Time: President Obama dismissed Republican rival Mitt Romney’s critiques of his foreign policy credentials in an exclusive TIME interview, saying the GOP frontrunner’s attacks are little more than primary posturing that will wither under the glare of “a serious debate.”
“I think Mr. Romney and the rest of the Republican field are going to be playing to their base until the primary season is over,” Obama told TIME’s Fareed Zakaria during a White House interview that will appear in the next issue of TIME magazine. “Overall, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to argue that we have not executed a strategy over the last three years that has put America in a stronger position than it was than when I came into office.”
ABC: Although it is not apparent on his financial disclosure form, Mitt Romney has millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven.
…… As the race for the Republican nomination heats up, Mitt Romney is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a shroud of secrecy around the details about his vast personal wealth, including, as ABC News has discovered, his investment in funds located offshore and his ability to pay a lower tax rate.
Greg Sargent: …. Take special note of the quote that one expert gave to ABC: “His personal finances are a poster child of what’s wrong with the American tax system.” …. this is very dicey for Romney. Dems want to paint Romney as the walking embodiment of everything that’s unfair about our tax system and of all the ways the system is rigged on behalf of the rich and against the middle class. This won’t hurt that case.
One wonders if these revelations – combined with the layoffs at Bain; Romney’s tax rate; the fact that his tax plan would give the very wealthy enormous tax cuts while raising taxes marginally on lower income people; and his penchant for saying things that perfectly feed the “one percent” storyline – will generate any concerns among Romney’s top backers about his electability.
Media Matters: The Washington Examiner blog Beltway Confidential put up a post yesterday reporting that President Obama’s acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, worked at Bain & Company in the late 1980s. The Examiner suggested that this could “undercut attacks on Republican Mitt Romney’s career as a venture capitalist, because Zients and Romney are both alumni of Bain & Company.”
……. The criticism of Romney has focused on his work at Bain Capital, not his time at Bain & Company.
To be clear: Bain & Company is an entirely separate entity from Bain Capital …. The Drudge Report linked to the Beltway Confidential post with the headline “OBAMA PICKS BAIN MAN FOR OMB…”:
ThinkProgress: Samantha Garvey, a New York high school senior who has been living in a homeless shelter and recently named a semi-finalist in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition, will be Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-NY) guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday.
…. Israel told Newsday he was moved by Garvey’s story. “The State of the Union attracts the most powerful people on Earth, but I really think Samantha can teach them all a lesson in perseverance,” he said.
More: …. Michelle Obama is one of those people you sense before you see, her confidence somehow arriving on the scene a few seconds before she does. Even a roomful of antsy teenagers can feel it, leading them to fall silent moments before the first lady strides into the State Dining Room and greets them with a friendly “Hey! What’s happening?”
…. “They call me FLOTUS, for first lady of the United States,” she explains, noting that the president’s internal White House acronym is POTUS. “And there are many times when FLOTUS and POTUS feel like characters.” There have even been times, she says, when she’s craned her own neck to see which celebrity might be causing all the excitement. “And it’s me. Oh, man, it’s FLOTUS. FLOTUS is here. No one told me FLOTUS was coming.”
….. “But sometimes,” Obama tells her class of mentees, “I just want to be Michelle. So you guys have to start slowly seeing me as Michelle, all right?”
Dana Milbank: ….Solyndra has become a tool for Republicans to discredit most everything the administration seeks to do … this week, the government faced the prospect of a shutdown because House Republicans added a provision to the spending bill to draw more attention to – what else? – Solyndra.
“…. we have all agreed to add emergency funds we didn’t originally plan in this bill, and Republicans have identified a couple of cuts,” explained Mitch McConnell, including “a cut to a loan-guarantee program that gave us the Solyndra scandal.”
…. What McConnell neglected to mention is that Solyndra was cleared to participate in this loan-guarantee program by President George W. Bush’s administration. He also did not mention that the legislation creating the loan-guarantee program, approved by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2005, received yes votes from – wait for it – DeMint, Hatch and McConnell.
…. the Republican paternity of the program that birthed Solyndra suggests some skepticism is in order when many of those same Republicans use Solyndra as an example of all that is wrong with Obama’s governance.
…. DeMint said the Solyndra case exposed the “unintended results when our government tries to pick winners and losers.” That’s a valid criticism, but it would be more valid if DeMint hadn’t been a supporter of the loan-guarantee legislation in 2005.
But that was before Obama’s presidency, and views back then were different. They were more like the March 2008 press release from Bush’s Energy Department, announcing that it was funding research projects on photovoltaic technology: “These projects are integral to President Bush’s Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015.”
Among the winners listed in the press release? Solyndra.
Steve Benen: I find it hard not to enjoy stories like these:
On her visit to a traffic-signal plant [in Iowa] …. Michele Bachmann called it an example of how President Obama’s policies are “continuing to dig us deeper into the hole toward another recession”. …. she said her plans for a smaller government with fewer rules and lower spending would help OMJC Signal Inc. “grow, grow, grow, grow, grow”. “That’s my goal – to see you succeed wildly,” she told a gathering of OMJC workers on the plant floor here in the central Iowa town where she grew up.
So, what’s the problem? As it turns out, OMJC thrives thanks to government contracts – more than 80% of the company’s revenue comes from government….
The company’s CEO is a self-identified conservative Republican, who was apparently loath to ruin Bachmann’s appearance, but he conceded to reporters that his company benefited from the kind of projects promoted by President Obama and congressional Democrats.
…. Michele Bachmann, in other words, accidentally made Obama’s agenda look pretty good…..
HughBoyOhBoy (DK): I did some checking this afternoon on the Federal Election Commission’s database of financial contributors to political candidates. Within minutes I found that Harold W. McGraw III, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Standard & Poor’s parent company, is a big money contributor to lots of Republicans.
Repeat recipients of McGraw’s largess include Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, something called the Bush-Cheney Compliance Committee, and many more Republicans …. He has never given any money to the Obama campaign nor any to the Democratic Party.
Gee, how convenient. Standard and Poor’s issues a politically biased rating with a $2 trillion error. Republicans wave that rating around like Moses just brought it down from the mountain as verification of their defamation about the Obama presidency. And the head of the company making those ratings happens to give money to the likes of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party…
I see Romney’s campaign released a poster today (copied from a 1970’s campaign by Margaret friggin’ Thatcher) attacking the President’s jobs record …. oh Mitt, do you really want to go there?
New York Post (February 2011): ….Mitt Romney has been saying he is the man to get Americans back to work … However, the former private equity firm chief’s fortune – which has funded his political ambitions – was made on the backs of companies that ultimately collapsed, putting thousands of ordinary Americans out on the street.
That truth, if it becomes widely known, could become costly to Romney who told CNN’s Piers Morgan that “People in America want to know who can get 15 million people back to work,” implying he was that person.
Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, bought companies and often increased short-term earnings so those businesses could then borrow enormous amounts of money. That borrowed money was used to pay Bain dividends. Then those businesses needed to maintain that high level of earnings to pay their debts.
….Bain and Goldman Sachs, for example, put $85 million down in a $415 million 1994 leveraged buyout of Baxter International’s medical testing division (renamed Dade Behring), which sold machines and reagents to labs … In August 2002, Dade filed for bankruptcy.
This was not an isolated case.
* Bain in 1988 put $5 million down to buy Stage Stores, and in the mid-’90s took it public, collecting $100 million from stock offerings. Stage filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1992 bought American Pad & Paper (AMPAD), investing $5 million, and collected $100 million from dividends. The business filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1993 invested $60 million when buying GS Industries, and received $65 million from dividends. GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
* Bain in 1997 invested $46 million when buying Details, and made $93 million from stock offerings. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
Romney’s Bain invested 22 percent of the money it raised from 1987-95 in these five businesses, making a $578 million profit.
While I have not investigated all of Romney’s Bain investments and there may be cases where he made money and improved businesses, there’s little question he made a fortune from businesses he helped destroy.
Marketwatch: …. Romney was the governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007. And during that time, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the state ranked 47th in the entire country in jobs growth. Fourth from last.
The only ones that did worse? Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana. In other words, two rustbelt states and another that lost its biggest city to a hurricane.
The Massachusetts jobs growth over that period, a pitiful 0.9%, badly lagged other high-skill, high-wage, knowledge economy states like New York (2.7%), California (4.7%) and North Carolina (7.6%). The national average: More than 5%.
….In Romney’s first year in charge, Massachusetts ranked dead last in America in jobs growth. What makes this worse for Romney is that he actually ran on a jobs platform …. he promised the voters of Massachusetts that as governor he’d use his business savvy and connections to bring new jobs to the state.
Net result: 50th out of 50 after one year, 47th after four.
Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Under heavy pressure from Democrats and some reporters, McKinsey and Company has finally released the methdology of its study finding that many businesses are likely to drop insurance for employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
…..what’s immediately of interest is that in its statement, McKinsey repeatedly concedes that the study should not be seen as a predictor of future behavior. While McKinsey says it stands by the study’s methodology, the statement repeatedly stresses its lack of predictive value. This seems like a way of dealing with the fact that many other studies – unlike McKinsey – found that there would be minimal impact on employer-sponsored insurance.
….people might have thought the study was intended to be predictive because its initial headline was:
‘How US health care reform will affect employee benefits’
….I wonder how many of the news orgs that covered this study as a prediction will now cover the concession that it wasn’t intended to be a prediction.
Greg Sargent: Yet another interesting turn in the case of the mystery health care study … the consulting firm McKinsey and Company recently released a study that – unlike other studies – found that larger numbers of employers plan to drop insurance for workers because of the Affordable Care Act. Despite multiple requests from the White House, Congressional Dems, and news outlets, the company is refusing to release key details about the study’s methodology that would enable us to evaluate its integrity.
…Ironically, the author of an Urban Institute study used by the White House to refute the McKinsey report is none other than McKinsey’s own Bowen Garrett, the chief economist at their Center for U.S. Health System Reform. In his Urban Institute paper, Garrett dismantles “claims that the ACA would cause major declines in [employer-sponsored health insurance],” calling them, “greatly exaggerated.”
Wait, you mean McKinsey published a study claiming 30% of employers will drop employee coverage, in direct contradiction to the expressed position of one of their head health honchos?
Update from Greg Sargent: Wow. Dems are very quickly ratcheting up the pressure on McKinsey and Company – meaning it’s likely that we’ll see an increase in media scrutiny of the company’s continuing refusal to cough up the methodology of its now-controversial study on the Affordable Care Act.
In a very big development, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has written a detailed letter spelling out 13 very specific questions about how the study’s methodology was conducted …
I’m also told that three – count ‘em, three – House committees will send a letter today to McKinsey making the same request.
…This constitutes real pressure, and underscores how high the stakes have become for Democrats, now that Republicans have been regularly citing the study as a weapon against the health law.
President Obama is greeted by North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue after arriving at Raleigh Durham International Airport
…. greeted by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
…greeting wellwishers upon arrival on Air Force One at Raleigh-Durham
President Obama tours Cree, Inc, a manufacturer of energy efficient LED lighting, in Durham, North Carolina
President Obama sits next to Chairman of the council and CEO of General Electric Jeffrey Immelt as he meets with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness after touring a North Carolina energy efficient LED light manufacturing facility
Earlier this week McKinsey & Company released the results of their study that claimed 30 per cent of employers are planning to stop giving health insurance to their workers as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Almost all of the mainstream media unquestioningly reported McKinsey & Company’s findings and framed them as a major blow to President Obama’s healthcare reform.
A few – and only a few – voices in the media, though, were curious about the study, not least because it completely contradicted the findings of surveys by three independent organizations – The Rand Corporation, The Urban Institute and Mercer (see here)
Steve Benen: …How was the study conducted? What were the questions? How were the employers chosen? What were the statistical breakdowns among businesses of different sizes? Who funded the study? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said.
Kate Pickert (Time) noticed a small tidbit in the report: McKinsey acknowledged having “educated” those participating in the survey. And what, pray tell, did the company say to respondents that might have affected the results? You guessed it: we don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said.
Politico added that it “asked really nicely” to at least see the questionnaire McKinsey used to conduct the employers survey, but the company refused. Raise your hand if you think the McKinsey & Company report has some credibility problems.
Greg Sargent: …as a number of critics were quick to point out, McKinsey’s finding is at odds with many other studies – and the company did not release key portions of the study’s methodology, making it impossible to evaluate the study’s validity.
There’s now been a new twist in this story.
I’m told that the White House, as well as top Democrats on key House and Senate committees, have privately contacted McKinsey to ask for details on the study’s methodology. According to an Obama administration official and a source on the House Ways and Means Committee, the company refused.
Now the White House and top Congressional Democrats are asking the company to release the baseline information we need to evaluate the study’s credibility and integrity. So this story could now get a good deal more interesting.
TPM: …multiple sources both within and outside McKinsey tell TPM the survey was not conducted using McKinsey’s typical, meticulous methodology.
“This particular survey wasn’t designed in a way that would allow it to be peer review published or cited academically,” said one source familiar with the controversy …. All sources were granted anonymity, in order to be able to speak candidly about the controversy.
Reached for comment today, a McKinsey spokesperson once again declined to release the survey materials, or to comment beyond saying that, for the moment, McKinsey will let the study speak for itself….
Another keyed-in source says McKinsey is unlikely to release the survey materials because “it would be damaging to them”.
Both sources disagree with the results of the survey, which was devised by consultants without particular expertise in this area, not by the firm’s health experts.
…Republicans, and reform opponents, seized on the report’s conclusions to sow further suspicion of the law…..