Mitt Romney finally released his 2011 tax returns (9/21), which ran to to 379 pages but did little to quiet concerns over his refusal to release tax records from when he ran Bain Capital and his refusal to come clean about his overseas dealings.

Andrew Leonard noted at Salon.com, “First, Mitt and Ann Romney donated a whole heck of a lot of money to charity in 2011 — $4,020,772, to be exact, or about 30% of their total income. But they chose only to claim $2.25 mln of that total as charitable deductions, because, well, otherwise their overall tax burden would have been a little, shall we say, light.”

Romney had said in August, based on the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years. But if Romney had claimed all the deductions he had a right to, he would only have paid around 12.1%.

“There’s something both hilarious and pathetic about a presidential candidate manipulating his deductions so he ends up paying what he considers a more politically appropriate tax rate,” Leonard wrote. “But it’s especially ludicrous in light of Romney’s numerous claims that he’s always paid the government exactly what he owes, “and not a dollar more,” implying that anyone who voluntarily gave the government more than he legally owed was either a fool or a moron.”

He even is on record declaring that the act of paying more than he owed would mean he shouldn’t be eligible for the presidency!

“From time to time I’ve been audited, as happens, I think, to other citizens as well, and the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires,” Romney has said.

“So! A change in tune. A flip-flop, even,” Leonard noted.

Leonard added, “But the true puzzler is why Romney would imagine that artificially boosting his tax rate to 14.1% would help him with any voter who isn’t already outraged at how low Romney’s tax burden is. As has been pointed out numerous times this week, the average worker’s payroll tax rate equals 15.3% of their income. So even with the jiggering, Romney paid a smaller percentage of his income as taxes than many members of the 47% he trashed in his Boca Raton, Fla., speech to fundraisers.”

Of course, after the election, Romney can file an amended return and claim all the deductions.

In other tax notes, the “birthers” who remain vigilant about purported evidence that Barack Obama is not a proper citizen of the US are silent about Romney listing the USA as a foreign country on his tax return. Elizabeth Flock noted at USNews.com (9/21) that in the space for “foreign country name,” Romney’s Form 1040 reads USA.

“No word from Donald Trump yet if he wants to see the original long form version of the tax return,” Flock added.

CLINTON: TAX SECRECY ‘RED FLAG.’ Former President Bill Clinton, who Republicans had hoped was still nursing a grudge against Obama for defeating his wife’s presidential aspirations in 2008, continued in his rule as Explainer in Chief to defend Obama’s record and poke holes in Romney’s. Clinton said (9/25) that Romney’s refusal to get into the specifics of his proposed tax overhaul should raise a “red flag” for voters, and he doesn’t think Romney can avoid a middle-class tax hike if he reduces tax rates by 20% across the board without reducing revenue.

“We know what Gov. Romney says, which is that his proposal for dealing with the debt is first, to make it bigger by adopting another round of tax cuts that, with the interest associated, would be about $5 tln more over a decade,” Clinton said in an interview taped for CBS’s This Morning. “And we know how he says he wants to eliminate them, not by raising taxes, but by eliminating preferences in the Tax Code. ... He says he can do that without raising taxes in the middle class,” Clinton added. “I’m not sure that’s possible. But he wants to defer till after the election saying what the specifics are. I think that ought to be a little bit of a red flag.”

Likely preferences Romney would target include tax deductions that benefit middle-income earners more than high-income earners.

CHINESE DEALS COMPLICATE MITT’S CAMPAIGN. Romney went on an offensive against Obama for not standing up to China on trade matters (9/14) but his attack was complicated a bit by revelations that when he was a predatory capitalist Romney made much of his fortunes from investments in China.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua responded to Romney’s attack (9/14) by noting his own business dealings with China. “It is rather ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician’s wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics,” wrote Xinhua’s Liu Chang.

Romney was “in charge of Bain Capital when the firm invested millions in a company that manufactured household appliances using cheaper labor in Dongguan, China,” the Boston Globe reported (9/15). Romney also invested between $500,000 and $1 mln in a Bain Capital fund that has been used to purchase shares of GOME, a Chinese electronics company, according to Romney’s financial disclosure form. That company — in which Bain has been one of the largest outside shareholders — is being sued by Microsoft Corp. for selling computers with pirated versions of its Windows and Office software.

The Globe also published a video of Romney at a high-dollar fundraiser that shows the Republican presidential candidate telling contributors and potential donors: “When I was back in my private-sector days, we went to China to buy a factory there. ... It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they work at these huge factories.” Romney said the women were packed into dormitories, 12 per room in bunk beds, and only earned a “pittance.”

Romney’s 2011 tax returns also showed that on 8/10/11, the night before he participated in a Republican primary debate in Iowa, his family trust unloaded a number of stocks that might have been problematic in his run for the Oval Office. Those investments included the state-owned Chinese oil company, CNOOC and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Romney’s trust invested in CNOOC in October 2009, 20 months after the company entered into an agreement with Iran.

The Romney family trusts invested around the world, with shares in Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank; FLSmidth, a Danish machinery company; ArcelorMittal, a steel company based in Luxembourg with operations around the world, and Komatsu, a Japanese machinery company. It also invested in derivative securities linked to the Japanese stock market and to an index that includes stocks in every major country except the US, the New York Times reported (9/21). It also invested in a derivative that would profit if the dollar fell against a group of foreign currencies. All those foreign investments were sold on 8/10/11.

Romney has said he has no control over decisions made by the “blind trust,” but he also has noted that blind trusts are “an age-old ruse.” In 1994, when he was challenging Ted Kennedy’s re-election Romney said, “you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do.”

Also included in the 2011 return were addresses of his Cayman Islands interests, though not details of Romney’s retirement account from the Bain Capital investment firm he started and ran for years. Details of his financial dealings before 2010, including those the Chinese news agency hints at, remain secret.

OBAMA MOVES AGAINST CHINESE UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES. While Romney’s Chinese business deals were coming to light, the Obama administration announced (9/17) that it will take action against unfair trade practices by China in auto part exports to the US and tariff barriers against the import of American-made cars to China. In March, Obama formed the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center to more aggressively review trade violations.

The AFL-CIO noted that in 2010, the US challenged China’s local-content subsidies to its wind power equipment manufacturers, resulting in China’s revocation of the subsidy program. In three separate WTO disputes initiated between 2009 and 2011, the US challenged duties China places on US automobiles, US steel products and US poultry products. Earlier this year, the US successfully concluded a challenge to China’s export restraints on key industrial raw materials and in March launched a dispute against China’s export restraints on “rare earths,” a class of raw materials used in high-tech and clean-energy products.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steel Workers, said, “The fight for fair trade is going to be a key issue in this year’s elections.” He added, “Fighting for fair trade doesn’t mean talking tough one day, but shipping jobs overseas the next. Today’s actions make clear whose side the president is on.”

WHEELS FALL OFF ROMNEY CAMPAIGN. How bad are things going for the Romney campaign? A Zogby poll released 9/24 found President Obama leading Romney among NASCAR fans,49% to 42%. Obama also led Romney 54-40% among military families and the president narrowly led, 46%-44%, among Catholics, though that was within the 3.4% margin of error for the online poll of 860 likely voters (9/20-21). Obama led by 7 points, 49% to 40.7% among all likely voters, but the margin was 9 points when other candidates are included, 48.7% to 39.8%, as 2.3% supported Libertarian Gary Johnson, 1.6% supported Green Jill Stein and 1.3% supported Constitution’s Virgil Goode.

Voting blocs that favor Romney, according to the poll, include born-again Christians and rural voters, both 48% to 40%, and voters who shop at Walmart weekly, 46% to 42%.

ROMNEY IS LOSING SENIORS. A Gallup Poll (9/24) found that Obama holds a sizable edge in a dozen swing states on who is more trusted to address Medicare, at 50-44. Greg Sargent noted that Obama’s edge is significant, given Romney’s massive investment in the claim that Obama was looting Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The poll was taken 9/11-17, before the coverage of Mitt Romney’s “47%” comments and Paul Ryan being booed at the AARP.

A Reuters poll (9/24) also found that not only is Obama gaining the advantage on Medicare, but Romney’s advantage among seniors has dropped from 20 points to just 4 since the Democratic convention, where Bill Clinton offered a very effective rebuttal to the Romney charge that Obama looted Medicare to pay for Obamacare. “Winning big among seniors is crucial to Romney’s hopes,” Sargent noted.

MITT WARNS IOWANS OF FORCED UNIONIZATION. Mitt Romney warned Iowa voters that President Obama wants to force everyone into unions. In a conference call with Iowans (9/23), the Des Moines Register noted, Romney twice brought up Obama’s support for “card check” legislation that would make it easier to organize unions. “Small business is getting crushed under the president’s program with higher and higher regulation on small business, with higher taxes on small business, and by forcing people to join unions that don’t want to. That’s something known as card check. I think that’s a bad idea,” Romney said. The Register’s Jennifer Jacobs noted that the Employee Free Choice Act, which had the card-check provision, was a Democratic priority four years ago, and labor backers think it would make it easier for employees to join unions. But Republicans threatened to filibuster the bill in 2009 and since then the topic has largely faded from debate.

Iowa is a “right to work” state, which prohibits requiring payment of union dues as a requirement of employment, but requires unions to represent non-dues-paying employees for no fee.

Romney’s new anti-union rhetoric comes days after a new analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund showed that unionization has a positive impact on economic mobility, creating more opportunities for Americans to work their way out of the “47%” and move into a higher income bracket than their parents.

The report found that economic mobility — the ability of a person to move to a higher income bracket than his or her parents — lags behind other industrialized nations. “Our analysis finds that education is the most important source of mobility—but unionization rates matter quite a bit as well,” wrote David Madland and Nick Bunker in the CAPAF report (see americanprogressaction.org). “Increasing the unionization rate in the average state by 10 percentage points — roughly to the level they were in 1980 — would be associated with an increase of just under 4 percentage points in the share of the population that is upwardly mobile. This is about two-fifths of the impact of boosting the share of the workforce with a college degree by 10 percentage points.”

REPUBS KILL VETS JOBS BILL. Senate Republicans (9/19) killed a veterans’ jobs bill when Democrats fell 2 votes short of the 60-vote supermajority to get past a procedural hurdle. The Veterans Jobs Corps Bill, which is part of President Obama’s push to secure jobs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, would have provided $1 billion over five years to hire 20,000 young vets for public jobs such as police, firefighters and parks workers and assist young vets in job searches. In an attempt to get past the Republican procedural point of order, Democrats came up with 5 Republican votes but the 58-40 majority was not enough. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the bill, called the GOP move “a huge disappointment,” adding, “Today, politics won over helping vets.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), tried to incorporate Republican amendments to the bill, only to see those Republicans vote against the bill, said after the vote, “It’s unbelievable that even after more than a decade of war, many Republicans still will not acknowledge that the treatment of our veterans is a cost of war.” The only Republicans who supported the jobless vets bill were Scott Brown (Mass.), Dean Heller (Neb.), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

OHIO AIR WAR COULD DEFINE THE POWER OF MONEY. Ohio may be the biggest test of whether outside money can depose an incumbent and capture a Senate seat, Greg Sargent wrote at WashingtonPost.com (9/24). Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is leading challenger Josh Mandel, the state treasurer, by 7 points (52-45) among likely voters polled by a consortium of Ohio newspapers. Mandel had trailed by as many as 14 points this past May, before super PACs spent $18 mln on TV ads supporting Mandel, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported (9/20).

A total of 38,382 TV ads were aired in the race from July 2011 to 9/17, with 27,483 for Mandel and 10,899 for Brown, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising. Mandel aired 7,238 ads and Brown's campaign has aired 5,633 spots, but nine groups backing Mandel, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce, have paid for 79.4% of the outside ads, compared with 20.6% paid for by four organizations backing Brown, including the Senate Democrats’ Majority PAC and the League of Conservation Voters.

“Brown, an old fashioned lunch bucket populist who is pushing several measures opposed by business groups, conceded that the outside cash means he could still lose,” Sargent wrote. “Asked if he were still at risk, Brown said: ‘Sure.’ He added: ‘Anybody is at risk of losing if there’s enough money against him.’”

GM CORN LINKED TO CANCER IN RATS. Rats fed a lifelong diet of one of the bestselling strains of genetically modified corn suffered tumors and multiple organ damage, according to a French study published in September. Scientists said the results raised serious questions about the safety of GM foods and the assurances offered by biotech companies and governments, Sean Poulter reported in the London Daily Mail.

The first lifetime trials involving rats fed on corn modified to withstand spraying with glyphosate, the main chemical in the weedkiller Roundup, found a raised incidence of breast tumors, liver and kidney damage. Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular biologist at King’s College, London, and an expert on GM foods, told the Mail: “It shows an extraordinary number of tumors developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.”

The research was carried out at Caen University in France, and has been peer reviewed by independent scientists to guarantee the experiments were properly conducted and the results are valid. The study was published in the US journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

MITT NEARS 700 LIES. Mitt Romney was caught in 28 more lies during the week ending 9/21, as he continued to run a campaign that has so little regard for the truth that his pollster recently boasted the campaign would not be “dictated by fact checkers.” 

Since Steve Benen of Maddowblog.com started keeping count of Romney’s lies in January, he has documented 682 Romney lies through 9/21. Romney appeared likely to break 700 lies in the week ending 9/28.

With only six weeks remaining before the election, Romney would have to step up the pace, needing an average of 53 lies a week to reach the plateau of 1,000. His average is 19.48 lies per week since January, with a personal high of 37 lies in week 31, ending Aug. 24. But as his increasingly desperate campaign enters the stretch run, the temptation to stretch the truth can only increase. See Maddowblog.com on Fridays for Benen’s latest update.

SCAB REFS BLOW CALLS. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s idea to bust the referees’ union and replace the professional refs with former college refs and even reportedly castoffs from the Lingerie Football League to save $3.3 mln (the reported gap between what the refs demanded and the NFL’s last offer) must have seemed like a good idea to the league owners. After all, what could go wrong? Well, the first three weeks with replacement refs featured inconsistent calls and fines to at least two coaches for arguments with refs, and Dave Zirin noted at TheNation.com that it brought a letter from the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee (9/20) to the owners of NFL teams, which said, in part:

“Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity. This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.… The headlines are embarrassing: a scab working a game despite having been on the payroll of one of the teams, another who was assigned to referee a team he publicly supported on Facebook, and one who is a professional poker player when you propose even more stringent player rules on gambling. … We are all men who love and respect this game and believe that it represents something beyond just money. For our teammates, our coaches and our fans who deserve better, vote to end this lockout now.”

Zirin called on the players to announce that they would not take the field of scabs are there to officiate (which he noted possibly would be an illegal secondary strike, but it could become necessary to protect the safety of the players). However, the momentum for a settlement got a boost after a game deciding blown call nullified the apparent interception of a last-second “Hail Mary” pass by the Seattle Seahawks and gave the Seahawks a tainted victory over the Green Bay Packers on nationally televised Monday Night Football (9/24). ESPN reported that as much as $250 mln was bet on the game,with the majority betting on the Packers, who were favored to win by 3.5 points. Meanwhile, the NFL, which makes $3 bln a year from TV deals, continues to claim it can’t afford competent officials.

Alison Omens, director of media at the AFL-CIO, noted in a press release (9/25) that the Packers-Seahawk debacle has gained two unlikely supporters for organized labor. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) tweeted, “After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs.”

Paul Ryan said at an event in Cincinnati, Ohio, “You guys watch that Packer game? I mean give me a break! It is time to get the real refs.”

“What hasn’t gotten much attention is this lockout is symbolic of a much bigger issue,” Omens wrote. “Training for a high performing workforce matters. But individual employers rarely have the incentive to invest in training — it’s hard to realize the return. That’s why the role of unions is so important: They work to make sure employees have the training and standards to realize their potential as committed workers, and they can do that on a large-scale, cost-efficient basis.

“Regular referees are reliable because they’re highly trained professionals – a necessity to be a union referee. They’re a high-profile example of thousands of other professions whose work we rely on every day to get the job done and who are trained by their union. The labor movement is the largest workforce trainer of adults outside the US military. Need examples?

“Remember Captain Sully and ‘Miracle on the Hudson?’ He was a huge safety advocate through his union, serving as the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) representative during a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and as a Local Air Safety Chairman.

“How about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center? The people who are thousands of feet in the air are union members as well as veterans. The Building and Construction Trades’ unions training program ‘Helmets to Hardhats’ works across the country to train veterans for high-skill construction projects including at the World Trade Center.

“Ever see a construction worker hanging off a bridge while making essential repairs and wonder what it takes to do a job like that? Read more [at aflcio.org] about the Ironworkers’ training program that’s part of a labor-management collaboration.

“The president of a Chicago-based construction company who works with union workers says this about his experience: “Here’s what [the union’s] training center means to me: We’re getting the highest caliber craftsmen in the business. It’s going toward productivity and attitude.”

“Even Mitt Romney recognized the value of unions before he was against them. In 2002 after the Olympics, he had this to say about IBEW members: “We thought it was going to take three weekends with 20 people. Instead it took 20 weekends with several hundred people. And the work was done by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They worked up there, they put on the snow shoes, they treaded up there to help us.”

“Union members bring huge value to our communities and our lives every day. Scott Walker and others would do well to remember that the next time they treat union members – firefighters, teachers, autoworkers – differently than union referees who are cut from the same cloth.”

TRANS-PACIFIC TRADE SECRECY PROTESTED. “Flush the TPP!” was the rallying cry heard outside Virginia’s Lansdowne resort (9/9) at a protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as trade officials negotiated the secretive pact behind the resort’s closed doors. Public Citizen reported: “Everyone remembers NAFTA right? How it destroyed jobs and destroyed people and destroyed communities?,” Ron Collins asked the crowd, representing the Communications Workers of America. “We’re not going to allow the TPP to do the same!” Taking the microphone, Allison Chin of Sierra Club warned, “[The TPP] could increase exports of liquefied natural gas, which would mean more dangerous fracking here in the US.” Matt Kavanagh of Health Gap solemnly concluded, “I stand here on behalf of people who are living with AIDS around the world who are saying no to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, who are saying that, in fact, this is life or death.”

Protesters criticized the unprecedented secrecy of the negotiations, as the office of the US Trade Representative has consulted with over 600 mostly corporate “advisors” on the content of the classified TPP text, while it has denied access to the public, press and even members of Congress. In the last few months, USTR has refused repeated demands from civil society and our elected representatives to release the TPP negotiating text, while reversing the longstanding practice of allowing members of Congress to observe trade negotiations.

Without a hint of irony, US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk has declared the TPP negotiations to be “the most open, transparent process ever.” Public Citizen noted, “Perhaps such claims refer to the ‘stakeholder engagement’ activities that also took place at Lansdowne on Sunday (9/9). While Public Citizen and other organizations welcomed the opportunity to present critiques to negotiators, calling the events ‘engagement’ stretches the word beyond its bounds.”

“Stakeholders” ranging from Public Citizen to Walt Disney were granted 10 minutes each to speak on a particular aspect of the TPP. Critics lambasted TPP proposals for threatening access to medicines, Internet freedom, and capital controls. Global Trade Watch’s Lori Wallach gave a full-house presentation on the dangers of the TPP investment chapter, which would invite unaccountable private tribunals to use increasingly imaginative interpretations of foreign investors’ rights to rule against public interest regulations.But while a continuous string of civil society presenters aired such concerns, the number of people able to hear them was severely constrained by rooms that had a seating capacity of just 18 people. While a few TPP negotiators competed with NGO and corporate representatives for standing-room-only space, most gave up and left. Meanwhile, immediately adjacent to the briefing “dorms” were an array of larger meeting rooms, a massive ballroom and other conference facilities — all unoccupied.

The AFL-CIO is working with the Obama administration on the trade agreement, which it said, “presents the Obama administration with an opportunity to reform US trade policy so it helps US businesses export goods, rather than outsource jobs. The president and his team have an opportunity to deliver a new trade model for the 21st century that creates jobs, protects the environment and ensures safe imports. Negotiations must include provisions that will benefit US workers, not simply the largest global corporations.

“The AFL-CIO is working to present the administration with ideas about how to improve the US trade positions so they work for the 99%, not just the 1%. Unfortunately, for years the global corporate agenda has infused trade policy with its demands for deregulation, privatization, tax breaks and other financial advantages for Big Business, while shrinking the social safety net in the name of ‘labor flexibility.’”

VOTERS DIVIDE OVER SIZE OF GOVERNMENT. As the 2012 presidential race focuses on the size and scope of government, a poll released (9/24) by Pew Research Center shows the link between voters’ views on the matter and which candidate they support is stronger than it has been in decades. As this year’s presidential race has been defined by conflicting views on the role of government, according to Pew, voters’ views on the size of government are now more closely related to electoral preferences than previous election cycles dating back to 1976.

Among registered voters who prefer a larger government, 83% support President Obama, while only 12% prefer Mitt Romney. Conversely, 65% of respondents who say they desire a smaller government intend to vote for Romney, compared with 29% who give the nod to Obama. The results are consistent with a Pew survey in June that found a comparable divide between Obama and Romney supporters over the role of the government in the economy.

That correlation is decidedly stronger than it was in recent elections, including the 2004 presidential contest. Tim Kludt noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (9/24). Eight years ago, 68% of voters who preferred a larger government were supporters of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), compared with 31% who supported former President George W. Bush. Of those who preferred a smaller government, 58% were Bush voters, but 405 supported Kerry.

Overall, 56% of voters say they prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services, compared with 35% who say they would like a larger government that dispenses more services. Four years ago, 46% said they preferred a smaller government and 40% said they wanted a larger government.

VOTER SUPPRESSION LAWS AIM AT HISPANIC VOTERS. A new study by the Advancement Project estimates that voter purges and ID requirements being enacted in over 20 states could disenfranchise at least 10 mln Hispanic citizens. The analysis found about 6.3 mln Hispanic citizens were not registered to vote in 2010, while 10.8 mln, about half the voting bloc, said they did not vote. The number is bound to swell as new efforts to limit the vote in states with large Latino communities use outdated information to remove suspected noncitizens:

Colorado and Florida identified voters for possible purging by comparing their voter registrations with driver’s license databases that show which voters indicated they were immigrants – thereby creating a problem, the report said. “Naturalized citizens typically received their driver’s licenses when they were legal immigrants but before becoming naturalized citizens (and before registering to vote); therefore, this method generates lists of voters to be checked that targets naturalized citizens,” the report said.

Colorado has called off its voter purge, but not before sending semi-threatening letters to suspected non-citizens telling them they needed to prove their citizenship. Florida has restarted a new purge with impossible deadlines for voters to prove their citizenship.

Voter ID laws throw up more obstacles, as many naturalized citizens will now be asked for additional paperwork to prove their eligibility, a requirement researchers called “onerous and sometimes expensive.”

Both presidential candidates have been fighting for Hispanic votes, making their case at the Univision forum in Florida last week. But Mitt Romney, considered the most anti-immigrant candidate during the Republican primary, has had trouble winning over Hispanics, who are overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. In order to win the election without picking up any minority votes, Romney would need to carry 61% of white voters to make up for this crucial demographic.

QUEBEC STUDENTS CLAIM VICTORY IN TUITION REVOLT. After a year of revolt which became known as the “Maple Spring” — including massive street protests that received global attention — university students across Quebec were celebrating victory (9/20) following the announcement from newly elected Premier Pauline Marois that the government was canceling the proposed tuition hike that led to the student uprising and nullifying the contentious Bill 78 law which was introduced to curb the powerful protests.

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”

Well-known Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, responded to the news by tweeting: “This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win. It’s official: Quebec tuition hikes are history.”

ROMNEY LOSING WHITE WORKERS. Thomas Edsall wrote for the New York Times (9/23) that, outside of the South, Romney is not selling well with working-class whites.

Pennsylvania appeared to be fair game for Republicans, as seniors are a key source of support for Romney and the state has a higher percentage of voters over age 65 (15.6%) than the nation as a whole (13.3%) and the state is substantially whiter (79.2%) than the rest of the nation (63.4%). And unemployment in Pennsylvania unemployment matches the national rate at 8.1%. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns and allied super PACs made significant investments in advertising in Pennsylvania. But by the end of August, Edsall noted, the ad buying stopped and the Romney campaign had effectively conceded the state.

The reason may be outlined in a new survey of 2,501 adults, “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America,” published 9/20 by the Public Religion Research Institute. It “reveals clearly that the white working class (broadly defined) cannot, at present, be described as a secure Republican constituency,” Edsall wrote.

The P.R.R.I. study focused on non-Hispanic whites without a college degree who are paid by the hour or by the job. That’s 36% of all Americans. Romney holds a nationwide 48-35 advantage among these voters, but that 13-point edge among white working class voters is due to a huge margin in the South, where Romney leads 62-22. In the rest of the country, the white working class is much more closely divided.

In the West, where Colorado and Nevada are battleground states, Romney leads by a modest 5 points, 46-41. In the Northeast, which Obama is expected to sweep, except perhaps for New Hampshire, Romney holds a 4-point advantage among working class whites, 42-38. In the Midwest, where Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin are in play, Obama actually leads among working class whites by 8 points (44-36).

There is a noticeable lack of zeal for either Romney or Obama among these voters. Only 66% of white working-class Americans said they are certain to vote, compared to 87% of college-educated whites and 74% of African Americans.

Doc Sweitzer, a political consultant in Pennsylvania whose clients include Kathleen Kane, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, told Edsall that cities and towns throughout the state “have all been hit by these corporate raider types” who buy and sell businesses in a manner similar to Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital. “He just doesn’t hunt here.”

George Taylor, a purchasing agent for Mack Truck, which remains a manufacturing presence in the state, told Edsall Romney lives in “la-la-land. He just cares about big business. He doesn’t care about the small person. He just wants to give tax breaks to the rich and the heck with everybody else.”

Edsall noted, “The hope harbored by Republican political professionals — that Obama was sufficiently unpopular among non-college whites to make up for Romney’s shortcomings — has failed to take concrete form. The trouble Romney finds himself in today also suggests that the barrage of early advertising by the Obama campaign and allied groups attacking Bain Capital has proven to be a successful tactic, at least so far.”

BACON SHORTAGE SEEN. With pork costs rising, Great Britain is facing a bacon and sausage shortage as pig farmers cut back on herd size. But the problem may soon become global, Rachel Tepper reports at HuffingtonPost.com (9/24). The UK’s National Pig Association is warning that the European Union pig herd is declining at a significant rate, and the trend is being mirrored around the world. Pig farmers have been plunged into loss by high pig-feed costs, caused by the global failure of corn and soybean harvests, which are used to feed swine.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2012



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