Political Fracas 2012: Candor in politics? Believe it and weep
The Kansas City Star
Yep, that’s me
At least right out of the starting gate, the contest between Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Todd Akin for the U.S. Senate seat from Missouri offers a refreshing change of pace.
None of this whining about an opponent “distorting my record.”
Confronted with McCaskill’s accusation that he had compared federal student loans to stage three cancer, Akin told a reporter, “I called a spade a spade,” thereby compounding a truly far-out position with a racially questionable idiom.
Akin, a congressman from St. Louis, was just as sanguine when McCaskill, the incumbent senator, criticized his opposition to federal funding for school lunches.
“I think the federal government should be out of the education business,” Akin said.
He allowed that it would be OK for states to pay for meals for low-income students, which for cash-strapped states would probably mean choosing between lunches and books. And students in one state shouldn’t go hungry while a more generous legislature opts to fund lunches.
Akin gets some credit for sticking to his principles, even though he’s wrong.
Regarding those malignant federally-backed college loans, about 160,000 Missouri families use them to help with college costs, and they entail much less risk than private bank loans.
And the National School Lunch Program provides about 650,000 meals a day through the use of cash assistance and surplus food. In districts like the Kansas City Public Schools and Hickman Mills, eight of 10 students benefit from the program. Even in a more affluent district like Lee’s Summit, almost one in five children qualify for the benefits. Being hungry to learn is a good thing; learning while hungry is something else entirely.
Running mates unleashed
The two men hoping to be the vice president in 2013 both stepped in it this week.
At a Virginia campaign rally, Democratic incumbent Joe Biden told his audience that Mitt Romney “said in the first 100 days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, ‘unchain Wall Street.’ They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
Given that Biden was addressing an audience that included a large number of blacks, the remark came across loaded with inappropriate racial overtones.
President Barack Obama and other Democrats, including Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, quickly jumped in to clarify what Biden supposedly meant to say, never a good sign. They claimed he had actually wanted to use the term “unshackle” Wall Street.
But with Biden, who often speaks from the heart, it was a tough case to make. Most likely he meant what he said, and he shouldn’t have said it.
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, who is Romney’s pick for the number two spot, asserted that his hands were clean of those dreaded stimulus funds that tea party types so profoundly detest. Never had he asked for a penny of them, he told reporters.
Oops. Media organizations found several letters signed by Ryan requesting millions of dollars in stimulus money for two companies in his Wisconsin district.
Even worse news for Ryan devotees: The letters were sent on behalf of energy conservation companies, one of those GOP-despised liberal efforts to green up America.
Ryan had to acknowledge his mistaken — and hypocritical — assertions on Thursday.
Maybe he should have just stuck with the truth, that he wrote the letters because the stimulus money could create jobs in his state, just like Obama said it would.
That taxing question
Mitt Romney is digging in. No way will he and wife Ann release any more tax returns, even though his vice presidential prospects had to disclose several years’ worth during the vetting process.
OK, then. Romney should have coughed up 10 years’ worth of returns and gotten this issue off the table months ago. But since he hasn’t, and says he won’t, we are left to wonder why.
Into the information vacuum pops imagined embarrassments: Is a charitable donation to some pinko, liberal outfit buried somewhere in those files? A dependent horse tax break? Did he claim the upkeep of Seamus as a business expense?
None of the above, we reckon. But Americans do have a right to learn how the man who might become the nation’s leader made his money, and how much he paid into the U.S. Treasury.
Romney’s assertion this week that he never paid less than 13 percent of his income is hardly reassurance to the multitudes of middle-income taxpayers who pay a much higher rate.