(I wrote this for the Urban News several days ago. I wrote it before the vice presidential debate.)

One candidate’s views change with the wind

The new wave band, Talking Heads, had a song called “Once in a Lifetime.” There was a refrain in that song in which the lead singer, David Byrne, hauntingly sang, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” As I watch the debates, I was thinking just that: “same as it ever was.”

Just a few months ago, I wrote a column for the Urban News that was entitled “Lies and More Lies,” in which I outlined Mitt Romney’s loose affiliation with the truth. I’m sure that President Obama as he stood at the lectern during the Wednesday night debate thought about saying, “I’ll start speaking when you say something that’s true.”

When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that someone would stand up in front of the American people and tell not just one lie but, instead, a whole host of lies. In this article, I cannot recount all the lies that Mitt Romney told just in that 90-minute debate: the newspaper cannot give me enough space. But national fact checkers have come up with at least 27 separate instances where Mitt Romney simply did not tell the truth. Here are a few of them.

Romney stated he’s not going to raise taxes on middle-class families. Okay. Maybe he decided, just before he went on stage, that the tax plan on his own website was garbage and that, starting then, he would run on some other tax plan. Maybe that’s because the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analyzed the one on his web site and said it cannot be balanced without raising taxes on the middle class.

Romney said some mumbo-jumbo about Medicaid dollars going to the states and allowing the states to manage those dollars the best that they can. Basically, this is the old block grants idea. The Congressional Budget Office – also nonpartisan and widely respected for decades – has looked at Paul Ryan’s proposal for block grants and stated that “states would probably need to consider additional changes, such as reducing their spending on other programs or raising additional revenues.”

One of the things that Mitt Romney said that wasn’t really a lie was when he was talking about the healthcare plan that he enacted in Massachusetts. He stated that he did not raise taxes. This is true. He raised money from the federal government. The federal government paid for more than half of his reforms.
I could go on but it is a waste of your time and mine.

Let’s be honest: it is really hard to evaluate a candidate when his positions seem to change with the wind and he seems to be able to lie at the drop of a hat. Where does Mitt Romney stand on healthcare reform? He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s really all we know. For months he has said that “on day one” as president he would repeal Obamacare – until a few weeks ago, when he told us that he likes some parts of Obamacare that he’d like to keep after all, and that there are other parts that he would like to change instead of repeal, and that … Nothing he says one week agrees with anything he said the week before, so now we don’t know what he plans for the Affordable Care Act.

His tax plan – the one he’s touting this week – seems to call for a 20-percent, across-the-board cut in taxes for everybody, from the richest to the poorest. But that’s not what he’s been saying on the campaign trail. A couple of weeks ago he told a group of businessmen in Westerville, Ohio, “Don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes, because I’m going to lower deductions and exemptions” to offset the rate reduction. Does that sentence even make sense? Small businesses and multimillionaires are not going to get the tax cuts he promised?

Of course, if your tax rate is 15 percent, it will go down by 3 percent (20 percent of 15), but if it’s 35 percent, it will go down by 7 percent (20 percent of 35) – so the richer you are, the bigger break you get. And if you benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working people, your tax rate will go down by zero – unless Romney and the Republicans repeal it, in which case your tax rate will go UP from zero to 12 percent.

I’m sorry, but I can’t follow his logic and for the most part I can’t follow his train of thought. Where’s Bob Dole these days? Sure, I disagreed with him on some of his policies, but at least he was honest, and at least he made sense.

Now, let’s switch gears and talk about the economy. Conservatives have gone apoplectic over the new job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They seem to have lost their minds, because according to the BLS, the economy gained 110,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September.

With conservatives like Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may have cooked the books, you might at least have figured that the BLS would make their claims worthwhile. If they’re going to lie, why not say that the economy gained over 1 million jobs last month and that the unemployment rate had tumbled to three percent? But that’s not what the Bureau of Labor Statistics said; they simply told the truth, as they have done every month for decades (you can see their monthly reports going back to January, 1981, online at www.bls.gov/mlr/1981/01/contents.htm).

The economy has gained an average of 146,000 jobs per month in 2012, so 110,000 in September just doesn’t seem to be that far out of whack – if anything, it’s a little low. The unemployment rate has been slowly, excruciatingly slowly, falling for the last 15-20 months. Last month the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent. In May it was 8.3 percent. Last September, it was 9.0 percent. Meaning, we’ve seen slow and steady progress.

Obviously the economy needs to do more; America has a jobs deficit of more than 9 million jobs. That means that we need to hire 9 million Americans just to get back to the unemployment rate that we had before the Great Recession began in December 2007. President Obama and his administration have readily admitted that the economy needs to do better and needs to grow more. He has consistently presented job-growth legislation to Congress, only to have the Republican House reject it. Most recently, Republicans rejected an administration bill to give small businesses a tax credit for hiring returning veterans from George Bush’s wars in the Middle East.

Now, more than ever, we need a president who can relate to us, working-class America. We need a president who understands that America is made up of teachers, firefighters, servicemen and women, truck drivers, and nurses who are working hard and barely making ends meet. We need a president who understands that in order for America to be strong, we must have a strong manufacturing sector and a strong middle class. We need a president who thinks about the middle class every morning, every afternoon, every night and every minute of the day. We need a president who understands that without a strong, vibrant middle class, we can’t have a strong, vibrant America.

More than ever, we need a president who understands that Wall Street can get out of control and that thoughtful regulation is necessary to protect Main Street. We need a president who will work with allies around the globe and establish strong relationships in trade and diplomacy. We need a president who will keep us safe, who does more than just pay lip service to hunting down Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, who devotes the time, energy, resources, and courage to get the job done.

We need a president who understands how important the auto industry is, not just to Michigan or Ohio but to all of America – not one who says, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” We need a president who wants a balanced, multi-faceted energy policy, including renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy as well as fossil fuels like coal and oil – not one who says nothing more than “drill, baby, drill.” We need a president who will return America to self-reliance, not one who will leave us at the mercy of OPEC for another century.

Finally, we need a president who can stand up for whites, blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, for women, men, children, for gay and straight – for all of America. In my mind, Barack Obama is that man.