September 8, 2012

Liar’s Poker Election 2012 Style: The Stakes are High

by Hal Gershowitz

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Liar’s poker, a simple and sometimes high-stakes game that many compulsive gamblers like to play at the drop of a hat. Here’s how the game is played.  Each player holds a set of numbers, usually serial numbers on dollar bills  (although any denomination will do). The player who goes first calls out numbers such as a pair of deuces or three (or four) of a kind as though he or she is announcing a poker hand. Then the second player generally ups the ante by announcing a better poker hand than did the previous player. The players may or may not be bluffing and any player’s hand (or bluff) can be called at any time. Whoever winds up with the best hand, often having survived many bluffs, wins.

In two months, the country will elect a new president in what, so far, has turned out to be the biggest rolling Liar’s Poker game in history.  Either the incumbent, Barack Obama, will be reelected or his rival, Mitt Romney, will succeed him in office.  Between now and then the public will need to call the bluff of the candidate at the Liar’s Poker table who seems to be betting the house with cards that will not add up to a winning hand for the American people.

While all political Liar’s Poker players, including GOP contenders Romney and Ryan, do some tall bluffing with campaign hyperbole, President Obama and his acolytes around the Liar’s Poker table have proven to be world-class players.   Let’s take a look at some of the claims that have surfaced so far.

Most recently, former President Bill Clinton weighed in with his nominating speech at the Democratic National Convention.  National Public Radio, certainly no Republican ax grinder, almost immediately released a fact check by the Associated Press that establishes Clinton’s credentials at the Liar’s Poker table.  Here are just a few excerpts from what the fact checkers revealed:

Clinton claims that Obamacare is reducing healthcare costs, a Liar’s Poker Players bluff the fact checkers were quick to call.

“…people insured through the workplace by and large have seen little relief from rising premiums and cost shifts. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the average premium for job-based family coverage rose from $13,375 in 2009 when Obama took office to $15,073 in 2011. During the same period, the average share paid by employees rose from $3,515 to $4,129.

While those premium increases cannot be blamed on the health care law — as Republicans try to do — neither can Democrats claim credit for breaking the back of health care inflation.

CLINTON: “I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. … I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working but most people didn’t feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history.”

THE FACTS according to the Associated Press: “Clinton is counting on voters to recall the 1990s wistfully and to cast a vote for Obama in hopes of replicating those days in a second term. But Clinton leaves out the abrupt downward turn the economy took near the end of his own second term and the role his policies played in the setting the stage for the historic financial meltdown of 2008.

While the economy and markets experienced a record expansion for most of the rest of Clinton’s two-term presidency, at the start of 2000, there were troubling signs. Then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned in February 2000 that “we are entering a period of considerable turbulence in financial markets.”

Sure enough, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average both peaked in March 2000. The bursting of the high-tech bubble dragged down the economy and markets through the rest of the year. From September 2000 to January 2001 when Clinton left office, the Nasdaq dropped 46 percent. Even now, in 2012, the Nasdaq has not returned to its 2000 peak. By March 2001, the economy toppled into recession.

Also, as president, Clinton supported the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a law dating back to the Great Depression that separated banking from high-risk financial speculation. Robert Rubin, who had been Clinton’s first treasury secretary, helped broker the final deal on Capitol Hill that enabled the repeal legislation to pass. Some financial historians say the repeal of the law paved the way for banks to invest in risky investments like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations that played a role in the 2008 financial meltdown. (Editor’s note: Rubin quickly left government and joined CitiBank as soon as Glass-Steagall was repealed.)

___CLINTON (reminiscent of his finger-waging days): “Their campaign pollster said, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.’ Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself — I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.”

The Associated Press was quick to remind those who heard Clinton’s finger-waging admonition that the former president, who famously finger-wagged on national television during his intern high jinks, later said those statements were “legally accurate” but also allowed that he intentionally “misled people.”

Then there is the absolutely fantastic Liar’s Poker bluff that President Obama and his White House knew nothing about the party platform fiasco that removed any mention of God from the platform and the standard language recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.  We can dismiss the spin that Obama didn’t know anything about it.  As though no one in the White House or the party thought to ask the President, “do you have any problem with our deleting reference to God from our party platform, or dropping our commitment to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?” The more interesting question, however, is why in the world would the party do such a thing, and why did the White House let it pass as it most certainly did (until last Wednesday)?  Could it be that the Democrats had their eyes on Michigan, home to over 500,000 Arab Americans (voters and donors) making it host to the second largest Arab population in the United States?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chairman of the Democratic Party, claims that under Ryan’s Medicare reform plan  “seniors will be thrown to the wolves” for which The Washington Post Fact Checker promptly awarded her three Pinocchios. The DNC quickly sited a study that it claimed supported Wasserman-Schultz’s claim. Michael Cannon a health policy expert and one of the authors of said study called Wasserman-Schultz’s claim “high-octane idiocy.”

This is similar to the notorious grandma-being-pushed-over-the-cliff video that the Democrats have aired, which bears no relevance to anything Romney or Ryan have proposed.

Then there is that whopper last month from Vice President Biden before a largely black audience; “Romney and Ryan want to put “y’all back in chains.”

Another beauty often repeated is that Mitt Romney will raise taxes on the middle class, and get a tax break for himself.  A similar and related claim is that of Harry Reid, apparently channeling the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, that he has a secret source, which he cannot reveal, that claims Romney has not paid taxes for ten years.  Romney has replied that he has never paid less than 13% and, essentially, called Reid a liar and challenged him to reveal his so-called secret source.  Reid refuses to reveal his source, who, we can assume, doesn’t exist. Currently the top ten percent of taxpayers pay seventy percent of the taxes, and the top 2% pay nearly half the taxes. Meanwhile, the bottom fifty percent do not pay any federal income taxes at all; in fact many of them receive refunds under an earned income credit in which they get back social security taxes that they have paid.  What motivates President Obama when he talks about the wealthy not paying their fair share?  If the wealthy paid every nickel of income they earned, it wouldn’t make much of a dent in the deficit, let alone the national debt.  Obama’s war against the highest taxpayers is not about reducing the deficit. It is about pitting them against all other taxpayers.

In another ad President Obama claims that he has a plan that will create jobs and a plan to pay down the debt.  What and where are those plans?   He has had 3½ years in office, and during that time the nation’s debt has soared to over 16 trillion dollars, having increased more during Obama’s first three and a half years in office than it did during George Bush’s eight years in office.  His deficits have run approximately a trillion dollars a year.  He has not had a single budget passed, because his own party won’t pass what he has proposed. They wouldn’t even vote on it, not even when his administration controlled both Houses of Congress, and the unemployment rate has never dipped under 8% during his entire term in office.  Many people have just stopped seeking jobs.  If they were counted the unemployment rate would be much higher.

Perhaps the most outrageous bluff of all is found in the pro-Obama ad in which Joe Soptic, the former steel worker blames Mr. Romney for the death of his wife. The plant in which Mr. Soptic worked closed in 2001; two years after Mr. Romney left Bain Capital to rescue the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.  Soptic’s wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, five years after the plant closed and passed away shortly thereafter.  CNN spoke to Mr. Soptic and found that when he lost his GST job his wife was still working and carried her own health insurance, which she later lost when an injury forced her to leave her job.

The ad was the brainchild of Bill Burton, former White House Deputy Press Secretary, who now runs the Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA. Wolf Blitzer interviewed Burton, who said that the Obama Super PAC stands by the ad and that there is nothing factually inaccurate in it. An excerpt from the Blitzer interview illustrates the bluffing bravado of this particular Liar’s Poker aficionado.

BLITZER:  So even though so many fact checkers say it is inaccurate, it’s not responsible, it’s misleading, you’re still going to go ahead and play it?

BURTON:  Well, Wolf, just like we just talked about, what we are – what this ad does is it tells a story of one guy and the impact that Mitt Romney had –

BLITZER:  It’s misleading to tell.

BURTON:  Well, this is your opinion.

To make matters worse, Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager later waded into the mud, essentially agreeing with Burton.  The Washington Post’s Fact Checker had the last word, awarding the ad four Pinocchios.

USA Today, in an editorial called the Obama Super PAC ad, “…far over the line between reasonable campaign hyperbole and shameless falsehood.

Then there are the claims by President Obama and his acolytes that the Republican plan will increase taxes on the middle class and decrease them on the wealthy.  What Mr. Romney proposes is that nearly everyone pay some percentage of their income in taxes. However, he proposes a 20% across-the-board reduction in tax rates. Thus, someone in the 10% tax bracket would drop to a new 8% tax bracket and someone in the current 35% tax bracket would drop to a new 28% tax bracket.  The tax-rate reductions in Romney’s plan, in fact, closely follow the pro-growth recommendations of President Obama’s own Debt and Deficit Reduction Commission (Simpson-Bowles). The Romney plan, as well as the Simpson-Bowles plan to cut tax rates for everyone in order to stimulate real economic growth makes common sense, but these sound approaches are being sacrificed by the Obama Campaign because they are simply incompatible with the campaign’s class warfare re-election strategy.

Recently, President Obama told an Iowa audience “I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa in the next few days.  Mr. Ryan is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way, so if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities.”  Paul Ryan, in fact, was in Washington supporting the Farm Bill.

Speaking of Mr. Ryan, Democrats have flown into an orgasmic frenzy trying to scare the public about Mr. Ryan’s proposals for rescuing Social Security from the bankruptcy it faces in just a dozen years. The President knows Social Security needs reforming if it is to survive, but has chosen to play the demagogue on this issue, at least until after the election.

President Obama has, with a Liar’s Poker player’s straight face, suggested that, “what we did with the auto industry we can do in manufacturing across America.  Let’s make sure advance high tech manufacturing jobs take root here, and not in China, and that means supporting investment here” (he likes to call government spending investments).  We would point out, of course, that wiping out corporate bond investors who finance American companies as Obama did with his White House managed bankruptcy of General Motors probably won’t do much to instill confidence among those who invest by buying American corporate bonds.  Governor Romney on the other hand, who through Bain Capital, has in fact really managed hundred of millions in investment in American businesses has the far stronger hand to play with respect to growing the economy.

President Obama likes to bluff Jewish voters and others who are supportive of Israel by claiming his has been the most Israel friendly Administration ever. While cooperation between our defense establishment and Israel’s is touted as being, very strong, the American-Israel relationship has never been more strained, as the platform fiasco discussed above illustrates. Obama doesn’t hide his dislike for Netanyahu.  Everyone except, apparently, the Obama White House knows that Obama’s diplomacy and spoon-fed sanctions have had no real effect on Iran’s march to nuclear capability, and his ill-advised, highly publicized announcement that an Israeli-Palestinian peace must be based on the pre 1967 borders, of course, leaves Israel nothing to negotiate.  Then again, there have been no negotiations, since Obama demanded an end to all settlement activity including normal expansion within existing Israeli neighborhoods.  The Palestinians previously had never made cessation of such construction a condition of negotiations, but they have now. They have refused to negotiate ever since Obama made that demand, quickly pocketing this diplomatic misstep.

Perhaps the boldest of the bluffs made by President Obama is his gem that those who have taken risks and built successful businesses really didn’t build those businesses.  He chides successful businessmen and women who he says like to say “I just must be so smart,” as though any really successful business people talk or think that way.   Successful entrepreneurs, he tells us, are merely one among many (teachers, road and bridge construction workers, etc) who made those businesses possible.  He has it, of course, exactly backwards. It is the taxes paid by those in the private sector that provide the funds for teachers, other public sector workers and for road and bridge construction.

President Obama has been running around the country selling (and guaranteeing loans for) windmills and solar energy as the future when various regions of the country are sitting on oil shale from which American oil production could virtually equal that of Saudi Arabia.  America does not suffer from a paucity of energy resources. Natural gas, petroleum reserves (artificially sequestered), and coal could make America energy independent for many generations to come but for the excessive restrictions with which the government shackles the country.

You get the idea.  This is a Liar’s Poker game to which the American public must pay close attention, because the stakes are very high; quite literally the future direction of America.

This is Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter, and we approve this message.

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5 responses to “Liar’s Poker Election 2012 Style: The Stakes are High”

  1. Mark J Levick says:

    If one is to believe the polls, the majority of Americans find Obama to be likable and trust worthy and do not hold Romney in high esteem. Thus, it would seem that if one lies long enough and loud enough in a folksy manner and has his media lap dogs support his leadership while his Chicago boys and Joe Biden raise character assassination to an art form, no one will pay attention to the facts you so susinctly stated.

  2. elliot solomon says:

    I think at this point the majority of the voters have already madeup their mind and are in overload over which candidate will do what and who is telling the truth.There is no question that Pres obama’s organization is well oiled and if anyone could blur the facts of their record they are the best. Having said that I still believe that most voters realize that their lives are not better and are not getting enough free stuff to make them believe the country is on the right path.
    I believe the independents will call Pres Obama’s hand and go for the gop this time

  3. Joyce Gruenberg says:

    According to Mitt Romney President Obama has”thrown allies like Israel under the bus”.According to defense minister, Ehud Barak, ” I can hardly remember a better period of American support and backing, and Israel cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now. I agree facts are stubborn things and according to the New York Times ” The facts back up the Presidents staunch support of Israel-facts that even $100 million from a casino magnet can’t refute.
    oh yes ! thanks for the I like Mitt on Facebbook but how do I delete it?

    • While we have, in these essays, agreed with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s prior assessment that cooperation between US and Israel’s defense establishments has been very strong, we note with some alarm Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey’s vey recent and very public warning that the US will not be complicit in any military action Israel takes against Iran. With respect to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate on negotiations, Israeli construction within its existing settlements including within existing israeli neighborhoods in its Capital city, Jerusalem, and the spectacle at the Democratic convention regarding recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we think Governor Romney had it right. Israel was thrown under the bus. As for instructions for deleting anything from Facebook, we suggest doing what we do. Ask any 13-year old.

  4. Judy says:

    And just why can’t Obama take time from his fund raising to meet with Israeli leaders? One would think he would fly in for a few hours of work.

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