Romney v. Romney

The joke going around last week was that a liberal, a conservative and a moderate walk into a bar. “Hi Mitt,” says the bartender. Here’s Mitt proving the point:

“This week, President Obama will release a budget that won’t take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis,” Romney said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”

Hat tip on this one to Paul Krugman.


That's actually really impressive. Many politicians manage to express all 3 viewpoints, but Mitt is so talented that he managed to do so in just 1 soundbite. Well done.

+1 to Brian, but -100 for politics in this blinkered democracy. I mean, really? REALLY? THAT is the kind of thing a major Presidential candidate has to say?

And he's one of the over 100 IQ ones (so I thought...)

Krugman and his clueless echo chamber are simply wrong. Cutting medicare did NOT reduce entitlements. Obamacare simply shifted the spending from one entitlement into a new one.

Does a commitment to reducing entitlements mean that Romney has to be silent about Obama creating a giant new entitlement and using medicare to partially fund it?

This nonsense is precisely why losertarians have the net effect of creating a larger, more intrusive government.


Obama responded "Keep your government Mitts off my tax-expenditure reductions!"

It does sound weird, but to be fair to Mitt, there is a good chunk of GOP primary voters, that want to reduce entitlements, but not SS of Medicare, because they "paid" for it.

No-one's saying it isn't sound political logic, it's just grossly incoherent from a factual perspective.

That's exactly what the Republican "base" happens to sound like. Social Security and Medicare = "things we earned" that that everyone else (read: Coloreds) are stealing from us.

Paranoid much?

Paranoid? That's what a CA Central Valley primary voter (for Santorum I believe) was saying. What exactly is paranoid in observing that Republican politicians are simply reflecting the stupidity of their constituents? The Romney remarks are nothing new, this is exactly what "conservatives" have been howling for the last two years. Medicare and Social Security are off-limits because these poeple think they have earned it and whats really costing the government is all that money going to "handouts." At some level, I'm almost sympathetic to their naivete and their perhaps genuine inability to come to grasps with their hypocrsiy, but on the other hand, its also just plain old stupidity.

So one guy is the same thing as "the Republican 'base'"?

You really think Republicans and Democrats are any different in this regard?

Look at the polls. Conservatives want to "cut spending." They do not want to cut spending on the military, SS, or Medicare. There really is not much left. The discussion of cutting "entitlements" goes nowhere if the latter two are not addressed.

As far as the usual "they're both the same!" canard - um, no. They are not the same. One party wants to reduce the deficit by cutting taxes and not cutting entitlements.. The other party wants to reduce the deficit by increasing taxes (only on the wealthy however - that is a fair criticism) and not cutting entitlements. These two are the same? Seriously?

It's much more than one guy. Not isolated at all.

Is it typical? It would be nice to see some survey data that managed to avoid the tendency of people to be dishonest when it comes to talking about race. I think there are plenty of people on the "right' - especially lower educated people - who, yes, are pretty explicitly racist. Probably not a majority. But there are more people who, while maybe not seeing it in explicitly racist terms, are convinced, absolutely convinced, that the vast majority of government spending goes to the "other" - not just the racial other, but those dirty hippies, liberals, cities, unions, teachers, and so on. Certainly there are several people who comment here, who I believe are generally not racist, but have a ... well, let's be charitable ... uninformed notion ... of where the money goes goes now, and, more so, where it will go 20 to 30 years from now without entitlement reform.

Of course it's bunk - not that there aren't plenty of "liberal" rent seekers out there, but most of the government dime goes to the elderly, interest payments, and the military. One of which is unavoidable (in the short run, at least), the other two the areas where the conservative base (mostly) doesn't want to cut. And a significant portion of the rest is corporate welfare of one sort or another, most of which the contemporary right is just fine with.

Of course it is all deeply incoherent. But say what you will about Ron Paul, though, at least he has a mostly consistent take on these issues.

Aneesh, Now you are moving the goalposts. You made no mention of raising taxes before. The point is, no one wants to cut entitlements. I don't think many people really want to raise taxes either, except maybe for pointless symbolic taxation of millionaires that will do nothing to close the deficit.

LarryM, I wasn't talking about racism, but now that you mention it I have never heard anyone mention race in this context except for democrats.

Cliff, that might be a telling point if it was, you know, true.

I wasn't responding to you anyway. Try to follow the thread. I know linear thinking is tough for some people, but try.

But setting aside the racial aspect of this, I think it is very telling that Alex (and Tyler), no friends to the Democrats, can very clearly see this dynamic (and despair of it). Fact is, all intelligent, informed observers who are not partisan hacks see the incoherence of the current Republican position on entitlements (driven large measure by the fact that the elderly have become a key Republican constituency). Saying that the Democrats are worse, even if true (it's not, though that is FAR from a ringing endorsement of the Dems), does not change that.

You cannot close the deficit just by taxing the rich -- even if you seized the entire taxable income of everyone making $100K or more, you would not have closed the deficit in 2008 ( -- keep in mind ~30% of it is already seized). OTOH if we cut spending to the levels of the early 2000s or so we could balance the budget tomorrow. It's a spending problem, not a tax problem.

Anyways, the party with explicitly racist policy positions is the Democrats. They're the party of affirmative action, race-based caucuses, gov't-enforced race-based hiring (and it's been this way a long, long time -- they were the party of Jim Crow and slavery too, they just switched over to black/latino racism when white racism became unfashionable.) There may be some segment of white racists in the GOP, but there's no Congressional White Caucus or raft of policies explicitly intended to advance whites at the expense of other races. If there's a party that wants to judge people "by the content of their character" it's the GOP.

(omre precisely, the entire taxable income over 100K, of everyone making more than 100K*, i.e. a marginal rate of 100% at 100K)

Screw "earning" it, shut the whole damned thing down tomorrow and I'll be fine regardless.

Wow, that is pathetic.

Or he could have said, "Hi, Barack!"

Liberals can't even come up with their own jokes? Pathetic.

Three years ago it was:

A communist, a Muslim and an illegal alien walk into a bar. The bartender says, "What'll you have, Mr. President?"

I'd say the version that's accurate and uses exclusive categories works better.

+1. Liberals have always been funnier on average than conservatives.

So, religious extremist windbag/sometime populist, or quantum banker (he can hold multiple positions at the same time!)?

Big ups to Jamie.

I think the rest of the joke is: "Hi Mitt," says the bartender..."an O'Doul's as always?"

Reminds me of those morons in Greece. They don't want spending cuts, they don't want higher taxes, and they don't want a bailout from Germany.

Mitt is just pimpin' it old school. As P.J. O'Rourke said years ago, "...the whores are us."

Democracy fail.

Aye. The reason I can't vote for Obama is that I think Mitt's last clause is incorrect. :^)

Alas, I often find myself having to vote for the candidate I estimate is the bigger liar.

You think it's incorrect? You can find out you know. (I'll give you a hint. Mitt's correct. You're not)

Not by enough. Not nearly enough.....

Medicare has only been around since 1965 so I wonder how Mitt's campaign is defining the modern era.

The thing about Romney is he still has integrity because he really has no idea.

Has America had teetotaler presidents before ( potentially ) Romney?

George W. Bush for one (ex-alcoholic). According to Wiki, also Abraham Lincoln and Rutherford B. Hayes (haven't checked independently). None of the presidents during Prohibition abstained from alcohol, of course.

Was Carter a drinker?

I don't trust a man who doesn't drink. And Romney doesn't drink coffee either. He should be barred from humanity.

Sinatra used to say he felt sorry for non-drinkers, because when they woke up that was the best they were going to feel all day.

was Sinatra drinking every night after he turned 12 or so, or did he just have the luxury of sleeping in all the time?

I have no idea but maybe both?

Benjamin Harrison, whose wife "Lemonade Lucy" was the horror of the diplomatic corps, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. As to Lincoln, I have heard a lot of conflicting stories and never heard that about Hayes.

What a surprise all crappy Presidents - except Lincoln I guess, but his status is unknown.

That joke makes no sense. What would Mitt Romney be doing in a bar?

Raising campaign funds?

He flip flops on the teetotalering. He's only a Mormon until he has to get votes from Kentucky Bourbon country.

I appreciate a vote-whore. It's the only reason to trust a politician, really. Open Payment For Services Rendered.

This reminds me of the "If by Whiskey" speech (, ha!

Thank you so much for turning my attention to that. Absolute brilliance.

I wonder if he managed to write that with a straight face

I am not sure I see the internal contradiction:

Romney states:"“The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors."

Let's start with Medicare: Then the article states that, according to the AP, "the Obama budget would save $360 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, mostly through reduced payments to health care providers. But it would not include significant changes to the programs." Thus, the AP would seem to agree with Romney on this point: spending cuts but no reforms.

Now, reduced payments to healthcare that politically feasible? How many times has Congress threatened to cut payments to physicians, just to later back down? So Obama's promise here is not credible. Further, the article states that Obama wants to make those cuts primarily to Medicare Advantage programs, that is, payments to private insurers. Thus, Obama wants to reduce the role of the private sector even further in medicine. Will this improve efficiency?

Romney instead would like to use block grants to states and individual healthcare accounts. Thus, he would seem to imply that this would be a more efficient way to use funds. I interpret Romney as making a value-based argument versus Obama's cost-based argument. There is no inherent inconsistency, at least in the text of the article.

In fairness, Romney does criticize Obama for cutting Medicare spending. But clearly this is unlikely to happen in through reduced payments. However, with Obama on the record having said it, Romney is entitled to bash Obama with his own words. That's politics.

As for Social Security, Romney criticizes Obama for no entitlement reform. Romney's program, by contrast, calls for a higher retirement age and lower benefits for high income earners. Again, I fail to see the contradiction here from the body of the article.

So, show me where Romney contradicts himself in the article. I don't see it.

Let's not get worked up here - we're talking about a Politician here, he doesn't really deserve fair treatment either way.

Sigh. And we see the underlying problem - the ignorance of voters.

Regarding social security, there is I guess a way to square the circle if you want to be exceedingly charitable to Romney. But the long term entitlement crisis is driven mostly by medicare. And there is no way to square his comment on medicare with his comment on entitlements. None.

I'd be the first to admit that both parties are horrible on entitlement reform. But one thing you can say for sure about the Republicans - their dependence upon the elderly as one of the key parts of their current voting coalition makes it absolutely impossible that they will pass any type of meaningful entitlement reform. Perhaps some type of toothless plan to cut make theoretical cuts that won't take place for years (read: never).

What the US, State, and local governments spend on health care is more than is spent in Canada in total for health care on a per capita basis.

What the private sector in the US including employers, individuals, private charities, spends on health care is more than is spend in Canada in total for health care.on a per capita basis.

Granted, health care sometimes requires waiting in Canada, with the average delay for a death bed being about two years in Canada, forcing Canadians to live on average two years longer than Americans.

The key variable to controlling health care costs is universal coverage. The less universal the cover, cost control boils down to trying to avoid providing health care to people and the result is that people end up in near death conditions. In Africa, hospitals like the first one Congress authorized circa 1800 for arriving sick seamen: a place to be given some care while dying. But in the US, you arrive at an ER where thousands and hundreds of thousands are spent bringing someone back to where they would have been if getting regular care of some sort.

If ER's and other critical care facilities and personal checked to see if a sick or wounded person was on the official list to be denied health care, then deny care to groups of people would control costs. But Reagan signed a bill that includes EMTALA that makes it illegal for most hospitals to not save the life of someone who is on the list of people to be denied health care because in the end, they will get "free' health care that is hugely expensive that government spreads around to everyone else.

So, merely making universal coverage the law in the US, the most important step in getting the US per capita health care costs to converge with the rest of the world has been taken. Controlling health care costs must be done the same way Wal-Mart controls costs: increasing efficiency. Wal-Mart has used different methods at various times just like other nations do and have done. When Wal-Mart focused on cutting staff and paying them low wages, competitors like Target were able to expand and eat into Wal-Mart's business by spending smarter and more on staff to make customers happier, and it didn't force Target to charge higher prices more than Wal-Mart did to provide better service.

This is not quite as bad as the kind of magical thinking that you see on some of the less informed portions of the right,. where voucherizing medicare somehow (the mechanism is always unclear - just vague invocations of the power of the market) results in massive efficiencies which will allow us to adequately insure the elderly at a fraction of the cost of medicare (even free market advocates like Tyler don't buy that one), but it's still pretty bad.

The reasons why health care in the United States is so much more expensive than in the rest of the developed world are well known and have little to do with the presence or lack of "universal coverage," quotes used because that term means very different things in different nations. There are no free lunches; there may be policy proposals that will slow the increase in what the nation pays for medical care (certainly the proposals on the right would do that, but at the cost of massive suffering by the elderly), but "universal coverage" is no panacea in that regard, and believing that it is is the same sort of magical thinking engaged in by portions of the right.

The point is that Romney's statement that Obama's budget does not take any meaningful steps toward solving the entitlement issue is false. I realize criticizing politicians for making false statements may be a bit quaint.

More generally, I am puzzled by the notion that PPACA's cost control provisions are worthless because Congress will override them. It's true that Congress can override the decisions of the IPAB. Guess what, though? They can also override the policy proposals of a future Romney Administration. One of the differences between Obama's and Romney's ideas for Medicare cost control is that one of them actually happens to be current law while the other is a somewhat vague proposal by someone who hasn't quite been nominated to run for President yet.

If Romney wants to argue his idea is more politically viable than Obama's, let's hear his argument. As it stands, his statement is pretty fatuous no matter how charitably you insist on parsing it.

Speak of Paul Krugman - what about having him guest blog here? I mean you like to argue with him but he really doesn't have much of a platform himself.

You may or may not realize this, but most comments like yours are indistinguishable from parody.

Of course he realizes this, isn't that the purest definition of trolling?


You may not realize this but most of my comments ARE parody

What I'm saying is PK supporters come here and say similar same things in all seriousness.

This is not contradictory when you realize that "entitlements" in that paragraph is more literally meant as "money that goes to black people".

And the party that believes that cutting the NEA can fix budget problems.

Both Social Security and Medicare are universal programs. They are not targeted at any racial group, but rather at the elderly. Nor does Romney, in the article, assert that cutting Amtrak or the NEA will balance the budget.

Plenty of commenters, and Alex as well, slammed Romney here. Fine and good. But in the article I can't find the assertions so many have made here. Argue whatever you will, but then have the data support your assertions.

Romney is pandering to a Republican/Tea Party base that thinks those retarded thoughts. What part of that don't you get?

Bingo. Those trillions we spend on food stamps.

I am really amazed how anything Republicans think is because they are racist.

Cliff, do you read comment sections in conservative blogs? Interviews with less educated conservative activists? Do you even KNOW and speak with less educated conservative activists? I agree that the level of racism in the conservative base is sometimes exaggerated, but denying it's existence is either blinkered or intentionally dishonest.

Of course you don't see much if any of that on THIS blog, but even here there are people that are convinced, absolutely convinced, that most of the money the government spends is going to welfare & to interest groups favored by liberals. I got into a debate with someone on here who was certain that we could balance the budget long term without raising taxes or cutting programs for the elderly (at least he was realistic enough to realize that defense needed to be on the table). That's what we - and I mean we, I'm concerned about entitlement reform also, even if I don't think much of the proposals coming from the right on that front - are up against.

Please, left-liberals are FAR more racist than conservatives.

Conservatives at least do not actively pursue racist policies such as affirmative action.

Also, for instance, Samuel L Jackson: "I voted for Obama because he's black." Not even trying to hide it, right in Ebony magazine (for some reason there isn't an "Ivory" magazine, gee maybe because that would be... racist?).

Can you imagine the outcry if someone said they voted for McCain because he's white?

90%+ of the racism in this country is on the left.

TallDave, I'm surprised at you on this one. You seemed smarter.

I suppose you think it's racist that white people can't use the n-word either. No 'Ivory' magazine? Really?

msgkings, do you realize that the current double standard, when black nationalism / separatism / supremacy is tolerable, while white one is not, is a FAR cry from Martin Luther King's dreams, to which many people pay at least lip service?

And why precisely do you doubt TallDave's intelligence?

I thought you were smart enough to see the double standard.

Just try for a moment to imagine a Congressional White Caucus.

The really funny thing is that the Democrats were always the party of racism, they just changed races. Before the 1960s, they were the party of institutional white racism -- slavery, Jim Crow, etc -- and they morphed seamlessly into the party of black and Latino racism the moment white racism became unfashionable.

Again, I always get a nice chuckle at white people who are mad they can't do some of the things minorities can do, like use coded language, or make certain kinds of jokes, or form ethnicity-based groups.

Yeah, those black people are so lucky they get to have a congressional caucus. Poor whitey.

@ Marian:

One of my heuristics is racists are dumb. I didn't think TallDave was dumb before, but now...

My heuristic says people who don't understand the problem of double standards are dumb, but YMMV.

The question wasn't whether it's unfair, the question was whether it is racist. And I do feel sorry for the Asian kid who loses his seat to a black kid who scored 500 points lower on the SATs because of explicitly racist admissions policies fostered by explicitly racist groups, which strikes me as both.

The problem with having the CBC is precisely that there's logically no reason why we couldn't then also have a CWC that did things like Jim Crow. I would much rather live in a non-racist country than a country that adopts whatever form of racism seems fair or fashionable at the moment.

Oh I know what a double standard is, and I'm well aware certain minorities (as well as women) have certain 'privileges' based on their ethnicity (or gender). I just don't begrudge most of them.

Affirmative action is something worth debating, I'm not a proponent of race-based quotas for example.

But I'm ok with race-based language taboos, and caucuses, and so on. White people have it pretty good in this country, relative to other races.

As Chris Rock hilariously said (I'm paraphrasing), "to all the white folks complaining about all the stuff black people get to do and say that white people can't, not a single one of you would trade places with me and be black like me. And I'm rich!!"

I think I can kumbaya with you on this.

Let Romney be Romney.

Which one?

People really shouldn't read everything they believe.

This isn't really fair to Romney, Obama's cuts to Medicare absolutely did not do anything to address entitlements, because the cuts were only enacted as part of a gigantic new entitlement which is much larger than the proposed cuts and which is not paid for.

So, this isn't so much an indictment of Romney's rhetoric as of the absurdity that Obama actually managed to cut Medicare while making the entitlement problem worse.

Universal coverage is the only proven method of controlling health care costs.

In other words, point to a nation that gives different levels of care to citizens that spends less per capita for the same national outcomes as Canada, Germany, Israel, UK, France, ....

The US supposedly reduces per capita costs by denying care to people based on their ability to pay, but in the end, noone is willing to not provide care.

Ron Paul was asked point blank about a young adult who didn't buy insurance and had no money getting into an accident. Ron Paul's first response was like "he chose not to provide for care, so he suffers the consequences of his choice". The follow up question was "so if he were taken to a trauma center, they should just let him die because that is what he deserves?" to which Ron Paul hemmed and hawed and did NOT say "Yes, he should left to die without treatment".

No mulp,

Universal coverage is one of the ways proven NOT to control costs.

Why don't you understand that? I'm asking seriously.

Just because our costs are higher on an absolute and you call other countries Universal doesn't change the fact that their costs are rising at the same if not higher rates. I've pointed out that Korea, just for example, at the current rates overtakes us by about 2020.

Ron Paul did not Hem and Haw, he answered the question directly, that is exactly why he took heat for his answer.

And it's a dumbass question. The cost of stabilizing a person in the emergency room is completely separate from using the emergency room for routine care, which is why Obama wants to charge poor people $750.

It could work just like EVERYTHING ELSE like that has worked. You accept the service, you pay it back. Why, again asking seriously, is medical so special that people must be FORCED to prepay?

It isn't a simple problem, but yet there's the fact that universal coverage does make the adverse selection aspect easier.

Also, the Ron Paul thing is very silly -- people actually did get medical care before insurance, you know. The obvious thing to do is just send him a bill afterward.

Let's say you guys are right when you constantly remind us that we are a filthy rich country. Let's also assume you guys are right when you constantly remind us that rich peoples' dollars aren't important as poor peoples'. Then since we are rich and the extra dollars don't make us as happy, then paying more for healthcare is an obvious result. That's not to say that how much more we pay is the obvious result. I think that comes a lot from the fact that ALL the increase in healthcare spending can be attributed to the increase in payments by the government. The point is that won't end as you put government even more in charge of doling out the money.

Andrew - we get it you are rich and drunk on Valentines day wine and angry and its 3 in the morning. Calm down. No one that reads these blogs really cares if poor people get health care or not. People in red states say they don't want benefits, especially if they have to put up with a black president or rich people have to go back to living under the brutal oppression of Clinton era tax rates. Liberals will give up eventually.

Andre -

I am more than happy to live with Clinton era tax rates if we can also get Clinton era spending levels.

That is just the kind of deal the moderates in this world including myself would love to see, but thanks to Grover and 'the pledge', we can't possibly get to.

In addition to being wrong, that has nothing to do with whether Obama made the entitlements crisis worse.

I doubt a devout Mormon would walk into a bar often enough for the bartender to know his name.

OTOH, would Mormons make good bartenders?

I was brainwashed by the MA liberal establishment.......

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