I couldn't have said it better myself...so I'm not even going to try.
I couldn't have said it better myself...so I'm not even going to try.
And the winner of the Florida straw poll is...Herman Cain? I don't think anyone anticipated that result. What does he have that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney don't? Well, not necessarily anything, but Rick Perry has stumbled in recent weeks, especially at last Thursday's GOP debate, and Mitt Romney skipped campaigning in Florida, as did Michele Bachmann, citing the unimportance of this particular straw poll. This left the door wide open for businessman Cain to swoop in and take the win. But who is Herman Cain, and why do some Republicans find him a very attractive alternative to the current crop of GOP presidential candidates?
Cain, 65, graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, and holds a masters degree in computer science from Purdue University. While pursuing his graduate degree, Cain also worked full-time in ballistics for the Department of the Navy. In 1986, he became CEO of Godfather's Pizza, after managing to turn around the unsuccessful Burger King franchises in Philadelphia. Cain immediately reduced Godfather's from 911 to 420 stores, and cut thousands of jobs, making the company profitable for a short period. He remained at Godfather's until 1996, when he was asked by the board to resign.
Cain entered the world of politics in the early 1990s, when he became a vocal opponent of the Clinton health care proposal. He was a senior economic advisor to the Dole/Kemp Presidential campaign in 1996. Cain was briefly a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000. In 2004, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, but lost in the Republican primary. In May 2011, Cain announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President.
Cain joined the 2012 presidential race as an outside-the-establishment alternative to the usual front-runners. His signature position is the 9-9-9 tax plan, which calls for replacing the current income tax system with a flat 9% personal income tax rate, a flat 9% corporate tax rate, and a 9% national sales tax. The personal income tax would replace Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as well as the estate tax. The sales tax, which Cain says would apply to "all new goods" would be on top of current state and local sales tax. In Chicago, for example, the result would be a whopping 18.75% sales tax, which for low-income residents could be crippling, since they spend a higher percentage of their income on goods than more wealthy Americans. Yet Cain stands by the national sales tax, stating that it would encourage people to save more. That's just great, unless you're barely scraping buy and need to feed a family, and savings isn't really on your radar screen. Cain's scheme certainly fits right in with the "lower taxes" mantra of the Republicans, but whether it would do any good at all for the economy - especially an ailing economy - remains very questionable.
Yet regardless of whether his 9-9-9 plan would be viable or effective, enough Republican voters - at least in Florida - are, to use a cliche, mad as hell and not gonna take it any more. The career politicians of both parties have largely lost the public trust, particularly in the current atmosphere of Congressional gridlock. Herman Cain is, in the eyes of many Republicans, the best of both worlds; the business experience of a Mitt Romney, without the flip-flopping or the perceived spinelessness of many office-holders. But the thing is, the United States can't be run like a business. It's not possible to lead the country out of debt by closing locations and slashing jobs. The perceived advantage of not being "tainted" by having been elected to office is negated by the lack of experience in dealing with interest groups and opposing parties.
Socially, Herman Cain is as conservative as any other candidate: pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-concealed weapon, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-Obamacare. Even more troubling, Cain has said that he would not appoint a Muslim to his Cabinet of as a judge, because "there is this creeping attempt to gradually ease Shariah law and the Muslim faith into our government". So right off the bat we know that a Cain presidency would, at best, alienate American Muslims, and at worst actively discrimate against them.
I applaud Herman Cain's business success. I'm sure he could be successful pulling another company out of financial trouble. But this is not the time for a politically inexperienced and socially far-right candidate to be nominated, let alone elected. As a Democrat, I admit that I'm tempted to say that I'd love for him to be the nominee, because he's likely unelectable. On the other hand, I'd hate to see a segment of the U.S. population so frustrated, ill-informed, or just plain ignorant as to nominate someone completely unprepared for the office of President of the United States. However, his Florida straw poll win will likely garner him and his 9-9-9 tax plan a second look by many voters. The next few debates and polls will determine if his success is lasting, or his only hurrah.
One of the most cherished rights in our country is the right to vote, and many organizations work tirelessly to educate voters and increase voter turnout. But for some, the fewer people who cast ballots, the better. And by some, I mean a highly organized, well-funded group of Republican governors and legislators who would prefer to keep certain demographics from voting in 2012. Since 2010, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, 38 states have introduced bills that impede voters from casting ballots, and a dozen states have recently passed laws that may effectively keep millions of voters from the polls in 2012. But, according to statistics, voter fraud at the polls is not the pervasive problem that some would have you believe. (check out www.truthaboutfraud.org for further analysis). The pervasive problem, in the eyes of Republicans, is that too many Democrats are going to the polls. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization linked to the notorious Koch brothers, has been the inspiration for many of these voter requirement laws, by distributing model legislation to Republican-controlled states. Even worse, many of these new laws are not being publicized after their passage, so people who have been able to vote in the past may have an unpleasant surprise when they arrive at their polling places in 2012, because they were not made aware of the changes to the requirements.
Among the recent changes to voting laws, five states have cut short their early voting periods, making it more inconvenient for many to find time to go to the polls. Two states - Florida and Iowa - have barred all ex-felons from voting, disenfranchising several thousand who could previously vote. In one of the most talked-about of voting law changes, six states - all controlled by Republican governors and legislatures - have passed laws since 2010 requiring people to show a government-issued valid photo ID (such as a driver's license, passport, or military ID) prior to voting. What's the problem with such a requirement? The problem is the number of otherwise qualified voters who don't have such an ID - about 10% of U.S. citizens, in fact. Many of these people have voted in past elections, but may not know that the requirements have changed. Senior citizens, students, minorities, and the poor are among those who simply may not have up-to-date IDs and will be turned away at the polls under the new laws. And it's no coincidence that many of those citizens are likely to vote Democrat.
In the 2008 Presidential election, young people, blacks, and Hispanics turned out in record numbers, and those segments tended to vote for Obama and the Democratic candidates. In 2010, turnout levels were unusually low among these voters, and unusually high among seniors, whites, and conservatives. Given the results of both elections, Republicans would clearly prefer a turnout more like that of 2010. It stands to reason that voter requirements that disproportionately reduce the number of young people and minorities who can vote will also reduce the number of Democratic votes cast.
The key to keeping these citizens from being turned away at the polls in 2012 (regardless of their party afiliation; NO ONE should be caught by surprise when they try to cast a ballot) is to educate them now about new laws in their states, to give them enough time to obtain the required IDs. This isn't as easy as it may seem. Having to track down or dig out a birth certificate or other required document in order to obtain identification can be quite a barrier to action. The key to keeping people voting in every election is to speak out against these requirements. Although not as blatant as poll taxes and literacy taxes that used to be imposed in Southern states to keep African-Americans from voting, the results of these laws are similar, in that they prevent the voices of otherwise qualified citizens - from specific demographics - from being heard.
President Obama just announced that he's sending the American Jobs Act to Congress today. Now comes the fun part. Even though the President states - correctly - that the bill consists mostly of proposals supported by both parties, expect to see Republicans howl, as usual, about how tax cuts, not spending, are the way to create jobs. They will complain that the first stimulus plan in 2009 did nothing to help unemployment, even though it saved or created over a million jobs. They'll moan that regulations are job-killers that need to be abolished.
In fact, the immediate problem is neither taxes nor regulations, but a lack of demand for what business sells. What the economy needs in order to create jobs are policies that put money in people's pockets quickly, and spending that puts people back to work by rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and educating the nation's children, both of which are crucial, yet too-often ignored by the anti-spenders.
Yes, the deficit is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. However, if the deficit is cut at the expense of jobs, a downward spiral is created. An austerity budget is not conducive to economic growth. Lack of economic growth means lack of job growth. Lack of job growth is exactly where we are now.
Conversely, stimulus spending creates jobs. Creating jobs grows the economy. Growing the economy reduces the deficit. That's why such spending is called investment; it pays off in the future. Critics claim that the first stimulus act didn't work, and while it was admittedly not as effective as many had hoped, it still created jobs that would not have been created otherwise. The truth is, we can never know what shape employment would be in without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Would the unemployment rate be even higher than it is now? The odds are good that it would be.
So anyway, back to the fun part; getting the American Jobs Act - or at least a decent percentage of it - passed and enacted. This is a moment of truth for House Republicans. If they suddenly oppose proposals they have supported in the past, say, payroll tax cuts, it is going to quickly become obvious that they are opposing the President's proposals merely because they are the President's proposals. That kind of game-playing does not generally sit well with the American public, regardless of party. The next two weeks are going to be legislatively ugly, but the will tell the country a great deal about whose interests Republican lawmakers have at heart. Unfortunately, I don't have much reason to be optimistic about the outcome.
Like The Daily Beast on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates all day long.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is rolling out an economic plan today that includes 59 ideas based on limiting government interference in the market to stimulate growth.
Speaking of Mitt Romney (and the other not crazy candidate)
I've blogged about GOP Presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, which is relatively easy to do because they're so, well, crazy. But I can't put it off any longer...I have to write about Mitt Romney, the candidate who went from being the front-runner to having to scratch and claw to remain relevant in what has become a Tea Party-and-God-dominated GOP landscape. His 2012 campaign story, although quite boring in and of itself, is interesting in that he's having to reinvent himself as slightly bonkers to even stay in the running.
Long story short, Mitt Romney was at one time a registered Independent, and his views pretty moderate. That is, until he felt the need to backtrack on all his moderate opinions. At the time he was elected governor of Massachusetts, he was a supporter of abortion rights and gay rights. As governor, he famously passed near-universal health care law, including a mandate for MA residents to purchase insurance. However, in 2005, he reversed his position on abortion, moving from a pro-choice stance to a strict pro-life one. In 2006 he encouraged the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. These shifts can likely be attributed to his developing Presidential ambitions.
The most obvious shift that Romney has needed to make since his 2008 attempt at the GOP nomination has been distancing himself from the health care reform law that he crafted and enacted. Following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, when it was clear that no Republican who supported government mandates would be widely supported, Romney immediately called the Act "an unconscionable abuse of power" and went to great lengths to differentiate his Massachusetts law from the federal law, essentially by saying that a state-level mandate is an entirely different animal than a federal mandate.
Romney has backed himself into a corner. He could have been the alternative to the Tea Party candidates; instead he pandered to their constituency and looks more like the wimpy kid in school running to catch up with the "cool kids". Or should I say "cool kid", Texas Governor Rick Perry. As Perry's poll numbers have been rocketing upwards, Romney has begun courting the tea party constituency in earnest. He is still considered a front-runner, along with Perry, but the numbers have been shifting Perry's way, and Romney's camp is desperate to grab some of those supporters, not by differentiating himself from Perry, but by remaking himself as more tea-party friendly. The big barrier to that is, of course, Romney's now-infamous Massachusetts health-care plan, which is a deal-breaker among many conservatives, regardless of how conservative and "small-government-friendly" the rest of Romney's views are. Yesterday's Tea Party Forum hosted by Jim DeMint was highly anticipated largely because it would be the first opportunity for Romney and Perry to be compared side-by-side. But Mother Nature was having none of it, and Perry instead returned to Texas prior to the forum so that he could attend to the wildfires ravaging the state. So the showdown will have to wait until the debate on Wednesday evening, provided Perry is able to attend.
Another issue that hasn't really come up yet on the campaign trail this time around is Romney's background as a Mormon. It was pretty big negative for him in the 2008 primaries, and it may yet become one this time around, but at the moment I think that the Christian evangelism of Bachmann and Perry, like their tea party fervor, has stolen the spotlight. Who cares about the Mormons when God is sending us a message with hurricanes and earthquakes?
I'm supposed to have a point, aren't I? Well, perhaps the fact that I have no strong opinion on Mitt Romney is my point. I wouldn't vote for him, but I actually feel a bit bad for the guy. Before the advent of the Tea Party, I'd have considered him a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, but the influx of the crackpot candidates has hurt him. He's a very successful businessman, who managed to pass a major health care reform law while serving as governor, and who doesn't invoke the name of God in every other sentence. Apparently for some Republicans, that's strike one, two, and three right there. So should he try to backpedal and gain tea-party supporters, or should he stand firm and separate himself from the tea-party candidates? He appears to have made his choice, and all I'm going to do is grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch the show. And probably write some more meandering blogs...