than product innovation. It’s been terrible for the American economy and for our democracy."

What Reich fails to mention is that he worked directly under a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who helped tear down key aspects of the financial regulations that Reich hopes to reconstruct, including first and foremost the Glass-Steagall Act. Jimmy Carter, too, helped weaken banking regulations that encouraged the boom of the big banks.

The question that must be asked, then, is why did the Republicans and Democrats alike take turns at undermining banking regulation over the course of decades? And why do they both continue to agree — in varying degrees — that reconstructing the original regulatory policies would be undesirable?

The answer is that the version of capitalism that Reich would like to see cannot be re-created by regulation alone; the idyllic capitalism that Reich waxes nostalgia about has evolved into what we have now: an economy dominated by the highly profitable but volatile financial institutions while manufacturing has migrated to other countries in search of a higher rate of profit.

The capitalists, then, insured themselves that they would have a profitable place to invest their money. The billionaire Warren Buffett, for example, recently invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs with a guaranteed annual rate of return of 10 percent . The U.S. banking system is one of the few U.S. industries that competes well internationally, and is propped up — as we saw by the bank bailouts — by the U.S. government itself. The industry is now so rich and powerful that it routinely reinforces and expands its power by the purchase of lobbyists and congressmen, not to mention presidential candidates.

The number of politicians calling for real banking reform are insignificant. The banking industry has captured Congress and regulators alike. The banking oligarchy is so intertwined with the political and economic establishment at this point that real regulatory change cannot happen until the system itself is transformed from below, by a powerful social movement. Pleading to politicians to fix so-called Casino Capitalism is increasingly naive, and Reich should know better.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscook@gmail.com

Someday people will surely look back on this election season with a kind of nightmarish wonder at the FEAR AND DENIAL OUR LEADING POLITICIANS (who knew better) EXHITIBED IN THE FACE OF THE POWER AND FINANCIAL CLOUT OF THE ENERGY INDUSTRY AND ITS LOBBYISTS

Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Climate and Clarity

By Rebecca Solnit

Posted on October 28, 2012

All summer, there were screaming weather headlines and stories, in part because of the worst drought the U.S. has seen in more than half a century -- a continuing drought that is now threatening the winter wheat crop. (“Much of Kansas and Oklahoma, the largest producers of the hard red winter wheat variety used to make bread, are in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.”) This is a pocketbook issue, globally and nationally, the sort of thing that should be on minds everywhere. After all, any intensification of drought in breadbasket areas of planet Earth ensures rising food prices. And by the way, although it didn’t get much attention, this year tied with 2005 for the warmest September on record globally, while 2012 is in the running for warmest year ever in the continental United States.

Not surprisingly, polls show that Americans -- especially drought-stricken Midwesterners -- are more aware of climate change than they have been in quite a while and that “undecideds” are distinctly interested in what the presidential candidates might think about our globally warming future. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Which makes this election season some kind of miracle in reverse. After all, we made it through four “debates” with 60 million or more viewers each, and not a single one of the four moderators asked a question about climate change, nor did a presidential or vice-presidential candidate let the phrase pass his lips or bring the subject up. That in itself should stun you. After all, it’s a subject that’s at least been mentioned every debate season since 1988. Consider this as well: in our never-ending election season, as far as I know, there has been but a single significant reference to the subject by any of the candidates, presidential or vice-presidential, between the conventions and today. That was, of course, Mitt Romney’s mocking reference in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention to a supposed Obama promise to slow the “rise of the oceans.”

That’s it. One passing laugh line. The end. Hundreds of thousands of words on events in Benghazi, Libya, and just that one sarcastic sentence on climate change. Someday people will surely look back on this election season with a kind of nightmarish wonder at the fear and denial our leading politicians (who knew better) exhibited in the face of the power and financial clout of the energy industry and its lobbyists. It will be a chapter of shame in the annals of greed, a subject TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit takes up today. Tom

Our Words Are Our Weapons

Against the Destruction of the World by Greed

By Rebecca Solnit

In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by “the rectification of names,” a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money.

This was part of what made Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign so electrifying: he seemed like a man who spoke our language and called many if not all things by their true names. Whatever caused that season of clarity, once elected, Obama promptly sank into the stale, muffled, parallel-universe language wielded by most politicians, and has remained there ever since. Meanwhile, the far right has gotten as far as it has by mislabeling just about everything in our world -- a phenomenon which went supernova in this year of “legitimate rape,” “the apology tour,” and “job creators.” Meanwhile, their fantasy version of economics keeps getting more fantastic. (Maybe there should be a rectification of numbers, too.)

Let’s rectify some names ourselves. We often speak as though the source of so many of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I'm not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

Calling lies "lies" and theft "theft" and violence "violence," loudly, clearly, and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it’s misogyny or racism or poisoning the environment. What protects an outrage are disguises, circumlocutions, and euphemisms -- “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture, “collateral damage” for killing civilians, “the war on terror” for the war against you and me and our Bill of Rights.

Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names:

“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

So let’s start calling manifestations of greed by their true name. By greed, I mean the attempt of those who have plenty to get more, not the attempts of the rest of us to survive or lead a decent life. Look at the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame: the four main heirs are among the dozen richest people on the planet, each holding about $24 billion. Their wealth is equivalent to that of the bottom 40% of Americans. The corporation Sam Walton founded now employs 2.2 million workers, two-thirds of them in the U.S., and the great majority are poorly paid, intimidated, often underemployed people who routinely depend on government benefits to survive. You could call that Walton Family welfare -- a taxpayers' subsidy to their system. Strikes launched against Wal-Mart this summer and fall protested working conditions of astonishing barbarity -- warehouses that reach 120 degrees, a woman eight months pregnant forced to work at a brutal pace, commonplace exposure to pollutants, and the intimidation of those who attempted to organize or unionize.

You would think that $24,000,000,000 apiece would be enough, but the Walton family sits atop a machine intent upon brutalizing tens of millions of people -- the suppliers of Wal-Mart notorious for their abysmal working conditions, as well as the employees of the stores -- only to add to piles of wealth already obscenely vast. Of course, what we call corporations are, in fact, perpetual motion machines, set up to endlessly extract wealth (and leave slagheaps of poverty behind) no matter what.

They are generally organized in such a way that the brutality that leads to wealth extraction is committed by subcontractors at a distance or described in euphemisms, so that the stockholders, board members, and senior executives never really have to know what’s being done in their names. And yet it is their job to know -- just as it is each of our jobs to know what systems feed us and exploit or defend us, and the job of writers, historians, and journalists to rectify the names for all these things.

Groton to Moloch

The most terrifying passage in whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg’s gripping book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers is not about his time in Vietnam, or his life as a fugitive after he released the Pentagon Papers. It’s about a 1969 dinnertime conversation with a co-worker in a swanky house in Pacific Palisades, California. It took place right after Ellsberg and five of his colleagues had written a letter to the New York Times arguing for immediate withdrawal from the unwinnable, brutal war in Vietnam, and Ellsberg’s host said, “If I were willing to give up all this... if I were willing to renege on... my commitment to send my son to Groton... I would have signed the letter.”

In other words, his unnamed co-worker had weighed trying to prevent the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people against the upper-middle-class perk of having his kid in a fancy prep school, and chosen the latter. The man who opted for Groton was, at least, someone who worked for what he had and who could imagine having painfully less. This is not true of the ultra-rich shaping the future of our planet.

They could send tens of thousands to Groton, buy more Renoirs and ranches, and still not exploit the poor or destroy the environment, but they’re as insatiable as they are ruthless. They are often celebrated in their aesthetic side effects: imposing mansions, cultural patronage, jewels, yachts. But in many, maybe most, cases they got rich through something a lot uglier, and that ugliness is still ongoing. Rectifying the names would mean revealing the ugliness of the sources of their fortunes and the grotesque scale on which they contrive to amass them, rather than the gaudiness of the trinkets they buy with them. It would mean seeing and naming the destruction that is the corollary of most of this wealth creation.

A Storm Surge of Selfishness

Where this matters most is climate change. Why have we done almost nothing over the past 25 years about what was then a terrifying threat and is now a present catastrophe? Because it was bad for quarterly returns and fossil-fuel portfolios. When posterity indicts our era, this will be the feeble answer for why we did so little -- that the rich and powerful with ties to the carbon-emitting industries have done everything in their power to prevent action on, or even recognition of, the problem. In this country in particular, they spent a fortune sowing doubt about the science of climate change and punishing politicians who brought the subject up. In this way have we gone through four “debates” and nearly a full election cycle with climate change unmentioned and unmentionable.

These three decades of refusing to respond have wasted crucial time. It’s as though you were prevented from putting out a fire until it was raging: now the tundra is thawing and Greenland’s ice shield is melting and nearly every natural system is disrupted, from the acidifying oceans to the erratic seasons to droughts, floods, heat waves, and wildfires, and the failure of crops. We can still respond, but the climate is changed; the damage we all spoke of, only a few years ago, as being in the future is here, now.

You can look at the chief executive officers of the oil corporations -- Chevron’s John Watson, for example, who received almost $25 million ($1.57 million in salary and the rest in “compensation”) in 2011 -- or their major shareholders. They can want for nothing. They’re so rich they could quit the game at any moment. When it comes to climate change, some of the wealthiest people in the world have weighed the fate of the Earth and every living thing on it for untold generations to come, the seasons and the harvests, this whole exquisite planet we evolved on, and they have come down on the side of more profit for themselves, the least needy people the world has ever seen.

Take those billionaire energy tycoons Charles and David Koch, who are all over American politics these days. They are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat Obama, partly because he offends their conservative sensibilities, but also because he is less likely to be a completely devoted servant of their profit margins. He might, if we shout loud enough, rectify a few names. Under pressure, he might even listen to the public or environmental groups, while Romney poses no such problem (and under a Romney administration they will probably make more back in tax cuts than they are gambling on his election).

Two years ago, the Koch brothers spent $1 million on California’s Proposition 23, an initiative written and put on the ballot by out-of-state oil companies to overturn our 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. It lost by a landslide, but the Koch brothers have also invested a small fortune in spreading climate-change denial and sponsoring the Tea Party (which they can count on to oppose climate change regulation as big government or interference with free enterprise). This year they’re backing a California initiative to silence unions. They want nothing to stand in the way of corporate power and the exploitation of fossil fuels. Think of it as another kind of war, and consider the early casualties.

As the Irish Times put it in an editorial this summer:

“Across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, hundreds of millions are struggling to adapt to their changing climate. In the last three years, we have seen 10 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan, 13 million face hunger in east Africa, and over 10 million in the Sahel region of Africa face starvation. Even those figures only scrape the surface. According to the Global Humanitarian Forum, headed up by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, climate change is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and affects 300 million people annually. By 2030, the annual death toll related to climate change is expected to rise to 500,000 and the economic cost to rocket to $600 billion.”

This coming year may see a dramatic increase in hunger due to rising food prices from crop failures, including this summer’s in the U.S. Midwest after a scorching drought in which the Mississippi River nearly ran dry and crops withered.

We need to talk about climate change as a war against nature, against the poor (especially the poor of Africa), and against the rest of us. There are casualties, there are deaths, and there is destruction, and it’s all mounting. Rectify the name, call it war. While we’re at it, take back the term “pro-life” to talk about those who are trying to save the lives of all the creatures suffering from the collapse of the complex systems on which plant and animal as well as human lives depend. The other side: “pro-death.”

The complex array of effects from climate change and their global distribution, as well as their scale and the science behind them makes it harder to talk about than almost anything else on Earth, but we should talk about it all the more because of that. And yes, the rest of us should do more, but what is the great obstacle those who have already tried to do so much invariably come up against? The oil corporations, the coal companies, the energy industry, its staggering financial clout, its swarms of lobbyists, and the politicians in its clutches. Those who benefit most from the status quo, I learned in studying disasters, are always the least willing to change.

The Doublespeak on Taxes

I’m a Californian so I faced the current version of American greed early. Proposition 13, the initiative that froze property taxes and made it nearly impossible to raise taxes in our state, went into effect in 1978, two years before California’s former governor Ronald Reagan won the presidency, in part by catering to greed. Prop 13, as it came to be known, went into effect when California was still an affluent state with the best educational system in the world, including some of the top universities around, nearly free to in-staters all the way through graduate school. Tax cuts have trashed the state and that education system, and they are now doing the same to our country. The public sphere is to society what the biosphere is to life on earth: the space we live in together, and the attacks on them have parallels.

What are taxes? They are that portion of your income that you contribute to the common good. Most of us are unhappy with how they’re allocated -- though few outside the left talk about the fact that more than half of federal discretionary expenditures go to our gargantuan military, more money than is spent on the next 14 militaries combined. Ever since Reagan, the right has complained unceasingly about fantasy expenditures -- from that president’s “welfare queens” to Mitt Romney’s attack on Big Bird and PBS (which consumes .001% of federal expenditures).

As part of its religion of greed, the right invented a series of myths about where those taxes went, how paying them was the ultimate form of oppression, and what boons tax cuts were to bring us. They then delivered the biggest tax cuts of all to those who already had a superfluity of money and weren’t going to pump the extra they got back into the economy. What they really were saying was that they wanted to hang onto every nickel, no matter how the public sphere was devastated, and that they really served the ultra-rich, over and over again, not the suckers who voted them into office.

Despite decades of cutting to the bone, they continue to promote tax cuts as if they had yet to happen. Their constant refrain is that we are too poor to feed the poor or educate the young or heal the sick, but the poverty isn’t monetary: it’s moral and emotional. Let’s rectify some more language: even at this moment, the United States remains the richest nation the world has ever seen, and California -- with the richest agricultural regions on the planet and a colossal high-tech boom still ongoing in Silicon Valley -- is loaded, too. Whatever its problems, the U.S. is still swimming in abundance, even if that abundance is divided up ever more unequally.

Really, there’s more than enough to feed every child well, to treat every sick person, to educate everyone well without saddling them with hideous debt, to support the arts, to protect the environment -- to produce, in short, a glorious society. The obstacle is greed. We could still make the sorts of changes climate change requires of us and become a very different nation without overwhelming pain. We would then lead somewhat different lives -- richer, not poorer, for most of us (in meaning, community, power, and hope). Because this culture of greed impoverishes all of us, it is, to call it by its true name, destruction.

Occupy the Names

One of the great accomplishments of Occupy Wall Street was this rectification of names. Those who came together under that rubric named the greed, inequality, and injustice in our system; they made the brutality of debt and the subjugation of the debtors visible; they called out Wall Street’s crimes; they labeled the wealthiest among us the “1%,” those who have made a profession out of pumping great sums of our wealth upwards (quite a different kind of tax). It was a label that made instant sense across much of the political spectrum. It was a good beginning. But there’s so much more to do.

Naming is only part of the work, but it’s a crucial first step. A doctor initially diagnoses, then treats; an activist or citizen must begin by describing what is wrong before acting. To do that well is to call things by their true names. Merely calling out these names is a beam of light powerful enough to send the destroyers it shines upon scurrying for cover like roaches. After that, you still need to name your vision, your plan, your hope, your dream of something better.

Names matter; language matters; truth matters. In this era when the mainstream media serve obfuscation and evasion more than anything else (except distraction), alternative media, social media, demonstrations in the streets, and conversations between friends are the refuges of truth, the places where we can begin to rectify the names. So start talking.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of thirteen books, a TomDispatch regular, and from kindergarten to graduate school a product of the California public education system in its heyday. She would like the Republican Party to be called the Pro-Rape Party until further notice.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

My doctor expected me to die years ago. Instead, I actually found a way to improve my quality of life and to end the vicious nightmares, for a while, at least. The answer for me was to use medical marijuana instead of morphine. Amazingly, marijuana worked better, and didn’t produce horrible side-effects ... I used to have reliable access to safe, medicinal-quality marijuana, whenever I needed it. Now, I can’t find a provider to help me, and my ability to acquire safe marijuana has ended.

Guest opinion: Repeal SB423:
Law denies medical marijuana to seriously ill


Cancer has been trying to kill me for a while now, which is why I hope Montanans will vote “no” on this year’s medical marijuana ballot issue.

Let me explain. I was diagnosed with lung cancer six years ago. The treatments I went through were horrendous, the pain I experience is excruciating, and the various modern medications I am given cause hideous nightmares. Let me tell you, cancer is a cruel way for a person’s life to come to an end.

My doctor expected me to die years ago. Instead, I actually found a way to improve my quality of life and to end the vicious nightmares, for a while, at least. The answer for me was to use medical marijuana instead of morphine. Amazingly, marijuana worked better, and didn’t produce horrible side-effects. My doctor was surprised and told me to keep doing it.

But then the 2011 Legislature repealed the medical marijuana law instead of creating the kind of rigorous but workable regulations patients like me wanted. They ignored genuine patients as well as the will of the voters. The governor vetoed the first repeal bill, but not the second one, which legislators intended to make as close to repeal as possible. The new law, SB423, is extremely unfair to patients like me. It is designed not to work.

I know from experience how awful the new law is, which is why I want voters to reject it on Election Day this year. I used to have reliable access to safe, medicinal-quality marijuana, whenever I needed it. Now, I can’t find a provider to help me, and my ability to acquire safe marijuana has ended.

I am 66 years old. Am I supposed to find a “street dealer” in an alley somewhere? Even if I could, how on Earth would I ever know that marijuana from the black market was safe, much less effective in helping a sick, elderly patient like me? I'm too sick to grow it myself.

I thought getting cancer was bad. But even worse is having discovered a way to relieve my suffering, then to have it taken away from me by politicians. Thanks to Montana voters, I still have hope.

Voters in 2004 wanted patients like me to have access to safe marijuana without fear of arrest and prosecution. In 2011 patients like me wanted the Legislature to pass strict regulation and enforcement mechanisms to end exploitation of the law and keep things working as voters intended for genuine patients. But the Legislature rejected the idea of making the law work well for patients. They misunderstand marijuana, and don’t recognize how well it works as medicine.

I am not a criminal. I am sick, and I need safe marijuana to live as well as my medical condition allows. My only hope for having the Legislature fix the medical marijuana law is for voters to repeal SB423. Please vote NO on Initiative Referendum-124.

The number of Ohioans who vote in this election will mean next to nothing.

Fighting for the votes of Central Ohio: Brent Larkin

Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012, 12:01
By Brent Larkin, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer

The presidential election of 1860 saved the nation.

Views of the zealots on both sides notwithstanding, the stakes won't be that high a week from Tuesday when voters in Ohio and a handful of other states choose a president.

But the 1860 vote in Ohio between Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen A. Douglas is still the barometer by which, for Republicans, all other presidential campaigns are measured.

That's not because Lincoln defeated Douglas in Ohio -- 231,809 votes to 187,421.

It's because anyone who cares about the history of presidential elections knows that no Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio.

And that 152-year-old truism is unlikely to change Nov. 6 when voters choose between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.

That explains why rarely has a day gone by in the last two months of this campaign when The New York Times didn't have a story focused all or in part on the vote here.

In fact, back in September, the newspaper published a large graphic detailing 11 complicated scenarios where Romney could prevail in the election without winning Ohio.

Obviously, Romney can lose Ohio and still win the presidency.

Just as obviously, you can stop at a nearby convenience store today and spend $1 on a ticket that wins Tuesday's Mega Millions lottery drawing.

Without Ohio, Romney's odds would be only slightly better than yours.

Ohio has changed a great deal since 1860. But what hasn't changed is its economic, political and cultural diversity.

What makes it a bellwether in the 21st century are the same factors that made it one in the 19th.

In this year's presidential election, Obama will win left-leaning Northeast Ohio. The more conservative Romney will win the state's southwest. Central Ohio will determine the winner and, most likely, the next president.

The party labels are different, but the geographical voting trends of 2012 were strikingly similar in 1860. For example, Lincoln won a gigantic victory in Greater Cleveland. In fact, his margins of victory here were among the biggest in the nation.

Even though two lesser-known presidential candidates siphoned off a total of 5 percent of the vote, Lincoln captured at least 60 percent in every Northeast Ohio county. In the contiguous counties of Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula, he won about 80 percent of the vote.

Lincoln's Cuyahoga County final vote margin was 62.45 percent. He outpolled Douglas in nine of Cleveland's 11 wards and won in every city and township. The only community where the vote was close was Independence, won by Lincoln 158 to 150.

To truly understand why the politics of Ohio have always been defined by geography, it is essential to understand how the state was settled.

Northeast Ohio's roots are in New England, notably the Connecticut Land Co., which in 1795 bought 3 million acres in what was known as the Western Reserve. The land company's investors were from New England, as were most of its settlers.

New Englanders were generally fierce abolitionists who abhorred slavery, which helps explain the result of the 1860 vote in Northeast Ohio. Although over time European immigrants and the migration of blacks from the South changed the region's demographics, its voting habits have changed very little.

Southwest Ohio's proximity to Kentucky has always influenced the politics there. More importantly, much of downstate was settled by the Ohio Company. Investors in that venture were primarily land speculators from Virginia whose views were obviously more conservative than those of New Englanders.

Despite the historical consistency of Ohio's politics and its geographic voting patterns, one area that's changed significantly is voter turnout.

Neither Lincoln nor Douglas campaigned in Ohio. As an unofficial candidate, Lincoln gave four speeches in the state during the fall of 1859 -- none north of Columbus. Nevertheless, the turnout of eligible voters in that election was about 87 percent, believed to be the highest ever in the state.

In this year's election, some argue statewide turnout will determine the winner, using Obama's historic election four years ago as evidence.

But that's not exactly true.

It wasn't statewide turnout that propelled Obama to victory in Ohio. In fact, more than 125,000 fewer Ohioans voted in the 2008 election than in 2004.

The number of Ohioans who vote in this election will mean next to nothing.

Where in Ohio those voters live will mean almost everything.

© 2012 cleveland.com. All rights reserved.

According to the best available estimates, the average cost of health care for adult Medicaid recipients is about 20 percent less than it would be if they had private insurance. The gap for children is even larger. Mitt Romney wants to eliminate Medicaid!

New York Times: October 28, 2012

Medicaid on the Ballot - By PAUL KRUGMAN

There’s a lot we don’t know about what Mitt Romney would do if he won. He refuses to say which tax loopholes he would close to make up for $5 trillion in tax cuts; his economic “plan” is an empty shell.

But one thing is clear: If he wins, Medicaid — which now covers more than 50 million Americans, and which President Obama would expand further as part of his health reform — will face savage cuts. Estimates suggest that a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million people who would have coverage if he lost, with two-thirds of that difference due to the assault on Medicaid.

So this election is, to an important degree, really about Medicaid. And this, in turn, means that you need to know something more about the program.

For while Medicaid is generally viewed as health care for the nonelderly poor, that’s only part of the story. And focusing solely on who Medicaid covers can obscure an equally important fact: Medicaid has been more successful at controlling costs than any other major part of the nation’s health care system.

So, about coverage: most Medicaid beneficiaries are indeed relatively young (because older people are covered by Medicare) and relatively poor (because eligibility for Medicaid, unlike Medicare, is determined by need). But more than nine million Americans benefit from both Medicare and Medicaid, and elderly or disabled beneficiaries account for the majority of Medicaid’s costs. And contrary to what you may have heard, the great majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are in working families.

For those who get coverage through the program, Medicaid is a much-needed form of financial aid. It is also, quite literally, a lifesaver. Mr. Romney has said that a lack of health insurance doesn’t kill people in America; oh yes, it does, and states that expand Medicaid coverage show striking drops in mortality.

So Medicaid does a vast amount of good. But at what cost? There’s a widespread perception, gleefully fed by right-wing politicians and propagandists, that Medicaid has “runaway” costs. But the truth is just the opposite. While costs grew rapidly in 2009-10, as a depressed economy made more Americans eligible for the program, the longer-term reality is that Medicaid is significantly better at controlling costs than the rest of our health care system.

How much better? According to the best available estimates, the average cost of health care for adult Medicaid recipients is about 20 percent less than it would be if they had private insurance. The gap for children is even larger.

And the gap has been widening over time: Medicaid costs have consistently risen a bit less rapidly than Medicare costs, and much less rapidly than premiums on private insurance.

How does Medicaid achieve these lower costs? Partly by having much lower administrative costs than private insurers. It’s always worth remembering that when it comes to health care, it’s the private sector, not government programs, that suffers from stifling, costly bureaucracy.

Also, Medicaid is much more effective at bargaining with the medical-industrial complex.

Consider, for example, drug prices. Last year a government study compared the prices that Medicaid paid for brand-name drugs with those paid by Medicare Part D — also a government program, but one run through private insurance companies, and explicitly forbidden from using its power in the market to bargain for lower prices. The conclusion: Medicaid pays almost a third less on average. That’s a lot of money.

Is Medicaid perfect? Of course not. Most notably, the hard bargain it drives with health providers means that quite a few doctors are reluctant to see Medicaid patients. Yet given the problems facing American health care — sharply rising costs and declining private-sector coverage — Medicaid has to be regarded as a highly successful program. It provides good if not great coverage to tens of millions of people who would otherwise be left out in the cold, and as I said, it does much right to keep costs down.

By any reasonable standard, this is a program that should be expanded, not slashed — and a major expansion of Medicaid is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Why, then, are Republicans so determined to do the reverse, and kill this success story? You know the answers. Partly it’s their general hostility to anything that helps the 47 percent — those Americans whom they consider moochers who need to be taught self-reliance. Partly it’s the fact that Medicaid’s success is a reproach to their antigovernment ideology.

The question — and it’s a question the American people will answer very soon — is whether they’ll get to indulge these prejudices at the expense of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

In one sentence, Romney presses hot buttons about bankruptcy -- though he, too, favored that route, albeit without direct federal investment -- foreigners and outsourcing. It's a masterpiece of misdirection.

Flailing in Ohio, Romney rolls out Jeep ploy: editorial

Published: Monday, October 29, 2012, 8:15 PM
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board

Mitt Romney is desperate to convince Ohio voters that he's the candidate most committed to the U.S. auto industry -- no matter how much confusion he must sow to do it.

Last week, Romney recklessly told a large audience in Defiance that he'd read that Chrysler's Italian owners -- that would be Fiat, which has controlled the American automaker since 2009 -- were planning to move all Jeep production to China. The Republican presidential nominee's statement predictably drew groans in Northwest Ohio, where the auto industry is critical to prosperity. He pledged to keep American jobs in America, if elected.

But apparently Romney had been reading a blogger who misunderstood reports that Chrysler was looking to again make some Jeeps in China for that expanding market. The news is a sign of Chrysler's health, not of some sinister intentions by its management. The company is investing $500 million and hiring 1,100 workers at its Toledo Jeep plant. The day Romney misspoke, Chrysler announced plans to add 1,100 employees in Detroit, too. A company spokesman called any suggestion that Chrysler is abandoning its U.S. plants "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats."

Ah, but not for a presidential candidate who needs a wedge in auto-dependent Ohio. Romney is now running an ad that reinforces the erroneous perception he laid out in Defiance, but in language that is technically true: "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China."

In one sentence, Romney presses hot buttons about bankruptcy -- though he, too, favored that route, albeit without direct federal investment -- foreigners and outsourcing. It's a masterpiece of misdirection.

The Romney campaign clearly is being hurt [because] Chrysler and GM were saved by the decisions of President Barack Obama. So Romney and his surrogates claim that Obama essentially followed their blueprint for the rescue or that it really wasn't a good deal -- because some plants and dealerships closed -- or, now, that the wolf is back at the door.

It won't work. Ohio voters know who stepped up when the auto industry was at the abyss -- and it wasn't Romney.

Rather than confront Americans with a macro-shift in policy that they don’t want, Romney has focused on blaming Obama for the state of the economy and promising better times on the basis of the most vacuous, undefined economic policies we’ve seen since — well, since McCain, who had no economic policies to speak of.

What Romney’s moderation conceals

By Harold Meyerson, Published: October 23

Any resemblance between the Mitt Romney of recent weeks and the Romney of the primary season isn’t coincidental; it’s an oversight on the part of his managers, who have proven more adept at Etch a Sketching away the Romney of spring than many imagined was possible.

The Romney who showed up for the third presidential debate Monday night was, by design, the challenger as milquetoast. With both candidates fighting hard for women’s votes, Romney was determined to avoid anything remotely bellicose in his approach to foreign affairs and his interactions with President Obama. He extolled Wilsonian ends — championing democracy in the Middle East rather than sticking with pro-American tyrants — while eschewing interventionist means that could put Americans in harm’s way. This was a necessary reassurance to war-weary voters who feared that a Romney presidency would mark a reversion to the Republican interventionist norm, to the avid and unnecessary war-making of George W. Bush and the knee-jerk bellicosity of the last GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain.

In fact, Romney’s foreign policy didn’t sound significantly different from Obama’s on Syria or China — and he actually avoided Libya. His newfound moderation on foreign affairs is of a piece with his turn away from hard-right themes that began just after the Republican convention. His choice of Rep. Paul Ryan, the emerging leader of American libertarian conservatism, as his running mate seemed to foreshadow a campaign centered on the dreams of the radical right — scrapping Medicare, dismantling regulations and the welfare state. It hasn’t turned out that way.

Rather than confront Americans with a macro-shift in policy that they don’t want, Romney has focused on blaming Obama for the state of the economy and promising better times on the basis of the most vacuous, undefined economic policies we’ve seen since — well, since McCain, who had no economic policies to speak of.

This has surely been the more prudent option. The only presidential candidate to frontally challenge the New Deal’s social guarantees was Barry Goldwater, and we know how that turned out. Ronald Reagan, by contrast, campaigned by attacking Jimmy Carter’s stewardship of the economy (and of much else) and didn’t mount a Goldwateresque attack on universal social programs (though he did attack programs targeted to the poor and black). The anti-government proselytizing of the Republican right is all well and good, Romney’s strategists concluded, but even Reagan knew that was no way to win an election.

So what does all this mean for how Romney would govern, should he win? The longer he campaigns, and shifts shapes, the less we can be sure about what he actually believes. We tend, however, to put too much stock in what our elected leaders believe — and not nearly enough in the dominant ideology of their party and political base. George W. Bush, for instance, wanted to reform our immigration policies, but he couldn’t persuade his fellow Republicans in Congress to support a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Today’s Republicans, radicalized by a virulently anti-immigrant tea party, would be even less receptive to such policies. To win their support, Romney was the most anti-immigrant candidate in the GOP primary field; today, he’s strategically quiet on immigration matters. Even if Romney has moderated his views — a big if — there’s little basis for believing he can persuade his party to follow suit. So it goes with his policies on Obamacare (a few popular aspects of which he now says he would keep), his shift on the availability of employer-provided contraceptives and more.

While Romney has become a general-election tabula rasa, he sits atop what may be the most radical major political party in American history. Regardless of Milquetoast Mitt’s positions, a government with a Republican president and Republicans in control of the House and Senate would use its budget-reconciliation powers (which enables a Senate majority to sidestep the 60-vote requirement so frequently used to stymie legislation) to defund or repeal not only the health-care guarantees and financial regulations that Obama signed into law but also much of the education funding and regulatory safeguards on which Americans have depended for decades.

The radicals who dominate the Republican Party have entertained Romney’s turn to the center as a necessary electoral expedient. The day after a Romney victory, their blitzkrieg will begin — leaving the moderate Mitt of the general election to historians specializing in short-lived phenomena.