Desperation watch: O’Malley continued!


Will these talking-points work: On Sunday, we cringed a bit as Martin O’Malley pushed the “Swiss bank account” line within an inch of its life (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/9/12).

Last night, O’Malley chatted with Big Ed. To our ear, a hint of desperation was in the air:
SCHULTZ (7/10/12): I want to play this. President Obama was asked in a television interview in New Hampshire, he was asked this question, and I think every elected official should answer this question. That’s my opinion. Here it is.

(Begin videotape)
REPORTER: Is it your belief that it’s unpatriotic for someone to have a Swiss bank account?

OBAMA: You know, I think what’s important if you are running for president is that the American people know who you are, what you have done, and that you’re an open book. And that’s been true of every presidential candidate dating back to Mr. Romney’s father.
(End videotape)

SCHULTZ: Pretty clear that President Obama is walking a fine line there. He didn’t answer the question directly. He talked about transparency.

What do you think? Is it unpatriotic to have money overseas after getting the fruits of the land here in America and being successful?

O’MALLEY: You know, I think what’s very, very clear is that having your money sheltered overseas and avoiding paying your taxes in America when you’re part of the highest earning 1 percent of our country means that you’re not contributing to our economy and not making it grow.

I appreciate—you know, I know people have asked, is it patriotic or not patriotic? I think more fundamentally, we need to ask, does it work to make the economy grow or not? I mean, their theory is that if you cut taxes even more deeply for the top 1 percent of people, they’ll invest it back in creating jobs.

That’s not what Romney is doing with his money, is it? He put it in Switzerland. He put in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and that’s the core of this and why the Romney campaign is so very afraid of this issue and why they won’t release the taxes.

SCHULTZ: I think it’s a character issue. I think it’s far beyond the economy.
Finally, after all these years, our side is explicitly playing the unpatriotic card! Big Ed thinks every pol should be asked if Romney has this famous old illness.

To our ear, there was a hint in this exchange of us becoming like them.

On tape, Obama avoided this question. For perfectly obvious reasons, O’Malley avoided it too.

Will these cards work for our team? We have our doubts, although Big Ed is often inclined to drift in these directions. But again, we’ll offer a basic point:

Romney is an atrocious candidate. He has made the most ridiculous policy proposals any major-party nominee has ever made. He's also unskilled on the stump.

And yet, the liberal world is so unable to sell its positions that we are reduced to Swiss bank accounts and lack of patriotism. In our view, sensible progressives would ask themselves how we reached this place.

In fairness, the depth of the economic collapse would make it hard for any incumbent. But why are we unable to sell our side’s understanding of this collapse?

This morning, the New York Times plays the Swiss bank account card in its featured editorial. We’re not sure this approach will work. But as we watch this theme play out, we think we see a hint of desperation in the air.

In days to come, we’ll offer some thoughts about why our side has so much trouble selling its basic values, beliefs and policies. Romney is promoting atrocious policies—and yet, he’s tied in the latest poll.

To borrow from SNL circa 1988:

How can we be losing (potentially) to this guy? How can we be statistically tied?


  1. The Democratic Party cannot run a campaign the way Politics 101 says it should be run. If they ran they way, say, FDR would have run, they'd instantly lose their donor class.

    The Dems cannot articulate their values because they walked away from those values in order to raise money.

    As a liberal, this has been the slowest and most depressing train wreck these past 20 or so years. For every election battle we've won, we've lost narrative frame after narrative frame. The sad part is most of us don't even know it. We're too busy telling dick jokes and calling the other guy stupid.

  2. Well, once again, Bob misses the point of the 2000 and 2004 elections as he misses the point on this one, too.

    When you allow your opponent to define you as a rich, spoiled kid who grew up in privilege and is now totally out of touch with working class America, you're doomed to make the election at least close enough for the other guy to steal.

    The point about the Swiss bank accounts, the "blind trusts" with money squirrelled away in the Caymans, and even the dressage horses isn't about whether it's "patriotic" or not.

    It's about whether Mitt Romney has any idea how the other 99 percent (or more accurately 99.99 percent) live.

  3. Mr. Somerby, the "latest poll" which you cite, in which Romney is tied with Obama, is no longer the latest. Reuters and Quinnipiac today have Obama up by 6% and 3% respectively.

  4. O'Malley was spinning, almost lying, when he said, "...having your money sheltered overseas and avoiding paying your taxes in America..." I have a few foreign investments and I did some consulting in Bermuda, so I know the tax treatment.

    On foreign investments or other money earned abroad, one pays full US income tax and full income tax in the state of domicile. Not only did I pay US and California income tax on money I earned in Bermuda, I even paid a big self-employment tax representing Social Security and Medicare.

    In certain cases, money earned by a foreign investment may have already paid foreign taxes. Then, the amount of foreign income tax paid would offset US tax on that income. In this special case, having money invested abroad does reduce US income tax paid. However, having money invested abroad doesn't "shelter" it. One pays as much total income tax as if the earnings were in the US.

    1. Actually, O'Malley was not so concerned with evading taxes as he was about hoarding money, that is, keeping it out of circulation.

      This is precisely why Keynesians say the government has to put money into an underperforming economy when the "Job Creators" won't.

      Of course, as anti-Romney propaganda, this complaint is underwhelming at best.

      But to call Romney unpatriotic for hoarding is akin to pulling the pin on a grenade and counting to five before throwing it.

  5. New Gallup poll on confidence in TV news:

    Just 21% of adults said they had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in TV news. That's down 25% from 1993, when Gallup began the poll.

  6. Our side has so much trouble selling its basic values because our side has no basic values, besides gay marriage and legalized pot and some vague idea that racism is bad, and everyone who opposes us is a racist. People fight for basic values, and these are the only things our side fights for.

    1. Ahem... If that's true, why are you on our side?

  7. I'll ask again, not that Master Somerby reads his own comment section. Bob harrumphed for weeks that when discussing Bain it was vital to say that the company was "looting," particularly pension funds. Fine. Typical for Bob that there must be only one right way to address any topic and anyone who misses it is clearly Part Of The Problem, but, whatever, put that aside for now. What is the difference between harping on "Swiss bank account" and harping on "looting"? Why is one an idiotic strategy that shows the bankruptcy of liberal political discourse in microcosm, and the other the height of rhetorical persuasion?

    1. Wait - you can't see the difference between looting the middle class workers' pension fund and merely having a Swiss Bank account? Or why one angle of attack might be more potent and more substantive than the other?

      Oh God, kill me now.

    2. Bob was quite specific. The only proper thing to say about Bain's activities was that they constituted "looting." It was not appropriate or effective to say that they destroyed jobs, or didn't create jobs, because that was just getting bogged down in semantics. It was "looting," that word, or it was a waste of time.

      As to the larger point, no, I don't see why "Romney's company looted the companies it invested in" is obviously more potent than "Romney parks his wealth in foreign banks to avoid taxes." Both speak to his perspective. Romney advocates policies that benefit people like him, and doesn't give a rip about anyone else.

      Maybe there's a difference in degree. But that's not Bob's view. Bob's view is that the "looting" point is brilliant and the "Swiss bank" point is mindless. And they're really not so different. They're both evidence that Romney's business record is shady.

    3. And, for that matter, above you lament Democrats' loss of various "narrative frames." You say that Democrats don't attack wealth because that way they lose the "donor class." If those are the issues, why not fire with both rhetorical barrels at arrogant wealth, whether it's looted pension funds, Swiss bank accounts, or dressage horses? I don't see how avoiding saying "Swiss bank accounts" helps address the problem you diagnosed. Narrowly focusing only the just-right attack or counterattack sounds like a good way to "lose narrative frame after narrative frame."

    4. "looting" and "destroying jobs" aren't two ways of saying the same thing.

      Bob was decrying the lack of focus on the stealing-people's-money aspect of some of Bain's activities.

      It's your own foolhardiness that sees that as "only one right way to address any topic."

      I see Somerby constantly admitting -- on this particular subject, the best electoral strategy to pursue -- that he isn't certain which way(s) are best.

      But I think I do agree -- it was very vexing to see NO INTEREST in the issue of theft, looting, whatever words you want to use, the vampire capitalist strategy Bain sometimes employed.

      Vexing to see the papers and shows basically ignore that aspect of Bain and pretend it was all about either job creation or the lack therof (ie, buying into the GOP frame, one where Obama was potentially also vulnerable) or capitalists-are-bad (ie, creating a straw man version of the argument to knock down).

      You are right -- there's not just one way to do things -- but I don't see that really being a difference between you and Somerby.

      And I think oldmancoyote22 is right also -- there is a reason we don't see what I would call the strong version of the case against Bain (the theft version, the looting version, the vampire version) being much used -- and it is that the party money people don't like it.

      The Democrats *have* basically abandoned non-identity based critique of money and power.

      "Swiss bank account" stays with the identity politics. It's their version of hey, Patriotism and such. It's pretty weak, I think.

  8. Howler, respectfully, you have answered your own question.

    "In fairness, the depth of the economic collapse would make it hard for any incumbent."

    Not to let Obama off the hook for a number of things --- not least, doing a very poor job of articulating his accomplishments, let alone defending them --- but if unemployment were at 5% and the economy were producing 200,000 jobs/month, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And years of recession and slow growth following a financial collapse were not only predictable; they were predicted.

    By 1984 and 1996, the economies were recovering. Reagan could run on a slogan, "Morning in America." And I don't even remember Clinton's campaign themes from 96. Didn't matter: With roaring economies, Mondale and Dole didn't stand a chance.

  9. Krugman's take:

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