Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama ad hits Romney on taxes (yep, again)

    Welcome to Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney! What are you hiding? That's the message in the latest Obama campaign ad to take aim at the Republican standard-bearer's personal finances to make the case that he cannot be trusted to steer the economy.

    The ad accuses Romney of having "used every trick in the book" to shrink his tax burden and says it "makes you wonder if some years he paid any taxes at all."

    "We don't know because Romney has released just one full year of his tax returns and won't release anything before 2010," the ad says. "What is Mitt Romney hiding?"

    The Obama campaign has been attacking Romney's personal finances as a way of blunting criticisms of the president over the fitful economy, and casting doubt on the former Massachusetts governor's credentials. Romney has declined to follow longstanding precedent by releasing a decade's worth of tax returns, a fact Democrats have gleefully turned into ammunition for election-year assaults. And even some Republicans have called for

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  • Study says Obama tax proposals could cost 700,000 jobs—Boehner pounces

    President Barack Obama crosses the South Lawn of the White House (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner hammered President Barack Obama on Tuesday after accounting firm Ernst and Young released a study funded by pro-business groups hostile to the Democrat's agenda. The firm's results showed that Obama's proposed tax hikes on the wealthy could cost the already sputtering economy more than 700,000 jobs.

    "Our economy is still struggling under President Obama's policies, and his massive tax hike will only make things tougher," Boehner said in a statement. "It's one of the worst possible ideas at one of the worst possible times for families and small businesses."

    Obama has been campaigning on calls to extend the Bush-era tax cuts on income up to $250,000 but let them expire above that level. He and fellow Democrats have accused Republicans of holding middle-class tax relief hostage to help the very rich (in fact, the wealthy would see the benefits on their first $250,000 of income). Recent polls have suggested that the public broadly supports the president in principle, though Republicans have noted that his proposal does not yet exist as legislation, and Democrats are expected to water down some of the president's recommended changes.

    The Ernst and Young study looked at the impact of seeing the top marginal tax rates rise—but also studied the effects of a range of other proposals included in the president's budget and broader tax plans.

    This report examines four sets of provisions that would increase the top tax rates:

    · The increase in the top two tax rates from 33 to 36 percent and from 35 to 39.6 percent.

    · The reinstatement of the limitation on itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers (the "Pease" provision).

    · The taxation of dividends as ordinary income and at a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent and increase in the top tax rate applied to capital gains to 20 percent.

    · The increase in the 2.9 percent Medicare tax to 3.8 percent for high-income taxpayers and the application of the new 3.8 percent tax on investment income including flow-through business income, interest, dividends and capital gains.

    Here is what the accounting firm concluded would happen:

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  • Obama reveals his favorite Girl Scout cookie (spoiler: Thin Mints)

    President Barack Obama shares a laugh at a town hall-style campaign rally in Cincinnati (Susan Walsh/AP)

    He can kiss the Tagalong voters goodbye. President Barack Obama on Monday revealed that his favorite Girl Scout cookies are Thin Mints—an announcement that generated a boo or two from a rowdy crowd at a town hall-style rally in Cincinnati.

    After questions on gay rights, environmental protection and how he planned to help small businesses, Obama took a question from a young girl named Julie, who piped up with "what's your favorite Girl Scout cookie?"

    "I've got to say, this is one of the toughest questions," the president said. "I've got to say I'm pretty partial to those mint, uh … " Most of the crowd laughed, clapped and cheered, but at least one person booed.

    "That's just me! I didn't meant to create controversy.  Did you hear there was somebody booing?" Obama said with a chuckle. He located the boo-er and said, "You had a different opinion. What are you, oatmeal?" Peanut butter, came the answer. "Peanut butter is quite good too, but I'm going with the mint," the president replied.

    (Thin Mints account for 25 percent of Girl Scout cookie sales, ahead of Samoas/Caramel deLites with 19 percent and Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs with 13 percent, according to the Girl Scouts.)

    In another exchange, Obama politely but firmly turned down barbershop owner Tony White's request to cut his hair.

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  • Obama says a Romney presidency would create 800,000 jobs–abroad

    President Barack Obama speaks at a town-hall style rally in Cincinnati (Susan Walsh/AP)

    President Barack Obama blasted Mitt Romney's economic plan during a stop in the pivotal swing state of Ohio on Monday, saying the blueprint would create 800,000 jobs—just not in America.

    "Today, we found out, there's a new study out by a nonpartisan economist that says Gov. Romney's economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs," Obama said at a town hall-style event in Cincinnati. "There's only one problem. The jobs wouldn't be in America."

    "They would not be in America. They'd be in other countries. By eliminating taxes on corporations' foreign income, Gov. Romney's plan would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries," the president added.

    "This shouldn't be a surprise because Gov. Romney's experience has been investing in what were called pioneers of the business of outsourcing," Obama said, reprising one of his core arguments against the Republican standard-bearer. The president has been assailing Romney over allegedly encouraging businesses to ship jobs overseas.

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  • Obama defends ‘entirely appropriate’ attacks on Romney

    President Barack Obama defended his blunt, frequently personal attacks on Mitt Romney as an "entirely appropriate" effort to highlight the choice voters face in November. The embattled incumbent told CBS News in an interview broadcast Monday morning that his campaign has run "a whole slew of positive ads."

    "What is true is that there's sharp contrast, probably as sharp a contrast as we've seen, philosophically, between myself and Mr. Romney," Obama told CBS. "Politics are about choices."

    The president's campaign has spent months hammering away at Romney—on everything from his time at Bain Capital, to his refusal to release the customary number of years of tax returns, to his financial holdings in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, to some of his verbal missteps on the stump. In a recent conference call, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter even suggested that Romney might be a felon. The former Massachusetts governor has been no slouch in the attack ad department himself.

    In the two-week stretch ending July 9, 89 percent of Obama's ads attacked Romney, while 94 percent of Romney's attacked Obama, Bloomberg News reported, citing data from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. Obama's campaign ran 37,022 negative ads over that period, compared to 13,962 for Team Romney.

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  • Obama staffer dies after collapsing at campaign’s Chicago HQ

    Late Obama staffer Alex Okrent's Twitter picture.

    Tragedy struck President Barack Obama's campaign on Friday as a young staffer, 29-year-old Alex Okrent, collapsed in the Chicago headquarters and died, according to campaign officials.

    Obama, campaigning in Virginia, telephoned Okrent's family to express his condolences and later spoke with other campaign aides by conference call. The aide had been with Obama since 2004 and was working in the "paid media" department of the reelection effort, which handles advertising, a campaign aide said.

    Mitt Romney quickly expressed sorrow over Okrent's passing. "Ann & I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alex Okrent," he said on Twitter.

    "Prayers are with Alex's loved ones and the entire Obama campaign team," Romney's tweet continued.

    Top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod responded: "@MittRomney Thank you, governor. Alex was a beloved member of our team. It's been a very emotional day."

    The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago paramedics were called at 10:36 a.m., after Okrent collapsed. He was given emergency treatment at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago's Prudential Building. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Okrent was a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the paper said.

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  • Obama to Romney: Come clean on Bain role

    President Barack Obama pressed Mitt Romney on Friday to address questions about when he left Bain Capital, calling the escalating political fight over Romney's role at the firm "a legitimate part of the campaign."

    Obama's reelection campaign has accused Romney of misleading the country on when he severed ties to Bain. Romney has long said he left in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, but news outlets have unearthed Securities and Exchange Commission documents suggesting he played a central role at the firm years afterward. The fight has played out against the backdrop of the Obama campaign's relentless attacks on Romney as someone who made a fortune while overseeing the flight of jobs overseas.

    Is Romney being dishonest, WJLA reporter Scott Thuman asked Obama in an exclusive interview.

    "As president of the United States, it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you," Obama said.

    "My understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC, multiple times, that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does," the president said.

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  • Obama suspends measure targeting Cuba

    Cuban leader Fidel Castro, date unknown (AP)

    President Barack Obama notified Congress on Friday that he was suspending for six months a measure that would let any American whose property was seized in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 sue anyone of any nationality using the property today.

    "I hereby determine and report to the Congress that suspension, for 6 months beyond August 1, 2012, of the right to bring an action under title III of the Act is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba," Obama said in a letter to top lawmakers.

    Obama's announcement was not a surprise—every president since Bill Clinton has suspended that provision of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, better known as the Helms-Burton law. The legislation empowers presidents to waive that section for six-month intervals. Critics of the law have warned that allowing such lawsuits could pit Americans against individuals and entities from countries that are allied with the United States but who do not respect the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba.

    Several large European hotel chains have built establishments in Cuba, where tourism is critical to the economy. But Obama recently seemed to rule out the further easing of trade restrictions if he wins a second term unless the island embraces democratic reforms.

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  • Obama mocks House Republicans for health care repeal vote

    President Barack Obama campaigns in Virginia (Steve Helber/AP)

    On a campaign swing through the political battleground of Virginia, President Barack Obama on Friday mocked House Republicans for holding yet another vote against his landmark health care law. Thursday's action was the 33rd time the president's foes in the House of Representatives voted to repeal or defund Obamacare in whole or in part.

    "I notice the House of Representatives, the Republicans in the House of Representatives, they voted to repeal it again," Obama said at a rally in Virginia Beach.

    "That was the 33rd time they've done that—33 votes to repeal the health care bill. All it would take is one vote to make sure that all of you don't see your taxes go up next year. You tell me what would be a better use of time," the president said to cheers from the rowdy crowd.

    He was referring to his call to extend the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes up to $250,000. Obama wants to see the reductions for higher brackets expire, as scheduled, come Jan. 1. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts.

    House Republicans plan to vote the final week of July on legislation to prolong the tax cuts for all income levels. The party's majority in the chamber is expected to approve that easily. And Democrats in tough re-election battles could swing behind Speaker John Boehner.

    "The unemployment rate is 8.2%. This month Republicans will vote to stop the looming tax hike. The President would like to raise taxes," a spokesman for Boehner, Brendan Buck, said on Twitter.

    Obama also defended his record on taxes, underlining that he had signed into law repeated tax cuts for middle class Americans—and got in a dig at a favorite target, Fox News Channel.

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  • Bill Clinton ‘perplexed’ and ‘surprised’ Romney hasn’t released more tax returns

    Former President Bill Clinton is defending Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's personal finances and describing himself as "perplexed" and "surprised" that the Republican standard-bearer hasn't released more of his tax returns.

    "I am a little surprised that he only released a year's worth of tax returns," Clinton said in an interview with NBC's Today Show.

    "That's kind of perplexed me, because this is the first time in, I don't know, more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that," he said. President Barack Obama's campaign forwarded Clinton's comments to reporters.

    Clinton defended the Obama campaign's increasingly strident attacks on Romney's personal finances—notably the former Massachusetts governor's now-closed Swiss bank account, his holdings in the Cayman Islands—saying those issues are relevant to the election.

    "Just as relevant as the going over my record as governor got when I ran for president," he told NBC, underlining that Romney has put his vastly successful history as an investor "at the forefront" of his campaign.

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