This morning on NBC, Mitt Romney said that “there are a number of things that I like” about Obamacare and suggested he would retain: 1. The guarantee that insurance companies couldn’t discriminate against people with pre-exisiting conditions, and 2. The provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents plan.
In reference to how Romney would deal with those with preexisting conditions and young adults who want to remain on their parents’ plans, a Romney aide responded that there had been no change in Romney’s position and that “in a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for. He was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features.”
A Romney campaign aide sends a statement to BuzzFeed stating that Romney “will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited.” This does not mean he supports the protections in Obamacare and would leave millions uninsured.
Small town Mayor Mia Love (R-UT), a GOP congressional candidate who received a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, is considered a rising star by many within her party. Yet she offered a defense of the Republican Party’s plans to roll back reproductive freedom on Fox News Sunday today that takes a significant amount of liberty with the English language. In a discussion about the GOP’s plan to make abortion illegal, defund Planned Parenthood and enable employers to restrict their employees’ access to birth control, Love suggested these policies will lead to “more free choice and more liberties” for women. Watch it:
Love also claimed that GOP policies will let her “keep a little bit of my own money so I can pay for my own contraceptives if I want to,” but that’s only true if Love is very wealthy. Even under the most generous reading of the Romney/Ryan tax plan, middle class families would experience a tax increase of up to $2000.
If you are in any way involved in communication, especially science communication, this book is a must read. Rarely do I finish a book and like it so much, that I reread it almost immediately. I did this one.
Everyone can become a more memorable and effective speaker because there is really just one big secret to being a memorable speaker — knowing how and when to use the figures of speech, especially metaphor, antithesis, and the various types of repetition.
Of course a great speaker like Bill Clinton is a master of the figures. In his 1996 acceptance speech, he created an optimistic metaphor for his second term: “We need to build a bridge to the future…. So tonight let us resolve to build that bridge to the twenty-first century.” He repeated the bridge metaphor in various forms two dozen times.
In his Wednesday night speech for Obama, widely considered the best speech of both conventions, Clinton repeated the word “arithmetic” six times to drive home his point that the Republican budget doesn’t add up. He had lines like:
I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.
This is antithesis—placing words or ideas in contrast or opposition. It was one of Lincoln’s favorite figures, in unforgettable lines such as “the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here” and “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”
Probably 90% of the lines in books of famous quotations make use of one or more of the figures. The two biggest sources of famous quotes – the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare — were written by Elizabethans who learned more than 200 figures of speech in school. They called it “grammar school” for a reason. You learned Latin grammar to read Latin writers like Cicero and Virgil, especially to learn what they knew about the figures.
One of the least appreciated but easily-confirmed facts about the current state of the American economy is that the number of Americans employed by the government has gone down under President Obama. But apparently this is news to one the Republican Party’s most prominent tea party conservatives. During a roundtable discussion on ABC this morning over the size and adequacy of the 2009 stimulus, a flabbergasted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked economist Paul Krugman if he was actually arguing that government employment had gone down under Obama:
PAUL: The thing I don’t understand is that you’re arguing that the government sector is struggling. Are you arguing that there are fewer government employees under Obama than there were under Bush?
KRUGMAN: Of course. That’s a fact. That’s a tremendous fact.
PAUL: No, the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama.
KRUGMAN: If government employment had grown as fast under Obama as it did under Bush, we’d have a million and a half more people employed right now — directly.
PAUL: Are there less people employed or more people employed now by government?
As Krugman quickly pointed out on his blog, the answer is “less.” Now, perhaps Paul was thinking of employment by the federal government alone, which did tick up just slightly: 2.77 million at the end 2008 versus 2.8 million currently. But add in state and local government jobs, and the hard number for government employment dropped by around 600,000 after Bush left office.
As a matter of fact, the share of jobs in the economy provided by the public sector went up following the 2001 recession under George W. Bush, the 1990 recession under George H.W. Bush, and the 1981 recession under Ronald Reagan. Only after the latest recession, which hit just before Obama took office, did the share of public jobs drop.
In no small part this is due to another point Krugman made — that the stimulus, while large, was inadequate to the country’s needs. This has been particularly true in the area of state aid. Spending cuts at the state level overtook additional spending at the federal level in late 2009 and have been driving a contraction in the public sector ever since.
Rep. Paul capped off his anti-Keynesian argument with the strangely Zen-like assertion that “Roads don’t create business success. It’s the other way around. Business success allows us to build roads.” It’s unclear what this could mean. While tax revenue is dependent on economic growth, the very nature of a depression is a self-reinforcing negative spiral in the private market. Business success is sluggish, meaning employment and income is sluggish, meaning consumers are held back from buying enough goods and services, so business success remains sluggish. The whole point of Keynesian stimulus — of which government employment is one form — is to move money into the hands of consumers by the alternative route of the government and thus reverse the process.
Sen. Paul’s office released a statement — with a corresponding radio interview — responding to the debate with Krugman. It read in part:
The only logical number we could have been discussing was the number of federal workers. Since the last time I checked, Barack Obama was the President, not a mayor or governor. Under President Obama, the federal workforce has grown by 143,000 according to the Labor Department… Yet Professor Krugman added in local and state workers to inflate this number, an irrelevant point at best.
The 143,000 number excludes federal postal workers, and it’s not clear why Sen. Paul’s office would think that exclusion necessary. Including postal workers, as ThinkProgress did, the federal workforce only went up 27,000 between December of 2008 and now — an increase of around one percent. Hardly “enormous” growth.
Nor is it clear why Sen. Paul calls the state and local numbers “irrelevant.” As pointed out above, state and local budgets are deeply intertwined with federal spending, a point even the conservative American Enterprise Institute conceded. And the larger context of Sen. Paul’s disagreement with Prof. Krugman was the economic value of government employment, in which case a state or local job is as good (or as bad, depending on your view) as a federal one.
Back in April, President Obama signed the JOBS Act and one of the most-heralded elements was so-called crowdfunding. The law sought to solve a major problem: it’s hard to finance small-scale business ventures. Wall Street only cares about multi-million dollar plays and securities regulations make small-dollar projects rather difficult (and costly) to jointly fund.
The Act could have big implications for community-based renewable energy projects.
Right now, there are two kinds of community-based renewable energy projects, the charitable or the persistent. Solar Mosaic, for example, was founded and funded on the concept that many environmentally-motivated people would help finance local solar projects with 0% interest loans. They succeeded in building several projects, but the model is constrained by the limited universe of people who have money at hand and are willing to let it be used for no reward.
The other kind of renewable energy project allows participants to get some kind of financial reward through sheer persistence, overcoming enormous regulatory and legal barriers to success (some of which I covered in this 2007 report). It means finding a complex legal structure to capture federal tax credits despite needing investors with “passive tax liability” or sacrificing federal incentives for simple ownership structures like cooperatives or municipal utilities. It means having “accredited” (rich) investors or only soliciting investors through personal relationships. This community wind project is an illustration, as are several solar projects in this report.
The JOBS Act may finally allow thousands of regular folks to make a modest return (5-10%) by investing in local renewable energy projects. The Act allows for crowdfunding under the following circumstances:
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has gotten in hot water before for criticizing President Obama for the very same defense cuts that he voted for in 2011. When confronted with this incongruity today on Face The Nation, Ryan simply denied that he ever voted for the cuts, telling an incredulous Norah O’Donnell that he didn’t actually vote for the cuts he’s on record as voting for:
O’DONNELL: Now you’re criticizing the President for those same defense cuts you’re voting for and called a victory.
RYAN: No, no — I have to correct on you this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says the sequester will occur if we don’t cut $1.2 trillion in government. … We can get into this nomenclature; I voted for the Budget Control Act. But the Obama Administration proposed $478 billion in defense cuts. We don’t agree with that, our budget rejected that, and then on top of that is another $500 billion in defense cuts in the sequester.
O’DONNELL: Right. A trillion dollars in defense spending, and you voted for it!
RYAN: No, Norah. I voted for the Budget Control Act.
O’DONNELL: That included defense spending!
RYAN: Norah, you’re mistaken.
O’Donnell is, in fact, not mistaken. The Budget Control Act, as passed, included both the roughly $600 billion in “sequestration” cuts that will happen if there’s no compromise on the budget by December as well as the $487 billion of military-supported cuts that will take place regardless. The fact that Ryan may have wished that the bill didn’t contain said defense cuts does not absolve him of the fact that he and 201 other Republicans voted for the bill as-passed.
Moreover, Ryan’s statement after voting for the bill contained not a single word of criticism about the defense cuts. As O’Donnell correctly noted, Ryan said the bill “represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy” and that “The agreement – while far from perfect – underscores the extent to which the new House majority has successfully changed Washington’s culture of spending.” It’s at best misleading, and at worst an outright lie, for Ryan to assert that voting for the Budget Control Act did not mean voting for defense cuts.
On Meet The Press this morning, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney claimed that his tax plan — which provides a 20 percent tax cut for all Americans — would not “reduce the tax burden” on the rich, even as he has touted the plan as a tax cut for everyone and independent analyses show that it would, in fact, provide a massive tax break to the wealthiest Americans:
GREGORY: Give me an example of a loophole you will close?
ROMNEY: Well I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they’d get a tax break, and I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers. I’m bringing down the rate of taxation, but also brigning down deductions and exemptions at the high end so that the revenues stay the same, the taxes people pay stay the same — middle income people are going to get a break, but at the high end the tax coming in stays the same…
Romney’s plan, in reality, would provide the very richest Americans a $264,000 tax break. It also maintains current tax rates on investments that are otherwise set to expire at the end of the year, and it eliminates the estate tax, paid by only the richest one-quarter of one percent of Americans.
Romney is apparently arguing that he will raise enough revenue through the elimination of tax loopholes that benefit the rich to totally offset the tax cut he provides them, though an analysis from the Tax Policy Center found that to be a mathematical impossibility. There simply isn’t enough revenue to be generated through the closure of those loopholes to offset the massive cost of Romney’s plan, and even if it was possible, Romney again declined to provide host David Gregory a single loophole he would favor closing.
Romney also repeated that he would both balance the budget and reduce taxes on middle-income Americans, another mathematical impossibility. To provide the full tax cut, Romney would have to either abandon his pledge to maintain current revenue levels or raise taxes on middle-class families by as much as $2,000. Doing both, as Romney asserts he will, violates elementary laws of arithmetic.
Nevertheless, on Meet the Press this morning, Romney claimed that he would not eliminate some of the most popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as protections for patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on parents’ insurance plans:
“Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.” . . . .
“I say we’re going to replace Obamacare. And I’m replacing it with my own plan,” Romney said. “And even in Massachusetts when I was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions and with young people.”
Congressional Republicans have offered no plan forward aside from repeated votes to repeal Obamacare in its entirety. And Romney’s claim that he can retain Obamacare’s guarantee that all Americans have access to insurance while repealing its other parts is pure fantasy. The reason why both Romneycare and Obamacare contain a requirement that nearly everyone must buy health insurance is because “if patients can wait until they get sick to buy insurance, they will drain all the money out of an insurance plan that they have not previously paid into, leaving nothing left for the rest of the plan’s consumers.” Indeed, “seven states enacted a pre-existing conditions law without also passing an insurance coverage requirement, and all seven states saw health insurance premiums spiral out of control.”
Over the past several months, extreme weather and climate events in the form of heat waves, droughts, fires, and flooding have seemed to become the norm rather than the exception. In the past half-year alone, millions of people have been affected across the globe – from Europe suffering from the worst cold snap in a quarter century; to extreme flooding in Australia, Brazil, China, and the Philippines; to drought in the Sahel. Records have been broken monthly in the continental United States, with the warmest spring and 12-month period experienced this year and severe fires and drought affecting large swaths of the country.
So how bad has it really been? Below we have put together a timeline of extreme climate and weather events in 2012. We have by no means attempted to be comprehensive in listing events, but have aimed to include some of the most significant occurrences this year. Please let us know through the comment section if we are missing some, as we plan to update the timeline periodically.
It’s too early to tell how the rest of the year will take shape, and it’s true that every year is marked by floods, droughts, heat waves, and other extreme events. However, these past months are unusual in that numerous records have been broken around the world.
When Jaime Merriman visited Kenya, she saw giraffes, but she was not on a wildlife tour. Merriman’s close encounter happened at Kenya’s geothermal facilities, where the striking animals were completely undisturbed as they grazed.
In fact, Merriman seems as in awe of the geothermal facilities as she is of the creatures. After all, she asked to be assigned to geothermal energy in her role promoting U.S. exports to emerging economies for the U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA).
The export market for geothermal goods and services has noticeably expanded in recent years, and a January 2012 survey of Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) members showed that over 65 percent were exporting technology or otherwise involved in geothermal development abroad.
Africa represents an important new opportunity for U.S. geothermal firms. While Africa has had its economic problems, it has seen strong economic growth over the past decade. Real GDP has been growing at roughly 5 percent annually, making the continent among the world’s fastest growing regions. This has been due at least in part to government efforts to diversify economies, spur employment, and encourage industrialization — all presenting a rising need for reliable electric power.
Geothermal company Power Engineers, which has been involved in geothermal work in Africa since 2000, has seen a significant level of outside development funding for the region from U.S. and other international development agencies, NGOs, and national development banks.
“The apparent competitive appetite of the national development banks to fund geothermal projects in the Rift area is a subject of keen interest,” company representatives Mike Long and Marshall Ralph wrote in an e-mail to GEA.
Kenya, the leader in geothermal development in the region, targets a GDP growth rate of 10 percent starting 2012, with electricity demand to grow in tandem through the Vision 2030 initiative. Geothermal energy is also produced in Ethiopia, and other countries are increasingly interested. Together, supportive government policies along with high-grade, largely untapped geothermal resources spell economic opportunity.